It has been a while since we described the opportunities to buy foreclosed property in Japan. The lowest priced properties are of course in the rural areas. For example, in order to impress upon you the opportunities, I did a random search of properties on the http://bit.sikkou.jp website.
You will need to use a translating tool like Google because the website is in Japanese. Court documents are in Japanese as well. I am used to dealing with these documents because they are in a standard format. Maybe you can find a Japanese student if you need help. Pictures convey a thousand words, and the court gives you 10-20 photos. They are very fair minded, with an attention to detail.
I chose one of the cheaper rural areas on the more populated East Coast, close to Osaka City. The region is Wakayama. It is a Y2.1mil ($US22,000) two-storey house, basically $10K for the house, $10K for the land. Some houses have been trashed. This place is untidy, has some 'collateral damage' from the alcoholic who is currently residing in it. How do I know? Well there are crates of alcoholic bottles sitting outside the premises, and at the time the house was photographed, there was still someone living there. If you visit you can find out if he is still living there. Talk to the neighbours. The property detail inside also suggests atypical damage and regard for the property, but really such issues are cosmetic given the price you would be paying. Structurally, the building is probably find. You will likely go there to confirm. You have a period of time during which the courts will help you evict the previous owner. That is of course assuming its a problem. Most leave of their own free accord. If they don't most people simply pay them off rather than go to court. There is a process whereby you can pay the court to store their possessions, but since the evictee needs money rather than a court drama, most simply leave with your cash incentive. Better not to deal with drunks with a chip on their shoulder. How do you know? Talk to the neighbours, establish if they have moved out already. Fortunately, the courts photos give you a great deal of info on the tenants/owners, and they are very fair in their property description. Remember, in Japan you are dealing with the court system, not some agent with a vested interest. This $US21,000 house is 102m2, so its typical Japanese/European size. The land size is going to be small, but if its a holiday house, I think most of us would be happy with a 'crap hole' if you are only paying $21K. Land rates on this property are probably $300 per year, given the location and age of the house, and given the small investment, you would not even bother insuring it.
These types of places are great if you are free to work from home and travel, like being a programmer or graphic designer. In Japan you can get pre-paid internet modems, and no place is too far from the shops. A scooter is another great accessory to get around, or because of great infrastructure, even a bicycle is enough. What more do you need? You need to look at more properties. I use the hyperdia.com tool to find train stations to locate a property, then the map provided to find the specific address. I use Google Maps to look around the vicinity of the property, both the street and satellite view. Train lines are important. Make sure you are buying land, as opposed to buying a house with a lease of land.
All the best with your search!