Field Diary: Onjuku-Kamifuse

Type: One-story house; slate roof; wooden frame; siding exterior
Age: 14 years
Land: 165 square meters
Floor area: 76.6 square meters
Distance from nearest station (Onjuku on the Sotobo Line): 3.8 km
Price: ¥7.9 million

Unlike the previous property we inspected in the coastal town of Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture, this one was firmly embedded in a subdivision, albeit a sparsely occupied subdivision. Slammed up against a dense forest, the sad-looking little gray house had no southern exposure to speak of, and so was situated perpendicularly to the road, offering the vacant lots to the west and east its only views. The fact that the house is 14 years old and nobody has snatched up these lots in the meantime probably means they never will, what with other, more elaborate and better planned subdivisions going up elsewhere in the town–and closer to the station.

We couldn’t imagine anyone buying this house, which, aside from being dark, was mold-infested and falling apart. Given the low price, one might think it could be fixed up, but up close the structure, at least, seemed hopeless. The design was out of whack: The toilet on the west side? The agent was polite and helpful but obviously understood the property’s unsellability and didn’t even bother taking our data the way he’s supposed to. There would be no follow-up. We all agreed, however, that it was nice to see somebody install double-glazed windows.

Field diary: Onjuku-Jikkoku

Type: One-story house; slate roof; wooden frame; siding exterior
Age: 12 years
Land: 404 square meters
Floor area: 78.3 square meters
Distance from nearest station (Onjuku on the Sotobo Line): 3.9 km (6 min. by car)
Price: ¥10 million

Situated on the edge of a huge rice field, the land that comes with this property is probably its most attractive feature, providing a sizable front yard, which the previous residents tried to make into a combination vegetable/Japanese garden. Considering how overgrown and tacky it’s become–not to mention the fact that the original asking price was ¥11 million–no one has obviously lived there for a while. The agent told us that the house was originally connected to its almost identical neighbor to the west. At some point the corridor that bound them was torn down, leaving a mysterious windowless storeroom off the bathroom as its only evidence of prior existence.

The layout was reasonable: two Japanese rooms situated in staggered parallel, both looking south; an open living/dining area perpendicularly positioned to the kitchen, which is large and airy. Despite the efficient use of space the rooms are darker than we like, owning mainly to the low ceilings and small windows. Also, a small wooden deck was built outside of the double sliding doors on the east side of the living room, facing the farmhouse next door, which is uncomfortably close. The agent said that someone still lives there though we couldn’t see any signs of recent life. It was the model of a derelict fire trap and would make any venture out on to the deck for purposes of enjoying the sunrise or whatever depressing.

Verdict: House would need at least 3 million more to make is livable, and the land size alone, not to mention the distance from transportation, couldn’t justify the price.