Last weekend we traveled up to Nikko to look at properties. Along the way, we could see the damage caused by the earthquake that hit southern Tochigi Prefecture the day before, mostly in the form of blue tarp hastily stretched across roofs where kawara tiles had broken loose. Kawara tends to be used in more traditional houses and is considered to have better weather-proofing and climate control properties than regular shingles. However, they are notoriously difficult to apply and easily come loose during earthquakes. Roofers throughout the Kanto and Tohoku regions are raking it in right now.
Nikko is one of Japan’s most historically significant places and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was combined with several other neighboring towns and villages some years ago, and the area we visited is in the residential district to the south of the famous temples. In that regard, it isn’t significantly different from your average suburban residential area–meaning it’s cramped and nondescript–though the surrounding mountains and abundant pockets of wooded areas and terraced farmlands give it some character. The first place we visited, in fact, was in a development originally subdivided for besso (second homes). We got off at Tobu Shimo Goshiro station, which was small enough to not have a ticket wicket (we were on the honor system and only required to drop our tickets into an unattended box), and walked for 25 minutes through rolling hills and past the old cedar-lined Nikko Kaido to the subdivision, which didn’t really look like a subdivision when you approach it from the main road. Situated in a grove, it did look like a besso community, meaning the homes were varied in style, shape, and size. The property we were looking at was in the middle, next to a golf course, and the real estate agent from a Shinagawa-based company called Mount, who was going to show us all the properties, was already there getting the place ready for our inspection. (more…)