Relocating a traditional Japanese house

chiba-kominka
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.

Modern conveniences such as air-conditioning, floor heating, double-pane glass, and new kitchen and bathrooms can be added to make the home as comfortable and insulated as a new house, while keeping the charm and patina that cannot be replicated in new construction.

Japanese homes up to 200 ~ 300 years old can be relocated and renovated. Structures can also be reinforced to meet current earthquake-resistant codes.

There are several companies across Japan that specialise in both the removal and reconstruction of traditional Japanese homes and warehouses. Relocating old homes and builindgs is not a new trend. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was not uncommon for very wealthy people to relocate grand and historic buildings to their holiday estates dotted across the country. A good example of this is the Raitei Estate in Kamakurayama in Kanagawa Prefecture.

kamakurayama-raitei
The Raitei Restaurant in Kamakurayama, Kamakura City. Several historic buildings were relocated to this wealthy holiday home subdivision in the late 1920s. Some of the original buildings include the main house dating from the Edo period, and a 350 year old temple gate.

If you are planning to go down this path, please speak to a building removal and relocation company first before you start looking for land. You will need to get an idea of removal and reconstruction costs, and get an idea of what kind of buildings are available and what kind of land (eg. size) you should be looking for.

Costs:

Removal and reconstruction costs will vary widely depending on the size and construction of the structure and the location. Please contact a specialist kominka relocation company to discuss costs.

Generally speaking, relocation costs could be up to 250,000 Yen per square meter (based on the total floor area of the structure), but costs may end up higher or lower depending on the project.

For example, a 115 square meter (1,237 sq.ft) wood-frame kominka could cost around 30 million Yen (285,000 USD) or more to relocate. This is roughly the same cost as building a brand new wood-frame house of the same size.

In some cases it may be customary for the buyer to pay the seller of the structure a cash gift of around 300,000 ~ 500,000 Yen. For buildings of historical significance or those that are considered to be well-made from quality materials, sellers may ask anywhere from several million Yen and upwards as compensation.

The Process:

Professional removal and reconstruction companies may draw up a contract between the buyer and seller for the transfer of goods (being the structure). The transfer contract is not a real estate contract of sale. Rather, the transaction is treated as the sale of secondhand or antique goods.

Time required:

Consultations with the relocation companies may take between 1 ~ 2 months, and actual removal and relocation can take between 6 ~ 12 months on average. The process may take at least a year, not including the search time required to find both land and a suitable kominka to relocate.

kanazawa-kominka
A traditional residence in Kanazawa available for removal. Via Kanazawa Architectural Design Office.
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