The New York TimesThe New York Times

Japan has millions of empty houses. Want to buy one for $25,000?

By Tim Hornyak

17 Apr 2023 · 8 min read

Editor's Note

In Japan, there are over 8 million vacant houses. As the population continues to shrink, more and more houses are going unclaimed. The NYT explores how this is impacting the property market.

When Jaya Thursfield found a house he wanted to buy in Japan a few years ago, friends and family told him to forget it. The place wasn’t worth the trouble, they said. After all, it stood in a forest of shoulder-high weeds after being abandoned about seven years earlier — one of the millions of vacant houses known as akiya, Japanese for “empty house” — throughout the country.

But Thursfield, 46, an Australian software developer, wasn’t deterred. Through the overgrown garden, he could see it was special: The black roof tiles cascaded down to slightly curving eaves that were much higher off the ground than those of most houses. The entrance hall had its own gable tile roof. If the 2,700-square-foot house looked more like a Buddhist temple than a farmhouse, it’s because it was built by a temple architect in 1989.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content