Japanese fall for ye olde cottage industry

ANNE SPACKMAN

It is the ultimate souvenir of a trip to Britain. After tartan, Barbours and Wedgewood china, we are now selling the Japanese English country cottages, complete with exposed beams and inglenook fireplaces.

Several British firms who build timber frame houses have had inquiries from Japanese customers keen to construct a traditional English cottage. It doesn't yet compare with our demand for Japanese cars and electronic goods, but it is a good start for an industry running short of domestic customers.

A Herefordshire-based company, Border Oak, is building about 25 half- timbered houses a year in Japan. Charles Macrae, a building firm in Inverness, had one customer who even kitted out his interior from an Inverness store.

Yesterday the leading self-build firm Potton were visited by a delegation from a construction company, Meishon, keen to view its heritage and rectory designs. Meishon plans to become Potton's agent in Japan, where it has built one of Potton's most cottagey styles as a show home on a 40-unit site.

Terry Mahoney, Potton's business development manager, said English style was very fashionable in Japan. The first suggestion this might extend to homes came from a Japanese antiques dealer based in London who told Potton he thought its designs would go down well.

Japan has an insatiable market for new homes with 1.5 million built every year. That has increased as a result of January's earthquake in Kobe which destroyed 150,000 buildings. "With them needing to build so quickly the biggest benefit of timber-frame construction is speed," Mr Mahoney said. "The cost here is around pounds 45 a sq ft. You can treble that for Japan."

Ken Farnes, a Japanese expert at the Department of Trade and Industry, has been helping British firms establish a foothold. He said there was a new inquiry every week from builders wanting to link up with English firms.

Around 70 per cent of Japanese people are owner-occupiers. But while they may like our old-fashioned styles, the Japanese have no inclination for doing up old properties.

"The average Japanese gets bored with a house quickly," said Mr Farnes. "The largest Japanese house builders offer a scheme whereby you move into one of their temporary homes for 50 days while they knock down your old house and build a new one on the same plot. There is hardly any DIY market," he added.

Potton is one of six British firms going to the Kobe Interhome trade fair next weekend, supported by the DTI. The Japanese government has agreed to the import of 50,000 homes a year, to satisfy consumer demand and pressure from Western governments.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there