I want to cry

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every time another wonderful old Japanese farmhouse is slaughtered.

There is a “herratige rescue group” that Tomoe works with since the earthquake. It is a university professsor his students, and a lot of out-of-town volunteers that are working to rescue and catalogue historically significant documents and tools from old farm houses and kura warehouses that are being destroyed en mass since the earthquake relief funds are paying all demolition costs.

The professor will study them and eventually write a history of the village (no good history book exists now), and Tomoe and some of the other volunteers are working to organize a small museum to showcase them, or better yet, create opportunities that the tools can be used and learned from in that way.

There is a really great house a few kilometers from us, one that we would have without-a-doubt chosen over the house we currently live in, had it been available at the time we moved here. We learned through the rescue group that it was set to be demolished this year, and the group went in and tagged some of the items in the house. This is the best old-house I have seen yet in terms of the house itself, and the amount of good antiques forgotten inside.

We learned last night that the house is to be destroyed tomorrow. It was being kept a secret for some internal family reasons so the brother who didn’t want to destroy it wouldn’t find out.

I had actually decided that I would buy it (price of the land) and worry about the demolition costs ($30,000) if it ever came to that. It would have cost at least 25-30,000 to pull the house upright (it is a bit tilted) and minimal refurbish would be about 55,000. Even demolishing it, if done right can make money because the old beams used to build these houses are in demand.

I was going to use it as my workshop – currently I have no room large enough to use a table saw other than the living room, and the other family members aren’t so happy about saws and dust and nails flying around while they eat. I was going to use it as a place for anyone we hire to help out to stay. I was going to use it to store bikes and other junk we don’t have room for in our house now. Once it was fixed up I was going to rent it out to ski-bums in the winter (right near the ski-hill) make all the money back.

Or maybe we would live there. The location was great. Closer to the “downton” and main station than we are now, yet more secluded then our house. Large areas Mona could run around without too much worry, nice neighbors, young kids next door. Large plots for fields near the house.

The house was great. Two stories plus the “loft” area in which you can stand fully upright and touch the thatch roof.

It would have been a lot of work, but totally worth it.

Today we rushed over and removed as many of the items that the rescue group wanted as possible, as well as some more goodies for ourselves (that we have no room to keep). As we were there I almost had my wallet out and Tomoe was on the phone trying to find who we can contact to do an emergency rescue buy and stop the demolition men from coming tomorrow.

It turned out to be impossible. So another perfectly wonderful house will be torn down tomorrow, and the village looses another potential family that would have moved in, because having a country house like that, in a location like that is about the only thing the village has to attract new blood.

I go back tomorrow to scavenge a few more things, and cry a bit more.

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  1. john says:

    very sad. I have some good memories from the short time I spent in that house. I regret not postponing going to tokyo so I could check it out thoroughly for a few days. I have an amazing ボロ from that house hanging right behind where I am sitting now. Such a shame, I feel for you (and the house).

    Here is my sad story: I have been trying to buy this old house in Osaka for three years. The land is owned by a temple the building is owned by the son of a senile man. The current land-rent is 30,000yen. At first they said they would give me the deed to the house if I paid the land-rent and paid them 100man yen. Then they made me wait for 3 years telling me that “the price had not been decided” or they were “in talks with the temple people”. They got back to me recently saying that the land-rent had been “re-calculate” for the current market. It would now cost 220,000 yen per month to rent just the land. And you would have to pay that rent forever. On top of that they wanted the equivalent of what it would cost them to demolish the building in exchange for the “right” to rent that land. I know they are in a hard spot as well because they face the same re-calculated land-rent and they either must sell the building and “right” or they must demolish everything and return the land and the “right” to the temple. Unless it is designated as a “important architectural object” which I doubt will happen. Neither I nor the owner can do anything about it. The lawyer on the temple’s side decided everything. I’m sure it will be torn down within the year. My dream restaurant/house. I want to cry too!

  2. kevin says:

    I don’t get why they want the equivalent of what it would cost to demolish the house. Would it not be in their best interest just to have you take over the land rent and the take the house out of their name? It would certainly be cheaper than paying to demolish it themselves, and paying the land rent until the demolition happens.

    Its easy to say “There will be another” or “there are a lot of old houses out there”, but at the rate I see them being torn down I really wonder.

  3. john says:

    I think it was a condition set by the lawyer to cover their asses in the case that I couldn’t pay the land rent for very long (which I couldn’t). The only way someone who wants to use that land can turn a profit is to build a large apartment building which of course means tearing down the old house.

  4. kevin says:

    I’m sure it does not apply, or the lawyers would have noticed it, but have the people been there long enough to get squatters rights? In Japan if you rent a place for long enough, it becomes yours or the rent can’t be raised, or some thing like that. Or does the fact that you are a new tenant mean that the temple can finally raise the rent, which they couldn’t while the other guy owned it.

  5. john says:

    Right, they couldn’t raise the rent because of renter’s rights for decades. The senile old man’s mother who lived there passed away and they were forced to change the name on the deed at that time. It increased from 3,000yen a month to 30,000 when they changed the name. If I want to live there it will be “re-calculated” again to 220,000. I guess this explains why you see so many old houses just rotting away. It is cheaper for the owners to just let it sit there. Too expensive for someone else to take it on, and too expensive to tear down. Shaku-chi are way to complicated, I promise to never get involved with one again.

  6. kevin says:

    How much would it cost for you to change your name to his, so the lease can keep the same name?



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