Priory Cottage in the heart of London's Islington borough was more than a house and a home; it was a slice of history. To sell it was a wrench; but to buy a property in Japan was a weird and wonderful adventure through a series of misadventures on the other side of a perverse looking glass.

The old classical brick house was built in 1798, and briefly featured in Charles Dickens' Bleak House novel. An extension in the 1970s turned it into a three-story cottage; at the back it added a sloping glass roof commanding a long drawing room with a floor of black Welsh slate. On a fine day, this was a wonderful place to be with a book or good companions and a glass of something inspiring. In the morning there was sweet birdsong from the trees and bushes, apple, plum and cherry (not the raucous cawing of greedy crows that is the signature of Osaka).

After 215 years the house was strong, with deep foundations built to last. National and local rules ensured that it would last. We were told that we would need permission to change the color of the front door — so it stayed, shining black with a lion knocker, and solid enough to resist a battering ram. We needed special permission to cut down a diseased cherry tree because the gap it created would change the eye line of the street. The value of the house increased, from £7,500 in the 1970s, £190,000 by the late 1980s to more than £1.5 million.