Updating the real estate landscape of Kyoto: Interview with Chika Kishimoto

Kyoto Interview ・ May 3, 2019

We've recently moved to Kyoto, more specifically to a creative sharehouse called REDIY, where we've been building furniture and renovating the rooms with our artistic neighbors. Before we've decided to choose this sharehouse, we've done intense research about Diy-able apartments in Kyoto, as we were sick and tired of strict Japanese property laws and rent regulations.

You might have no idea how hard it is to paint walls, reupholster floors and build your own wall shelves at home in Japanese apartments — even to put your favorite posters on a wall. If you are renting a regular apartment through a regular realtor, chances are high that there should not be even a single nail hole on your wall when you move out — that means there is a very little room to play with your creative mind and customize your dream nest in Japan unless you actually own a place.

However, there has been gradually more and more interesting spots that allow residents and renters to explore new possibilities in where they live and work.

We found this listing site called DIYP during our research which allows you to check out some DIY-able homes (both for buying and renting). In Kyoto, we got a chance to talk to a director of DIYP Kyoto, who is updating a real estate scene of this former capital of Japan.

Chika Kishimoto — a real estate planner

One of the real estate properties she is currently working on. A complex of old traditional Japanese houses will be renewed as a mix of residential and working place for creatives.

"House owners and landowners themselves don't often know what to do with their properties. My job is to find potential and make a proposal of what these places could be, and help them to implement the plan." says Chika Kishimoto, a real estate "planner" and the founder of addSPICE(http://addspice.jp/).

"There has been a recent movement of renovation and adaptive reuses all over Japan especially in Tokyo, allowing some unused properties in the city to be recreated to something anew. In Kyoto, however, there aren't many players to connect owners and renters & buyers in a non-conventional way. It's also hard to find all the available listenings online in Kyoto — most of them are hidden due to various concerns of the owners. I found a need to develop the market here."

Kishimoto took a degree in architecture and decided to pursue her career as a realtor instead. Most of the realtors wouldn't want to stay involved after they find renters, and architects tend to walk away from responsibility after construction is finished and buildings are done, she says. Her job, however, doesn't stop there. "I am interested in how things would evolve even after a lease is signed." That is why her title is a real estate "planner", who is not merely an agent for the sale, but as a producer and dreamer to help the potentials to grow in the city.

Why Kyoto and what's special about it?

In a historical city like Kyoto, neighborhood ties and local communities are more noticeable than in big cities like Tokyo. It takes time to gain trust from owners and build a relationship with local communities, thus all the processes take more time. "I've realized that it's important to think about Kyoto-ness to develop a meaningful proposal that works well in a community."

"In Kyoto, house owners and landowners tend to have long term perspective on their projects. That's another thing that makes this city special compared to Tokyo — consideration for time and next generation."
Thus, she is not keen on just following a trend, and trying to propose long term value for a community.

Kishimoto also organizes a program and a website called "Kyoto Iju Keikaku (means ’Let's move to Kyoto program’)". The program encourages people to move into this former capital of Japan, helping them find new jobs and immerse themselves in a new lifestyle in Kyoto. She has just published a book too, about her career as a real estate planner. I can't wait to see what's more to come in Kyoto!