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Old style homes getting new life

Date Posted: 2005-08-27

Abandoned old homes are scattered across Okinawa’s countryside, their owners moving closer to the city centers to be closer to families.

A Naha entrepreneur is seizing the moment though, and is buying up old wooden homes with the traditional orange tile roofs. His goal is transformation into small, quaint restaurants or coffee shops.

Takezou Uehara himself had an old house he doesn’t use, and recognized a dream to make it a restaurant. II feel like I’ve come back to my grandparents’ home,” he says. “I miss them so much.” As with many, his grandparents had given up the old home and moved to the city, where services and safety were more readily available.

The 49-year-old Uehara says customers are almost crying as they visit his restaurant, where there is such a nostalgic atmosphere. “There’s nothing modern at all,” he notes, “and everything is wood. The smell is of wood, the feel is warm.” He’s kept the altar in the old home, but removed the tissue thin sliding wood doors between rooms. The open air style fits the restaurant better, and allows customers to even see the wooden posts. The house was constructed without iron nails.

Architectural specialists are pleased that Uehara is leading a movement to save the old homes. They say preserving Okinawa culture is essential, and touching the lives and hearts of locals and tourists with such a unique venture is all the better. Uehara says he “hopes young people will come to feel that old Okinawan culture and foods” are worth preserving.

Real estate agents note there are many old style houses available on today’s market. They encourage queries into availability.

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