Why is there a pit underneath the floorboards of the SoraHouse?


The tranquil mood was shattered by the shout of SoraNews24 founder Yoshio. He and our Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori were once again up in the mountains of Saitama Prefecture at the SoraHouse, our ridiculously inexpensive country house, as part of our ongoing project to turn it into a livable home.

Yoshio had been clearing debris out of a room at the edge of the building when he noticed a gap in the exterior wall that let him see underneath the floor, where he could just barely make out what appeared to be a hole underneath the house.

The angle of the gap made it hard to see, but by sliding his phone in and using the camera’s flash, Go was able to get a clearer picture.

Yep, that’s definitely a hole, or more accurately, a shaft, since the right angles and remnants of some sort of cover suggest that it’s man-made. But…why is there a shaft underneath our house? We’d never suspected such a thing was there.

▼ The interior of the room the hole is under

Our curiosity piqued, we decided to investigate in the only way we could think of: by grabbing a crowbar and breaking stuff.

After a series of strong strikes, Go opened up a hole in the floor directly above the hole into the earth. Honestly, he was kind of surprised at how easy the floorboards were to shatter, and also that there didn’t seem to be any sort of insulation or materials other than the relatively thin plane of wood.

Now with a better view into the pit, Go could see that there was some sort of object at the bottom of it.

Could this be the remains of an ancient civilization? A ceremonial artifact of valuable historical significance?

There was only one way to find out.

Sliding into the opening, Go ventured down into the depths. The object, he discovered, was a hunk of semi-spherical stone, but when he turned it over, it had a squat, cube-shaped protrusion.

Fascinating! The right angles on the protrusion matched those of the shaft itself. Perhaps this was a sign that long ago, the tribes that inhabited this region based their society around the number 90, with 90-degree angles, 90-day festivals, and delicious stews made with 90 different kinds of spices.

Except, when we showed the object to the staff of Hobien, the construction/contracting firm that’s been helping us with the SoraHouse restoration project, they told us that this is actually a part of the house’s foundation that the building has apparently broken off from.

That still doesn’t explain why someone made an empty shaft here, though. Go considered going back down for another look around, but there was a problem: the pit smelled horrible, reeking of ammonia and other odors that we’ll describe delicately as “wild animal pee and poo.”

So instead, Go asked Imazu, the Hobien staff member we’ve worked most closely with, for his professional opinion. From the smell, and it being dug into the ground, he at first thought it was an old cesspool shaft, but those are usually installed at a diagonal angle, not straight down like this, he said.

Wanting an answer, but not wanting to go back down there, Go and Yoshio decided to contact the previous owner of the house and ask about the shaft, and luckily got the information they needed to solve the mystery.

Long ago, the owner used to use the shaft as a storage cellar for potatoes and other kinds of vegetables, which is why we found remnants of a lid. In those days the room had a dirt floor, but about 10 years ago the owner started renting the house out to another occupant, who didn’t want to use the cellar and instead installed the wooden floor, which explains why the floor wasn’t all that sturdy.

As for the smell, we don’t have any proof, but our theory is that some of the local forest animals occasionally hang out there and leave some bodily waste behind. After all, we already know we’ve got a furry little neighbor who likes to run around underneath the floorboards.

Unfortunately, in addition to uncovering the truth, Go and Yoshio’s investigation has severely damaged the flooring, so we’re still in the process of deciding whether to repair it or restore the room to its original dirt floor-state. We’re also still figuring out what we want to do with the shaft, but we’re definitely not putting anything we’re going to eventually eat down there without thoroughly disinfecting the pit first.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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