Home Renovation And Home Insurance Claims In Japan: A Guide To Upgrades – Jaya and his wife Chihiro bought an abandoned traditional house in Ibaraki with the hope of turning it into the perfect family home for their two sons. This spawned the “Tokyo Llama” YouTube channel, which was originally a fun way to record the transformations and all the escapades between Jaya, but has since become something that more and more curious minds tune into. watch the repair progress. We talk to him about the ups and downs of the process and how the house is progressing.
I’m Australian, originally from Melbourne. I met my wife Chihiro here in Tokyo during a working vacation in 2003. After 10 years of living in London we returned in 2017 with our twins (now 11). In 2019, we bought a mink, which was a traditional style. ese farm, in Ibaraki – about an hour outside of Tokyo, that was abandoned for more than five years and has been renovating it ever since.
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For those who don’t know, what is the story behind the “Tokyo Lama”? What inspired you to start a YouTube channel and how is it going?
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I started the Tokyo Llama YouTube channel at the same time as buying the house to document the renovation process as a keepsake for myself and also to have some fun making videos to share with others who might be interested. I thought only a handful of people would watch, but within 12 months the channel had over 100,000 subscribers and now has over 16 million viewers.
I’m still filming ongoing renovations, but I’ve also started filming others refurbishing esse and akiya (abandoned and empty houses). So it was interesting to see what others had done and gave me some good ideas for my own home.
Looking back on your journey so far, what would you say was the hardest part of the upgrade process?
This is a good question. I say clear the house and the land of all the rubbish and other things left when it was thrown away. Although there were definitely a few gems that we came across, most things had to be thrown away. There were even two cars that unfortunately we had to destroy. Even now there are some things that we have to destroy. Luckily, we had help from my mother-in-law’s friends, but it was a lot of work.
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The day we moved in, almost two years ago, even though the house wasn’t complete yet (the bedrooms weren’t even finished) was probably the most satisfying moment because it took a lot of work and time to get to that stage.
Sons Jaya and Chihiro chill on the mezzanine, a modern addition to the house with original wooden beams.
Now, although it’s not finished yet (but we do have bedrooms!) the original features, such as the columns and large wooden beams, are amazing and we’re happy with how the overall renovation turned out.
Also, since one of the main reasons we bought the property was to give our kids a decent space to play, I love seeing them and their friends using the house and garden.
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Ample space for children to play was one of the features that sold the house to Jaya.
If you could, what characteristic of a traditional house would you bring to the UK or Australia and why?
I think my favorite feature is the engawa, an open hallway or covered porch that runs around the outside of the house. Not only does it look great with its views of the garden, especially when it’s snowing, but it’s also versatile. It can be used as a sunroom to sit and have a coffee (or beer) and is the perfect place to hang the washing on a rainy day!
What advice would you give to first-time visitors who want to experience life in this countryside and travel more sustainably?
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These days, there is a growing number of old traditional houses that have been renovated into hotels and guesthouses in the countryside. I think it would be interesting to spend 2-3 days there.
I visited a few in Tochigi and Shikoku that are foreigner friendly and they can help organize nearby events based on local traditions, where you can prepare dishes using local ingredients that are available in typical Tokyo restaurants. you can’t , leave abroad!
Be sure to subscribe to Jaya’s YouTube channel, Tokyo Llama for the latest renovation updates, projects, and tours of other renovations around. A new movement is emerging in Japan, where people are destroying pre-war minka, or “folk houses”, and rebuilding them in a new place. Photo: Jeremy Suteirat for The Wall Street Journal
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