The south of the Kii Peninsula, three hours or more by train from Osaka or Nagoya, is considered remote by Japanese standards.
This region, famous for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails, is a paradise for holiday-makers but not an easy place to live. Young Japanese people leave in droves for the city searching for attractive jobs, a convenient lifestyle and entertainment. As a result, the elderly, abandoned houses, neglected farmland, and dying communities are left behind.
But some foreigners living in Japan want to make this region home. So they took their chances with a fresh start and took rural revitalization into their own capable hands, quite literally.
Giovanni Dal from Italy: winery guesthouse, goats and cheese, agro-tourism.
Todd Van Horne from the USA: plum orchard, adventure camp ground and community project.
The abundance of akiya (vacant houses) dotted all over the Japanese countryside has hit the headlines in recent years. While some of these empty houses make it into the municipalities’ Akiya Banks, many are already uninhabitable. Despite Japan’s zero waste policy, the idea of salvaging lumber and other materials from these old houses has not caught on yet but there are some promising examples where individuals took it upon themselves to rescue such materials and re-use them for building interesting new structures.