Sustainable Japan Event - Minka Summit

Sustainable Japan Event - Minka Summit

Apr 28, 2024

Celebrating Rural Japan Life & Reuse of Old Houses at Minka Summit ‘24

This year was the 3rd annual Minka Summit and we went back to the beautiful Hanase Village in rural Kyoto for the 3-day event. Old houses in Japan built in traditional style with beams fitted together beautifully are called Minka and if a house is over 100 years old, called a Kominka.

Visiting the still lived in thatch village of Miyama, Kyoto was an interesting Minka Summit tour

 Unfortunately, despite many of these houses being perfectly usable with a little stabilization work, renovation, and TLC to make it comfortable, hundreds of thousands are destroyed each year. 

The Noto peninsula disaster highlighted the need to upkeep old houses and get them checked every 5–10 year for damage, repairs and earthquake stability as 90% of fatalities were due to old houses collapsing. Residents of the affected Noto peninsula area, Bernd and Mitsue, talked of why they chose to stay after the quake despite the hardships of still being without water access. 

An old house in good repair can be as resilient in a storm or earthquake as a new house as Ayumi & Uberto talked about on my show Seek-Sustainable-Japan- they also joined a panel of speakers discussing the earthquake and issues in the Noto peninsula at this year’s event. Ayumi has written about earthquake safety and old homes on her wonderful blog Japan Life Again

There were interesting presentations, workshops and visits to the stunning thatched roof house villages of Miyama and the interesting thatched roof project of French design team 2m26 in a nearby area.

2m26 thatch roof house and art studio tour & talk as a part of Minka Summit 2024

Azby Brown

This year one of the Minka Masters Azby Brown gave a fantastic keynote about falling in love with traditional temple architecture when he first came to Japan as a grad student. Azby has been on my show many times sharing his insights on a variety of topics from traditional to modern Japanese building design which he has specialized in over many years. It was also impressive to see him so engaged with other people at the summit, listening to most of the presentations and attending the tours, workshops and field trips as well. In the final day’s presentation alongside Takeshita-san, last year’s keynote speaker and a fellow Minka Master, they both shared their hope, but also disappointment, with the lost treasures of houses and culture that are being destroyed now in Japan. 

Azby Brown with his classic book “Just Enough” & Fukuoka Minka owners Ayumi & Uberto 


There are always great vendors in the Minka Mall selling naturally dyed products, featuring local artisans, a delicious local healthy lunch served on a wooden cutting board, Mexican soft tacos, traditional Japanese tools, authors selling their books, renovation companies and wood stove businesses. 

Beautiful, healthy and zero-waste lunch at the Minka Mall — Minka Summit 2024

There were also interesting workshops for natural plaster, straw crafts and thatch roofing for people who wanted to see how things are made and even trying it out for themselves under the guidance of a seasoned expert like Emily Kaneko Reynolds who led a workshop on natural plaster techniques.

Passion for Natural Plaster & Building in Japan - Emily Kaneko Reynolds
Emily Kaneko Reynolds loves to build with earth and mud- she will share some of her insights and passion for natural…

Workshops held in front of the Minka Mall at Minka Summit 2024

Miroslav Bachura is a knowledgeable architect based in Shizuoka Japan who was one of the presenters at this year’s summit & gave us a summary of his talk about Sustainable Traditional Japanese House Design on my show if you missed it. Miro is involved with so many stunning guest house and restaurant projects as well as consulting with the city on sustainable urban planning.

How to properly reuse MINKA in Japan to be Stylish & Safe - Miroslav Bachura
Miroslav Bachura is an architect-designer from Slovakia based in Shizuoka Japan. Here he talks about how to properly…

Brett Rassmussen gets the prize for coming the farthest to the Minka Summit as he traveled on local roads over 3 days each way from his remote island of Ojika in Nagasaki to join two panel discussions about heritage and how to find and renovate a Minka. Brett has such great insights on how to made use of discarded materials, use renewable energy and natural dyes as well which he talks about below.

Fixing Up Old Japan Houses on Ojika Island Nagasaki
Brett works on Ojika island (Nagasaki) and elsewhere in Japan (new project in Nagano) under the business name "Okibi"…

David Caprara is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who has based himself in rural Nara since he was introduced to the area as a JET. On Seek Sustainable Japan he shared insights from some of his films and renovation treasures and ideas. At the Minka Summit, he was capturing some of the event for publication and gave advice on a panel for how to find and renovate an older home.

Minka Summit Inspired to buy an Akiya & Journalism in Japan - talking with David Caprara
David Caprara is an American journalist who has been based in Japan since he first came as a JET in 2012. David has…

Renovation projects, traditional design, Akiya abandoned houses, and how to find and fix up old houses in Japan is one of the most popular topics and subseries of my channel. If you are interested in this topic, you can learn a lot from bingeing this playlist of over 100 interviews and visits related to the topic.

I’d encourage you to try to make it to the Minka Summit 2025 in April next year to join us and find out more about how to enjoy living in a traditional house and being a part of a rural community in Japan. So many of the people I meet each year who are interested in the topic of renovating and restoring Minka are fascinating as well as being great fun to hang out with. 

Big thanks once again to the Kominka Japan team of Stuart, Andrea, Lauren, Vince, Wendy and so many other staff and volunteers who made the Minka Summit event a great success once again this year! 

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