By Tim Hornyak | The New York Times
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 Mr. 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 gabled tile roof. If the 2,700-square-foot house looked more like a Buddhist temple than a farmhouse, it’s because it had been built by a temple architect in 1989.
Mr. Thursfield and his Japanese-born wife, Chihiro, had moved to Japan from London in 2017 with their two young sons and a dream of buying a home with a big yard. The plan was to purchase a vacant lot and build a house on it, but land is expensive in Japan and their budget wouldn’t allow it. So they turned to the growing supply of abandoned houses, which are cheaper and often come with more land.