Inaka Lifestyle

Japan akiya house budget kitchen renovation before and after

Akiya House Journal 3: Kitchen Remodel

Table of Contents

Hi all! I’m excited to share an update on our kitchen renovation in our akiya in the inaka of Shikoku, Japan! I’ve been too busy to get rolling for a few months now, but it’s finally starting to come together.

You can watch the long-form version of the kitchen work in this vlog:

Akiya kitchen renovation needed!

We decided to renovate our rural Japan home kitchen because it was… um… like this:

Before renovating our akiya kitchen in Japan

I tried cleaning the walls. Even bleach barely did a thing. But painting isn’t very difficult, it just takes time. The time has now come.

Restoring and repurposing an old Japanese Tansu

Old found Japanese tansu furniture

These old tansu cabinets were hiding in a back storage room under years of dirt. They happened to be about the right size for the far kitchen wall, so refinish them we shall! This kind of furniture find is definitely a Japanese countryside living perk. They were originally in the kominka folk house, but we are going to use them in the newer akiya house now.

Old 1955 Japanese newspaper with train article

And of course, the tansu drawers were lined with newspapers from the 80’s. Fun to look through old newspapers from Ehime prefecture.

Scraping insect nests from the old tansu furniture door interior

Putting my interior design skills to work by scraping away bug nests. I don’t want to know what kind of insect this is from. Please don’t tell me. 🙂

Cleaning rust from the tansu hardware

To remove rust from tools, you can soak them with vinegar and salt. These handles aren’t easy to soak, so I used spray metal cleaner, a brillo pad and an old toothbrush to get them a bit cleaner. If you have a steel bristle brush, that works best.

Star of the show: vintage-look tinted linseed oil finish

Tinted linseed oil used for the custom kitchen island for our akiya kitchen renovation

I had never used linseed oil before but now I’m a believer. Linseed oil hardens with time, soaks into wood grain to protect it, and can also be used as a finish on iron. Perfect for this tansu! This wood love oil finish comes in natural, ebony tint, and other tint options.

Japanese Tansu linseed oil restoration process

After scrubbing down everything with a brillo pad to clean and expose some of the under-wood, I generously applied the ebony tint linseed oil over all surfaces including the hardware, then wiped it away to let it dry. The second coat took over a day to dry and was a bit tacky at the beginning. After returning from a 2-week trip, the tansu finish has no stickiness at all.

Tansu Japanese furniture restoration process

I frankensteined a cabinet, a low table base and an old door into the kitchen island. It gives us a more efficient prep space. I’ve never seen any Japanese people around here mix and match furniture like this… leave it to a foreigner to do something wild that breaks the rules. 😉

Akiya kitchen renovation reveal!

The kitchen isn’t done yet, but check out this improvement!

Akiya galley kitchen with custom tansu island

One of the biggest changes we made was to the layout of the kitchen. We made it feel a bit more spacious by moving the fridge to the opposite corner.

custom diy japanese akiya kitchen island

The kitchen island storage opens up to the prep side, concealing the millions of sauces and spices we have. They are convenient to grab while cooking, but not visible on the “guest side” of the island.

Vintage finish restored Japanese tansu

Here is a closer look at the finished tansu. I think I will come back later and add soft-close drawer hardware later. It is great for storing the variety of things we use in the kitchen from pots and pans to small appliances, tea, trash bags, etc.

Renovation cost break-down

It’s not done yet. I’m not even convinced we should call this an official renovation. Anyway, I still want to replace the broken/deteriorating tile backsplash and make a custom bamboo dish drying rack for above the sink. But at the moment, here is the break-down for all the costs:

“Natural” linseed oil ¥2940
“Ebony” linseed oil ¥2940
Additional legs for kitchen island ¥1600
A few daiso woodworking tools to make the island ~¥1500
Kitchen paint ¥5800
IKEA GRÅVACKA light cord set ¥1499
IKEA Molnart LED bulb ¥2499
Screws ¥100
Barstools ¥4290 x 2

Total: ¥27458 JPY / $184 USD / $252 CAD / $288 AUD / €173 EURO

Another win for Japanese countryside low cost of living! We’re really happy with the results. Many tasty lunches to come. Thanks for following along!

By the way, if you have moved to Japan and are looking for resources to make your house a home, please check out for resource guides, Japanese house interior design inspiration, and more.

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Before and after of my budget kitchen renovation for my akiya home in Japan.

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