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Japan's 'ghost houses' given second life as rural towns fight blight

Small communities roll out red carpet for new residents to fill 8m abandoned homes

An empty house in Kawaguchiko: the Yamanashi Prefecture town has seen some of the biggest decreases in the number of empty homes in Japan. (Photo by Takanori Tani)

TOKYO -- Local governments in Japan have been luring people to take ownership of the country's more than 8 million abandoned homes through a host of incentives, including millions of yen in renovation grants, new zoning laws and even giving away the structures for free. 

As Japan's population steadily declines, many communities across the nation are facing a growing problem of empty homes with little prospect of finding new residents. But a close look at housing data shows that some towns and cities have succeeded in turning the blight into a blessing, luring new residents through fresh incentives and reforms to reverse demographic decline.

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