2.2 Traditional machiya houses in Kyoto are demolished each day

Two renovated machiya by Kazuya Morita Architecture Studio.

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.

Town to buy 300-yr old house for 38 million Yen

Matsuzaki Town in Shizuoka’s Izu Peninsula will be purchasing the 300-year old former Yoda Residence for 38.4 million Yen (approx. 337,000 USD). The town’s budget for acquisition and preservation of the property is expected to total 48.7 million Yen, which includes 10 million Yen to acquire the rights to a hot spring source.

The property includes the heritage-listed 300+ year old main house and warehouse. The Yoda family has been a landowner for many generations and found success in the silk industry during the Edo period. At one time the house was the family home of Yoda Benzo (1853-1925), one of Hokkaido’s early pioneers and founding settlers.

Nakano’s last surviving thatched-roof house to be demolished


The 160+ year old Hosoda Residence in Nakano, Tokyo, is expected to be demolished soon to make way for a city road. The road plan was enacted in 1966, but, as is the case with many of Tokyo’s old road plans, remained dormant for several decades. The city obtained approval from the national government for the road construction in 2015 and plan to have the project completed by 2020.

This is the sole surviving thatched-roof house in Nakano Ward, and a very rare example of a typical farmhouse from the period in Tokyo’s 23 wards. 

Relocating a traditional Japanese house

A kominka relocation in Chiba. Image via Kanazawa Architectural Design Office.

Finding land with a traditional Japanese building for sale in the right location can be close to impossible regardless of budget. But, there are a number of these old traditional kominka available for purchase and removal across the country. If you find the right piece of land you may be able to relocate an old house of your choosing to the land.

These buildings can be bought for next-to-nothing. The real cost is in the actual relocation, although you may be surprised to find out that relocation costs may be similar to the cost of building a brand-new, average home.

Nanzen-ji: Japan’s most expensive and exclusive residential area

Nanzenji Hekiunso

London has Kensington Palace Gardens, Hong Kong has Pollock’s Path and Monaco has Avenue Princesse Grace. Japan’s most expensive and most exclusive neighbourhood is not in Tokyo, but in the grounds of a temple in the historic former capital of Kyoto.

Nanzen-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple that was first established in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama on the site of one of his former palaces. During the anti-Buddhist movement at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, Nanzen-ji’s grounds and sub temples were seized by the government, subdivided and sold off to private interests. Between the Meiji period and early Showa period, Japanese nobility began to build luxurious holiday homes with expansive and carefully designed Japanese gardens.

Competition amongst the elite was strong, with each one trying to build a bigger and grander villa than the other. Today, 15 of the original villas remain. Many of these villas are still owned by descendants of the original owners, or are held by some of Japan’s top companies and are not open to the public. These estates are worth as much as 100 million USD, but are so tightly held that, no matter how much money you may have, the area cannot be bought into at any price.

Historic Japanese villa in NY looking for new home in Japan

Takamine Pine Maple PalaceThe current owner of a historic traditional Japanese house in upstate New York wants to relocate the home to Japan and is seeking a new owner.

The ’Pine and Maple Palace’ was initially exhibited at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904. It was modelled in a style of architecture dating from the Momoyama period (late 1500s), but with some western features. After the fair, Emperor Meiji donated the villa to Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a successful chemist who had emigrated to the US. Takamine relocated the villa to his summer home in upstate New York. In 1909, Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi and Princess Kuni stayed in the villa during a visit to the US. The house was sold upon Takamine’s death in 1922. 

Suginami-ku buys historic villa for 3.1 billion Yen

Tekigai Villa Suginami

Suginami City has purchased the historic Tekigai Villa in Ogikubo 2 Chome for 3.1 billion Yen and plans to preserve the house and restore its gardens.

Tekigaiso was built in 1927 and designed by architect Ito Chuta. Ito was a leading architect in early 20th century Imperial Japan and had designed the original Meiji Jingu Shrine, the Okura Museum of Art near Hotel Okura in Akasaka, and the Tsukiji Hongan-ji Temple.

Villa in Suginami-ku saved from demolition

Plans are underway to convert the private residence of a former Prime Minister, Prince Fumimaro Konoe, into a public garden. The local Suginami City is looking into purchasing the 6,000 sqm grounds and converting them into a public garden with a planned opening in 2017.  

Named ‘Tekigaiso’, the house was built in a traditional Japanese style in 1927. The total floor area of the house is approximately 500 sqm (5,380 sqft). Prince Konoe purchased the property in 1937. In October 1941, he discussed war efforts in the house’s drawing room with Hideki Tojo, general of the Imperial Japanese Army and Prime Minister from late 1941 to 1944. Konoe later committed suicide in his library in 1945, and Tojo was sentenced to death for Japanese war crimes in 1948.