Kyoto City officials have voted in favor of a rule that will require owners of Kyoto’s traditional machiya townhouses to provide advance notice to the city prior to demolition. However, options to help reduce the burden of maintaining a historic home remain extremely limited. Without the support and participation from the local community this new rule may have only a minor effect.
Swiss watch brand Hublot will be opening up a boutique in an old machiya-style townhouse in Kyoto’s famous Gion district on August 26. The previous tenant was Hermes.
The shop will feature custom Japanese washi paper and wickerwork replicating the company’s logo, while customers will receive Japanese-style folding fans as gifts.
A renovated guesthouse located just 7 minutes from Kyoto Station has made a gross turnover of 1 million Yen (approx. 9,150 USD) in the first month of operations.
Yadoru Kyoto Washi-no-Yado is a 102-year old traditional Kyoto machiya-style townhouse that was given a full renovation and converted into a holiday rental. The occupancy rate for the month of July was over 97%. Over 80% of the guests have been foreign travelers, with visitors from China and Taiwan making up 60% of bookings.
On May 30, Japanese lingerie company Wacoal Holdings announced that they will be starting an accommodation business that will feature Kyoto’s traditional machiya residences.
From early 2018 onwards, the company plans to renovate old machiya into hotel-like guesthouses targeting tourists, with two or three machiya to open next year. Their goal is to manage 50 machiya over the next five years with a total annual revenue of over 1 billion Yen (approx. 9 million USD).
Kyoto City is losing its traditional machiya townhouses at an alarming rate, with an average of 2.2 of these symbolic houses demolished each day.
On May 1, Kyoto City announced that approximately 5,600 machiya have been demolished over the past seven years. In 2016, a survey found that there were 40,146 surviving machiya in the city.
Of the surviving machiya, 14.5% are vacant and not occupied by owners or tenants, an increase of 4 points from the previous city survey in 2009. Kyoto City’s vacancy rate across all types of housing was 14% in a 2013 survey.
According to the Urban Research Institute Corporation, foreign corporations acquired 1.2 billion Yen of real estate in Japan in 2014, 2.8 times higher than the figure in 2013. This accounted for a little over 20% of the value of all transactions nationwide.
While most of the foreign investment is centred in Tokyo, Kyoto is also attracting some foreign buyers.