Pity the country house in Japan. Having stood proud for over 100 years — its wooden frame and beams made from tree trunks still sturdy, the roof outfitted with traditional ceramic tiles, the entire structure a relic of skillful craftsmanship — it now has little intrinsic value.

With land prices plummeting in the countryside and ongoing depopulation threatening to further depress the market, there's no hope of selling these houses. Even if sold, there would be little financial gain, especially once the pittance has been divvied up among all the siblings who have, inevitably, inherited their parents' or grandparents' dwelling. And few buyers want to take on a domicile they'll have to spend money fixing up or maintaining.

So instead of selling, children or grandchildren hang on to the heritage home filled with childhood memories. They'll return once a year at o-Bon to visit the ancestors' graves. Or not. Either way, year by year the neglected abode falls further into disrepair, until they're plugging up cracks in the walls with wads of newspaper and placing buckets strategically around the house to catch rain dripping through leaking roofs.