S’porean Buys Abandoned Property In Japan, Runs Place As Guesthouse After S$120K In Renovations

Singaporean Starts Guesthouse With S$30,000 Property In Rural Japan

While Singapore grapples with maximising its space to ensure families get a roof over their heads, Japan is facing somewhat of the opposite problem.

The country is dealing with an increasing number of abandoned houses. In fact, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications noted that about 13.8% of Japan’s housing stock was unoccupied in 2018.

One Singaporean man, Lee Xian Jie, managed to make the best of one such abandoned building in Japan.

With some hands-on work, he turned a seemingly dismal property into an opportunity.

Singaporean turns abandoned property into guesthouse in Japan

Lee, 33, has been living in Japan since 11 years ago. According to his description on Craft Tabby, Lee was a documentary producer for Al Jazeera English.

However, he found that he had become deeply attached to the ‘history, culture, onsen and ramen” in Japan while studying Political Science at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Source: The Travel Intern on Facebook

He later moved to Kyoto and eventually Wakayama, a city in Japan’s Kansai region. It is roughly 78.5km from Osaka.

According to Ryunohara Farm’s website, Lee’s friend, Shu, found an abandoned place in Ryujinmura, Wakayama.

The place had been desolate for years, left mouldy and weedy from the elements. However, it was, attached to a plot of farmland and a farmhouse in good condition.

Place bought for S$30,000, but renovations cost another S$120,000

In an interview with The Travel Intern, Lee shared that he bought the place with his friends for about S$30,000.

Source: Ryunohara on YouTube

He also set up a café in the space for guests at the lodging, with partial subsidy from the Japanese government.

Lee noted that the locals support the project. They mostly appreciate that the building is “kept in a nice state”.

He added,

Anyone can do anything, including build a house, as long as you put your mind to it.

According to The Straits Times, Lee gave the abandoned house in Japan an overhaul with about S$120,000 worth of renovations, making it a liveable guesthouse.

He even did some of the renovations, including replacing the café’s septic tank, by himself to save cost.

Source: Ryunohara on YouTube

The guesthouse, named Ryunohara Hatago, will be available for rent on Airbnb for about S$360 per night from June. It will be able to accommodate parties of up to six.

Founded tour-guiding agency before Covid-19, business was badly affected

As ideal as it may sound, Lee’s journey was not without hiccups.

Lee told The Travel Intern that he co-founded tour-guiding agency Craft Tabby in Kyoto after leaving his first job in Japan.

Source: Craft Tabby website

All was smooth sailing at first, with the company doing rather well and even about to hire a small team of staff.

However, the business was severely affected after tourism shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thankfully, they managed to adapt by conducting virtual tours.

A combination of an enterprising spirit & doing what one loves

It is inspiring to see how Lee managed such a feat with an abandoned building in a country away from home, especially at such a young age.

His story is proof that following one’s heart can coexist with being successful as long as one remains enterprising and flexible to changes.

Kudos to him for his impressive endeavours. We wish him all the best.

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Featured image adapted from Ryunohara on YouTube.

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