Hello from Kansai -- question about cabin/tiny house on rural land in Japan

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BC_japan
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Hello from Kansai -- question about cabin/tiny house on rural land in Japan

Post by BC_japan »

Hello from Kansai. I am mainly interested in garden farming and off-grid living.

Right now, my wife (Japanese) and I (American) have purchased some small garden land in the hills which is approximately 50 tsubo, and a family member owns another adjacent 50 tsubo piece which will eventually be passed to us.

Our idea is to build a tiny home (cabin) -- only for weekend stays -- about 24 sq meters which is connected to the grid (there's a power pole less than 30m away). For water we will collect and filter rainwater, and use a hot water panel on the roof. Toilet will be compost type. So we do not need a well or a septic. No other services are in the area except the electrical pole.

HOWEVER, we are still very confused about what is "definitely legal" in Japan, what is "technically illegal but okay in practice", and what is "you will surely be in trouble if you do X".

First, my wife was told "You can build whatever you want as long as you don't live in it" and we would then be taxed as a property + structure (which means our tax would go from ¥5,000 to around ¥25,000 per year -- which is fine with us). So we were planning to build a quote-unquote "storage building" and just take our chances staying there once in a while. She thinks it was the 法務局 that told her this... maybe when we were finalizing the paperwork to buy the land? This sounded totally reasonable based on all of the DIY structures I've seen in the countryside.

But then she called the 土木事務所 and was told "No buildings are allowed, it's a special-use property for gardening only". However, one of the gardens 30m from us has a permanent building on a concrete foundation that is 20% bigger than our tiny home would be. We have a list of all of the garden owners around us so we're planning to contact this person and see how they were allowed to build this building (it also has electric service).

In the meantime, I'm wondering if anyone has done anything like this and has any advice? My wife thinks we should go ahead and build it, which would be my thoughts if we were in the mountains in the US, but I know Japan can be a lot more "follow the rules" than mountain areas of the US would be. We're also only 2km from the edge of the city, even though it feels quite isolated. I don't want to run the risk that someone would see us building it, and complain, or be curious, and contact the government and then our project would get shut down.

Thanks!

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Re: Hello from Kansai -- question about cabin/tiny house on rural land in Japan

Post by donguri »

Do you know what category the land is? That usually makes all the difference. If it's registered as rice field for example, it can be tough to build anything on it. It's possible to change the land classification, but that usually costs a considerable amount of time and money.

With land classified as mountain, for example, it's usually possible to build a cabin, as long as it's not your officially registered residence.

If you get hooked up to the electric, somewhere along the line I think the authorities are going to be notified. So it's probably a good idea to get clear.

Good luck!

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Re: Hello from Kansai -- question about cabin/tiny house on rural land in Japan

Post by BC_japan »

The land is classified as 原野. We did some more investigating and the land is not within the nearby "urban boundary". Since we have gotten somewhat conflicting info depending on which government office we have asked, we decided our best strategy at this point is to build a structure of 10 sq meters as this is the limit (based on what we have been able to find) for a "construct whatever you want, the government doesn't care" building.

We are now planning to start with a 10 sq m building on our land that is 1.5 m from the border. Then maybe a year later we will build another 10 sq m building on her father's land, and connect them with a wood deck in between.

From what we've been able to find so far, getting the electricity connected should be no problem. We know an electrician who can advise us, inspect the work, and make the final connection to the drop from the power pole.

Any other advice is greatly appreciated, especially if it helps us build something bigger than 10 sq m.

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Re: Hello from Kansai -- question about cabin/tiny house on rural land in Japan

Post by Zasso Nouka »

Welcome to Japan Simple Life BC_Japan and thank you very much for taking the time to sign up, we really do appreciate that.

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer definitively as things vary so much from prefecture to prefecture and city to city and even from year to year as city council staff are rotated to new departments. Speaking to the city council is a useful start but bear in mind that the staff member you speak to may move next year or the year after and you could find their replacement either more liberal in their interpretation of the rules or more strict. Having said that once you have a structure up for a while it's unlikely to be ripped down unless you've really gone overboard. If your land is classified as agricultural land then it's worth speaking with the local Nougyou Inkai and seeing what their views are as they have a fair bit of influence when it comes to using agricultural land. You also need to speak to the agricultural department at your city council rather than the legal department or civil engineering office if your land is classified as agricultural or sanrin. Unfortunately Japan doesn't have a consistent policy across the country with each prefecture and city interpreting the rules in their own way and if someone has a friend in the relevant department then things nor normally permitted can get waived through yet if someone else tries the same thing they get penalised.

In our city and yours may be completely different once you put in a concrete foundation it becomes liable for tax.