This picture comes from an article about travel between Kanazawa and Shirakawago, with more pictures: Japan Times Friday, Jan. 11, 2008.
My nephew lives on Sado Island, off the coast of Niigata prefecture. He has a master’s degree in architecture and has been interested in preserving ancient farm homes on Sado.
While visiting there last year, I learned that farmers who wish to move into more modern houses do not want to destroy their old farm homes, which are like shrines to their ancestors.
The farmers rent out the homes inexpensively as long as tenants keep the structures in good condition.
The Economist writes that the Japanese government has drafted a policy to discourage the Japanese from rebuilding houses after only 20 to 30 years.
I remember telling some Japanese friends that my house in Vancouver was 50 years old and I expected it to last for another 50 years (and the joists might be used even longer, as high-quality large beams are very rare now). There seems to be a belief that Japanese houses are especially high-maintenance; but more likely this is because of shoddy construction. The Japanese buildings that are repaired and renovated tend to be expensive, such as Buddhist temples so Japanese people perhaps think that renovation is so expensive that replacement with the latest modern conveniences is better. Nevertheless, renovation is catching on, as a Google search for リホーム shows (I wonder does this word come from reform or re-home?)