Apparently Japan has up to eight million abandoned houses. In Japanese they're called "akyia" (空き家).

Until very recently they were rarely renovated. But a couple of foreigners living in Japan are doing YouTube videos on rural Japanese houses they bought cheap (or free) to renovate. (There are also Japanese YouTube channels).

I'm wondering if any have been renovated into a hostel or guesthouse that I can go stay at?

Anywhere in the country. The cheaper the better though. In fact somewhere I could volunteer to help out in exchange for accommodation would be awesome.

Googling is not finding much. I think there are also places named "Akiya". Maybe some people with more Japanese experience than me would know where/how to look?

  • 2
    Maybe contact one of the people active on youtube, I know Tokyollama knows other people who renovate.
    – Willeke
    Feb 24, 2023 at 9:08
  • @Willeke Good point. He responded when I commented on one of his videos asking about Japanese people making videos on the topic. Seems like a nice guy. Feb 24, 2023 at 12:01
  • I was thinking about the guy who features in this video, for instance: youtube.com/watch?v=DNdL2FanDxI
    – Willeke
    Feb 24, 2023 at 15:44
  • @Willeke Yes that's the guy who replied to me asking for Japanese videos. You can see our comments on that exact video (-: Feb 25, 2023 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


Akiya literally means "empty house", so if it's put to any sort of productive use, it's no longer one! It also doesn't imply any particular architectural style, many of them are dilapidated 1970s shacks of plastic and asbestos.

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I suspect what you're actually looking for is a minka (民家), the term for traditional "people's houses" like farmhouses, as opposed to the palaces of the nobility. There are plenty of these that have been converted to tourist accommodations, and they can be found all over the country. One particularly famous place that's now a UNESCO World Heritage site is the village of Shirakawa-go in Gifu, which has a spectacular collection of gasshō-zukuri farmhouses that look like hands steepled in prayer, many of which are now inns.

As for pricing, here's a minka guesthouse in Matsumoto that has dorms from ¥3000/night. It's more of an urban house though, and while classic in style from the outside, the dorm rooms themselves unfortunately look garishly modern.

  • Actually I only found out about minka in the last year or so so I wasn't specifically asking about those. I guess they are the ultimate akiya - apparently they are starting to be sought after. Then again I suppose not all minka have necessarily been akiya at any point. I'm asking about what I suppose some of us ignorant westerners would think of as akiya in the narrow sense of somewhat traditional looking to us abandoned Japanese houses like the ones we see on Tokyo Llama's YouTube channel, whether or not there is/are technically more accurate Japanese term(s) for those. Not plastic 70s shacks Jun 30, 2023 at 7:48

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