Hi, I'm ken elwood. As a foreigner, I recently bought 2.2 acres of mountain land in Japan, whereon stands a 160 year old kominka. AMA.
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- Where is your property in Japan?
In Nagano Prefecture -- I have 2.2 acres in the mountains an hour West of Nagano city, one and a half hours North of Azumino, an hour South-west of Afan Woodland, and an hour East of Hakuba.
- How did you pick your location?
It took me eight years to find what I was looking for at a low price. The property is field, forest and paddy, and at the top of the watershed in an old mountain hamlet, near Nagano city and the Northern Alps. The people are friendly, property tax is cheap, and it’s relatively safe from disasters, in particular typhoons, flooding and obviously tsunami. Also the forest is mixed – hardwood, softwood, broad-leaf and evergreen, which prevents the land from sliding, provides for a food-rich understory, and sustains a balanced population of wildlife, including bears!
If I had unlimited money, I’d probably get a house that is in better shape than the 160 year old kominka that came with the land.
- Are you homesteading your land?
Not right now, but maybe one day. For now it’s like a dacha, a Russian word for a place in the country that supplements a main residence in the city. Most of my attention is now focused on my garden and little family in Aichi, where I can see other people, get on the internet, and maybe buy Dominos pizza. The land is still good for summer stays, growing large trees and apple orchards, forest gardening, observing nature, harvesting wild foods and firewood, possibly hunting deer, and bugging out in an emergency.
- Would you ever have a community on your land?
To build a community that produces most of its own food, tools, and energy, and is large enough to meet the social needs of the members, is a massive project far beyond my resources and acreage. Having said that, my land is located in the midst of a wider hamlet with more than enough resources – in both natural abundance and man-made infrastructure – to sustain a community. The current trend says that in 10-15 years time I’ll be the only one up there, so theoretically there will be room up there for more than 100 people (30 households).
- Are you going to make a farm and/or garden?
Both, but I have no short-term plans to grow annuals on my land, except for maybe rice or buckwheat. I’m much more interested in perennials: fruit trees, nut trees, berry bushes, and herbs.
- What’s the micro-climate?
Plant Hardiness zone: 7a – 7b Annual avg. high temp: 17 C Annual avg. low temp: 7 C Annual rainfall: 932 mm (37 in) Avg. precipitation days: 1/3 (10 days) of each month. Number of snowy days per year: 63 Winter snowfall: 2.57 meters (101 in) over four months from December to March.