Albatross by the sea

Akiko Matsumoto (Mainichi Shimbun)

In this blog we often write about how Japanese houses lose their value quickly and become money pits, but we’re usually talking about housing tract structures and prefab or manufactured homes. Recently, however, there was a minor celebrity story in the news that illustrated how this phenomenon even applies to what many would consider legacy housing, meaning quality homes that were built to last multiple generations.

An article that appeared in the Mainicishi Shimbun July 16 told the tale of enduring TV talent Akiko Matsumoto and her difficulties in maintaining the family home, which is located in the mountainous part of Takamatsu City on the island of Shikoku. Matsumoto’s father, who worked for a construction company, had the house built at a cost of ¥30 million in 1972 when she was 6 years old. Though the price included the land, which was located on the side of a hill with a breathtaking view of both the sea and the city of Takamatsu, ¥30 million was a lot in those days. The one-story house was custom built using expensive Japanese cypress and the carpenters were miyadaiku, meaning craftsman skilled in the art of shrine construction, which does not use any nails but instead incorporates special joinery technology. From the description in the newspaper it was a magnificent traditional style Japanese house, not quite a kominka but of the same pedigree.

Such a house is meant to be handed down to one’s children, but Matsumoto’s brother, who is 10 years older, moved to Tokyo for his work 3 years after the house was completed. Matsumoto herself left Takamatsu after she graduated from junior high school to seek her fame and fortune in the capital as a singer, and initially met with some success in that regard. She made her idol debut in 1983 at the age of 17. However, there was too much competition at the time and eventually her management started selling her as a variety show guest because of her sense of humor and knack for celebrity impersonations. She became an emcee in her own right during the initial variety show boom of the 90s and made a lot of money. 

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