Welcome to the SoraHouse.

We’re cheap.

We’re guessing you already knew that about us. After all, we’re the people who bought the cheapest car in Japan, stayed at the cheapest hotel in Japan, and ate the cheapest pasta bento in Japan…and did it all with smiles on our faces.

So when we decided that we wanted a house, one where we could enjoy the natural beauty and relaxed pace of Japanese countryside living, you’d be right to assume we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it. But when we found this house in the mountains of Saitama, the prefecture that borders Tokyo to the north, for just one million yen (US$9,100), it was a deal too sweet to pass up, so we bought it!

▼ SoraNews24 founder Yoshio, posing with the SoraHouse

That price may sound too low to be true, and if we’re being completely honest, we didn’t pay actually one million yen for the house…we paid 100,000 yen (US$910) for it. The remaining 900,000 yen was for the land is sits and the other structures on the property, brining the total for everything up to one million yen.

“OK, but at that price, this has got to be just a teeny, tiny shack, right?” you might be thinking. Nope! This is a two-story house with a total of 131 square meters (1,410 square feet) of floor space.

▼ The first floor is set up in a classical Japanese farmhouse style, with groves to put sliding doors/partitions around a central living room

▼ Heading upstairs

So how did we end up as homeowners? Like a lot of things, it started off with a crazy idea from our boss, Yoshio, who one day, out of the blue, just said “I think we should by a house.” From there, we got in touch with some rural community city halls, and they put us in touch with real estate agents, and they put us in touch with prospective sellers until we found this one.

Like we said, in addition to the house, we also own the property its on (that ownership isn’t always bundled together in Japan), with the lot measuring 353 square meters (3,800 square feet). As you’ve no doubt already noticed, we’ve got plenty of trees from the surrounding forest, but we’ve also got…

…our own little river and bridge!

Our mountainside topography even means that if we make our way upstream a little bit…

we’re also the owners of a waterfall!

Getting back to the house itself, it’s definitely a fixer-upper, but it’s also got an undeniable rustic charm to it, making us feel a little bit like we’re starring in our own real-world remake of My Neighbor Totoro.

As soon as you step through the front door, for example, there’s an old-school earthen-floor genkan (entryway)…

…and just a few steps away after you come up into the house itself is a horigotatsu, a kotatsu (heated table) frame with a space cut into the floor for you to slide your feet into.

There’s no exact record of what year the house was originally constructed in, but we did get an approximate estimate of somewhere around 85 to 100 years ago, which would put it in the late Taisho or early Showa periods. It’s gone through multiple renovations since then, though, so it’s not like it hasn’t had any work done to it since the Demon Slayer days.

That said, the house has been sitting vacant for some time while it waited for us to find and buy it, so it’s in need of some repairs, and also a lot of cleaning.

Some busted windows mean various critters have been able to come and go as they please, including squadrons of insects when there were no humans around to swat them away.

▼ Don’t worry, though, those aren’t all bugs! …we’re pretty sure some of them are small animal droppings…

▼ This ceiling panel gap has been plugged with newspapers.

▼ But hey, if you didn’t have time to read the Asahi Shimbun on the morning of July 23, 1996, then this is still news to you, right?

We’ve also got a few ceiling panel issues that are going to require us brushing up our drywall skills.

As for the kitchen…

…we’ve actually seen a lot worse in cheap Tokyo bachelor-pad studio apartments.

The bathroom though…

…isn’t currently looking like much more of an attractive option than just doing our business out in the woods.

Oddly enough, while the floor is grungy right now, the rest of the room with the bathtub and shower fixtures is looking pretty good.

Let’s head back outside for some fresh air.

Again, we’ve got some cleaning up and patching up to do around the exterior. If you look at it with a positive attitude, some parts look a little like a scene from Castle in the Sky’s ancient architecture, with natural vegetation reaching out towards the manmade structures.

Other sections, though, look like a strange Escher painting, or maybe a CG rendering error, with how out of whack things are.

The SoraHouse has also got a few Winchester Mystery House vibes, like this window that opens up to reveal…an immovable, permanent wall panel.

And as we mentioned above, we also have two other structures on the property, both storage sheds that need some attention before we start storing things in them.

▼ On the plus side, we think there might be RPG-style treasure hidden inside.

So yes, there’s still a lot of work to do before we can start spending our vacations basking in the Japanese-style slow life, napping on our tatami reed floors, sipping an ice cold Asahi Super Dry, and admiring the view, and calling out an elongated “Ooo~~~~~iii!” when we see one of our neighbors coming down the road.

But should we find ourselves feeling tired and sweaty before the job is done, we can always go hop in our river for a refreshing dip, or do a little takigyo waterfall meditation to strengthen our spirit.

Because at the end of the day, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home, and this one is ours.

▼ Video tour of the SoraHouse

Photos ©SoraNews24
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