Sayonara, sheds!

As you can probably guess, the SoraHouse, the house in the Japanese countryside that we bought for just one million yen (US$7,460), is a fixer-upper that’s going to need some work before it’s ready for human habitation. When we last visited the site in the mountains of Saitama Prefecture, we spent the day clearing out the years’ worth of brush and branches that have overtaken the property in the time since the building was last inhabited.

The reward for our hard work was more than just a feeling of satisfaction, too. Hobien, the local construction firm that’s helping us make the SoraHouse livable, told us that with the vegetation trimmed back they’d be able to get an excavator/power shovel onto the property to demolish our already ruined storage sheds, something we originally thought we’d have to do with hand tools.

Having never lost our sense of childlike wonder (we’re not just “immature,” we promise), we were excited at the prospect of construction machinery rumbling around, and the hearts of SoraNews24 founder Yoshio, his visiting nephew Liam, and Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori were filled with excitement as they walked up the country road that leads to the SoraHouse…and they were not disappointed by what they saw next!

Imazu, the team leader from Hobien who’s been overseeing the on-site work, was already there, skillfully manipulating the controls of the power shovel and scooping out unwanted overgrowth.

Maybe it was the green, reptilian color of the power shovel’s paint, or maybe it was the long, neck-like look of the arm. Whatever the reason, though, as Go watched Imazu work, he began to see him not so much as a construction worker but as a powerful dragon-riding warrior, bending the great beast to his will.

Suddenly, though, a hush fell over our corner of the forest as Imazu brought his steed’s movement to a halt and he called out…

“Got some crabs over here!”

We were pretty shocked to hear this, since Saitama is a landlocked prefecture with no ocean coastline. It turned out to be true, though, as there were indeed tiny little crabs with reddish-brown shells scuttling around in the soil. We’re guessing they’re some sort of freshwater variety that crawled up from the river that runs through part of our property.

You really never can tell where crabs are going to appear in Japan.

Once we shooed the little guys away, we got back to work, with Imazu operating his power dragon shovel and the rest of us carting debris away by hand. Go will be honest — he was tempted to slack off by pulling out our phones and browsing the Internet a few times, but it turns out that the SoraHouse is so deep in the mountains that he didn’t have phone coverage, so he worked as diligently as the rest of the crew.

After a break for lunch, the path to the storage sheds was finally wide enough for the dragon to commence its attack on them!

The first one went down without much of a fight, but he second, in a more precarious position, was the bigger task.

Navigating the rocky perch was well within Imazu’s dragon-riding capabilities, though. As he made his first few strikes on the structure, though, we once again encountered some local wildlife, as Imazu called out…


Apparently stinging insects are something Hobien deals with pretty regularly, though, as Imazu’s staff was well-prepared with some professional-grade bug spray.

▼ We decided not to make these wasps into dumplings.

Demolition resumed, but then again came to a halt at the terror of a massive exodus of kamadoma, or “cave crickets,” from the shed.

▼ Hey, kids! How many of the 200-plus cave crickets hiding in this photo can you find?

Eventually, though, all the creepy crawlies cleared out, and once the shed was properly demolished, we set about sorting the debris for proper disposal, only to get distracted by…

…the huge quantity of magazines, pamphlets, and paper advertisements that we discovered.

▼ A monthly program listing for Wowow, one of Japan’s first satellite TV channels

▼ An ad for bras and panties

▼ Another Wowow listing, this time for December 1998

Two ads in particular caught Go’s eye. As a former Apple employee, he couldn’t help but smile at this Power Macintosh 7600/120, being offered by an electronics store for 278,000 yen.

But the weirder one was the ad for this real estate agency in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward…which is the same real estate agency Go used to make regular deliveries to when he worked in a soba noodle restaurant in the neighborhood. He had no idea how the ad got all the way up into the mountains of Saitama, but it somehow felt like he had been destined to find it.

We’ve still got quite ways to go before the SoraHouse is a real house, but we’re pleased with our progress so far, and also keeping our fingers crossed that future steps also involve awesome dragon-like machinery.

Photos © SoraNews24
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