Jonathan Soble in the NYT:
The houses are a steal for the rare souls who will have them. But just one has been sold through the home bank so far, a 60-year-old single-story wooden home with a patch of garden that was listed for 660,000 yen, or $5,400. Places farther up the hill can be had for the equivalent of just a few hundred dollars. Four have been rented, including one to students in a nursing-care program at a nearby college who receive a discount in return for checking up on elderly people in the area.
Other towns have tried their own creative solutions, including offering cash payments to outsiders who move in and buy unoccupied homes. A few have succeeded in attracting pockets of artists and freelance workers, who stay tethered by the Internet to their urban clients.