Despite there now being an apparent wealth of beautiful houses available to rent by visitors to Japan, last year saw an extreme crackdown by the government on rental properties. New rules were imposed last June requiring lodgings to be registered with the local government and requiring Airbnb to remove a large number of its listings. Now, however, rental properties are back on the rise. Visitors can book traditional Japanese homes, new contemporary constructions, or even wooden cabins in the wilderness, and find the clean, minimalist design typical of Japanese homes. Here are some of the most beautiful houses you can rent in Japan.
1. Buena Vista House — near Ohara, Chiba Prefecture
Buena Vista House is located close to Tokyo, but in an area that is worlds away from the busy city. It sits in a terraced valley near Ohara in Chiba Prefecture, a coastal area to the east of Tokyo, and it overlooks the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Guests have access to a big circular yurt with colorful kitchen facilities and areas to relax, a cabana with an ocean view, and a rotenburo, which is an organically shaped stone hot tub. The simple structures and wooden furniture feel very much at peace with the surrounding natural area. Available activities include having a barbeque, participating in yoga lessons, and leisurely walks to nearby restaurants through the verdant vegetation.
2. Sanson Terrace — near Sakuho, Nagano Prefecture
If you’re looking to seriously unplug, then this tiny cottage on a mountainside provides a place to immerse yourself completely in nature. It is located near the town of Sakuho in Nagano Prefecture. It was built by owner Daigo himself and is proudly minimalist. Daigo admits it’s not a luxury property. It’s quite literally “off the grid” as the electricity comes only from solar panels and the water from tanks, and the bathroom would only seem luxurious to someone used to wild camping. But it more than makes up for its simplicity with its terrace view of Mount Morai, hammock strung between two trees, and complete isolation from the world. One guest comments that there are “no neighbors except crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, and many other forest animals.” The diminutive interior is characterized by light wood panels, big open windows, and a little black stove complete with a copper kettle.
3. Izu Shimoda Beach House — Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture
Izu Shimoda Beach House also sits by the sea and is located in Shimoda, a city on the southeastern Izu peninsula. This coastal area is loved by divers and, as the owners express, “Shimoda is said to have the most beautiful sea in the Kanto area.” The beach house channels a Costa del Sol look with its white-washed walls and red roofs. In fact, the owners say their construction materials were imported from Spain. The irregular complex has plenty of little patios with seating areas and each bedroom opens onto a courtyard where you can enjoy the sea breeze. The luminous, spacious interiors feature exposed wooden beams and vintage furniture, with sunlight pouring in through big French windows with sea views.
4. Bamboo Lodge — East Tokyo
This rental lets guests experience architectural tradition in the middle of ultra-modern Tokyo. The three-bedroom apartment is constructed from traditional Japanese mud and cedarwood walls. The bedrooms have Japanese-style tatami floors, which were traditionally made of soft rice straw to facilitate the customary lifestyle of sitting and sleeping on the floor. The kitchen has a bamboo floor, another common construction material. The purpose of these building materials is to allow nature and fresh air inside the home. As one guest enthuses, “The house smelt very nice, there was a lingering smell of wood, similar to a good sauna.” These natural materials also help the interior to feel light, clean, and spacious. Balconies off the bedrooms allow you to peek outside to remind yourself that you’re in the middle of a bustling city.
5. Traditional Japanese house — Yonashiroyakena, Okinawa Prefecture
On the island of Okinawa, which lies to the south of Japan’s main island of Honshu, guests can stay in an ornate house in Yonashiroyakena. The large, open-plan interior with wooden walls and partitions is decorated with Japanese artwork and pot plants. The house has several traditional architectural features such as fusuma, sliding screens that act as doors or walls so rooms can be reconfigured, and ranma, decorative panels above the screens that are designed to let in light. The house also has low tables, called chabudai, where families normally eat, and cushioned floor seats. The terrace outside leads to a vegetable garden with goats.
6. Mt Fuji Loghouse — Mount Fuji National Park
This two-bedroom villa gives guests the opportunity to spend a night in the wilderness on the slopes of Japan’s most famous mountain, Mount Fuji. The mountain and surrounding Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is now a World Heritage site. The house is located in the nearest residential area from the top of Mount Fuji. Its architectural construction rather outdoes the name “loghouse” with a dramatically pointed frontage of vast windows that allows plenty of light into the interior. There is a spacious terrace outside and a garden with barbeque facilities. Inside are floor-to-ceiling wooden panels and a cozy stove.
7. Two-story house — Shinjuku, Tokyo
This two-story, eight-bedroom house is located in vibrant Shinjuku and has a typical Japanese layout with classic wood and bamboo flooring. It provides guests with a grand piano and a projector, both located in a vast soundproof semi-basement where parties are actively encouraged. The widescreen projector can play DVDs or be linked up to a smartphone to use the internet, and guests can enjoy a cinematic experience sitting in an intriguing variety of chairs, including a vintage wheelchair. There’s also a large area with desks and a whiteboard for more serious guests that need to conduct conferences. The interior design is a mix of contemporary lighting, retro furniture, and the occasional nod to Japanese culture.