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  • Yomiuri scaremongering: Foreign buyers snap up J land / Survey shows foreigners use Japanese names to hide acquisitions

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 19th, 2012

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    Hi Blog.  Whenever I make a point about the anti-assimilative nature of many of the GOJ’s policies towards NJ, one of the common counterarguments I hear is the foreigners can freely buy land in Japan (unlike in other societies), so it’s not that bad.

    Well, it looks as though the recent push to keep an eye on foreign land acquisition in Japan “due to issues of national security” is still afoot.  As Submitter MMD notes:

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////
    May 1, 2012
    Dear Debito:  Just found the article linked below on Yomiuri’s website which gives some food for thought.

    The article comments on Yomiuri’s own survey in which prefectural governments were asked “about the number of land acquisitions by foreigners and the size of the land acquired” The article also includes the usual ingredients for fear mongering, starting with:

    “In one example in which a Japanese name was used to disguise a land transaction, a Chinese in his 40s living in Sapporo bought 14 hectares of mountain forest and other lands near the Niseko area in Hokkaido last autumn. For this transaction, he used the name of a Japanese real estate company.”

    and concluding with:

    “It’s necessary to establish an ordinance on land transactions at a local level so that local governments are fully aware of the owners of land and water sources,” said Makoto Ebina, a professor at Otaru University of Commerce who participated in a discussion on the ordinance in Hokkaido.”However, as many land transactions are unclear because names are borrowed, it’s important to carefully check out each transaction,” Ebina said.

    The title of the article which reads “ Foreign buyers snap up land / Survey shows many people use Japanese names to hide acquisitions” already says it all actually.

    The only thing missing was a link to Ishihara’s bid for donations to buy the Senkaku islands which can be found here http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/INET/OSHIRASE/2012/04/20m4r200.htm and here http://www.chijihon.metro.tokyo.jp/senkaku.htm
    ENDS
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Thanks MMD.  One other thing I will point out is that although this has been made a fuss of before (back in 2010, particularly regarding water supply — after all, like domestic ethnic minorities were erroneously accused of doing during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, foreign buyers might poison it!), it’s ironic that now people are getting scared about foreigners buying up, say, Niseko — for that’s been going on for quite awhile, up to now a lot of Australians etc. (who for reasons unfathomable to me love snow :) ) making the purchases.  While there were some expected grumbles from the locals, it wasn’t seen as “an issue of national security” until now.

    Aha, but there you go.  There are foreigners and then there are FOREIGNERS!  In this case, it’s apparently those sneaky Chinese we have to fear.  Gotcha.  Makes perfect sense if you’re a Japanese policymaker, a xenophobe who claims that Chinese are trying to carve up Japan, or an editor at the Yomiuri, I guess.  Good company to be within.  And as MMD pointed out, never mind Japan’s government-level bid to buy up land the Chinese contend is theirs…  Arudou Debito

    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Foreign buyers snap up land / Survey shows many people use Japanese names to hide acquisitions
    The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 28, 2012), Courtesy of MMD
    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120427005580.htm

    At least 1,100 hectares of mountain forest and other land have been acquired by foreigners, with Hokkaido providing the lion’s share, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

    The survey discovered 63 land transactions involving foreign purchasers, but Japanese names were apparently used to disguise many of the deals, a subterfuge not recognized by local governments.

    This indicates the number of deals in which Japanese land and forests are falling into foreign hands may be much larger than those found in the survey.

    The survey, conducted from the end of March through earlier this month and covering all 47 prefectures, asked prefectural governments about the number of land acquisitions by foreigners and the size of the land acquired.

    Under the National Land Use Planning Law, those who acquire more than one hectare of land are required to notify the prefecture concerned.

    According to the survey, foreigners bought 57 pieces of land totaling 1,039 hectares in Hokkaido, accounting for 94 percent of land acquired by foreign capital nationwide.

    Of the purchased land, about 70 percent was obtained by corporate bodies or individuals in Hong Kong, Australia and other places in Asia and Oceania. Corporate bodies in British Virgin Islands, known as a tax haven, were involved in 11 land transactions.

    Regarding such deals, some people believe water resources are being targeted by foreign buyers. In response, Hokkaido and Saitama Prefecture introduced ordinances in March to require prior notification whenever someone tries to purchase a designated reservoir area. Fukui, Gunma, Nagano and Yamagata prefectures are considering similar ordinances.

    In one example in which a Japanese name was used to disguise a land transaction, a Chinese in his 40s living in Sapporo bought 14 hectares of mountain forest and other lands near the Niseko area in Hokkaido last autumn. For this transaction, he used the name of a Japanese real estate company.

    During an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, the man said he was afraid of provoking a backlash from the Japanese if he bought the land under his name. He also said he hoped to resell the land for a profit as he thought Japanese land prices had bottomed out.

    A real estate agency in the Kanto region that was involved in the sale of a mountain forest to a foreign customer said: “Even though foreigners don’t aim to obtain water resources, their acquisitions could cause consternation. They feel safe if their deals are registered under a Japanese name.”

    Regarding mountain forests acquired by foreign buyers, the central government said in May last year that 40 such transactions have been carried out in the five years up to 2010, with land acquired totaling 620 hectares.

    “It’s necessary to establish an ordinance on land transactions at a local level so that local governments are fully aware of the owners of land and water sources,” said Makoto Ebina, a professor at Otaru University of Commerce who participated in a discussion on the ordinance in Hokkaido.

    “However, as many land transactions are unclear because names are borrowed, it’s important to carefully check out each transaction,” Ebina said.  (Apr. 28, 2012)

    ENDS

    13 Responses to “Yomiuri scaremongering: Foreign buyers snap up J land / Survey shows foreigners use Japanese names to hide acquisitions”

    1. Christopher Dillon Says:

      You can bet that several of the buyers from Hong Kong are actually expat Cathay Pacific pilots, looking to build a ski chalet in Niseko.

    2. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Debito

      Can’t we start a ‘rogues gallery’ of Japanese who own land outside of Japan, perhaps under ‘company names’?

    3. Johnny Says:

      Completely unbalanced article.
      I can see how the locals there in Kutchan and Niseko may feel resentful towards the wealthy NJ that own high priced property there, but the reality is quite simple.

      Foreign investment in that area has created many jobs for local builders, tradespeople, architects, judicial scriveners, surveyors, cleaners, hotel workers and so on.

      It has also meant plenty of tax revenue for both local and national government.

      As we all know, outside of Sapporo, Hokkaido’s population is declining quite rapidly. Not so in Niseko and Kutchan towns, and that is solely thanks to foreign investment.

    4. Charuzu Says:

      It is an odd article that seems to have its only basis in xenophobia.

      Why foreigners merit special attention regarding lands ownership is unclear.

      The concern seems to be clearly directed at ethnic Chinese.

      It would be useful to communicate with an ethnic Chinese regarding their experiences in Japan.

      For example, how are the experiences of ethnic Chinese (especially those who are fluent in Japanese) different than non-East Asians?

      Inasmuch as Chinese are often racially indistinguishable from Japanese if raised in wealth, do Chinese face different types of discrimination?

      What of children of mixed parentage? Are they taunted in the manner that Eurasian or Afrasian children are?

      It seems redolent of the concerns that I have witnessed in Korea about ethnic Chinese — as an inferior group to be despised yet also feared.

    5. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Charuzu #4

      In part answer to your questions, I remember reading a JT article a couple of years ago that broke down international marriages in Japan by gender and ethnicity. By far the greatest number of J-women in such marriages marry Americans, Europeans, Autralians, and NZers. The stats for J-men in such marriages was overwhelmingly (over 70%) for choosing Chinese wives, so I suspect that the current whipping up of racial frenzy about ‘poor weak Japan’ being ‘bought’ piecemeal by ‘sinisterly motivated’ Chinese may meet some resistance?

      I also suspect that this is related to Japanese ideas about ‘how small’ the country is physically. I think that some fear that there are enough Chinese to actually buy every piece of Japan that is for sale. Even if they did, what would be the problem? They would still be subject to Japanese law, and denied the right to vote. It reminds me of the fear I saw in some people in the UK that England was becoming an ‘islamic’ state. It is a very unrealistic, paranoid, and myopic view of the world, with little grasp of reality.

      This issue certainly brings out some strange attitudes in some Japanese. I suspect that there may be a real fear for some that after all these years of denying WW2 Japanese Army atrocities in China as ‘lies’, some may be afraid that China is now in a situation to get revenge.
      I recently had a J-colleague tell me that the government should act quick, since (apparently) Chinese were buying houses around an SDF airbase, and that (naturally) the Chinese occupants would all be Peoples Liberation Army soldiers (in disguise). I told him that I didn’t really think this would be a possibility, but even if it was, what can they do? I mean, they couldn’t get tanks or guns into Japan secretly, could they. While he thought this over, I suggested he read a copy of ‘The Fourth Protocol’ (where a soviet agent buys a house next to a USAF base in the UK, with the intention of setting off a nuclear bomb in it).

    6. TJJ Says:

      “It’s necessary to establish an ordinance on land transactions at a local level so that local governments are fully aware of the owners of land and water sources,” said Makoto Ebina, a professor at Otaru University

      One question. Why?

    7. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      As water in the Tone and Karasu rivers has shown positive for toxins and water has been cut off from thousands of homes due to health concerns… Can they pin this one on the Chinese too?

      Seriously, if the gov are that concerned about ownership of land around water sources, the answer is simple: private/corporate ownership should not be allowed.

    8. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Let me put it this way:

      “It’s necessary to step up an anti-land property fraud law at a prefectural level so that local government will mandate all realtors, land property owners and buyers to file their transactions report to local tax revenue service regardless of nationality and race.”

    9. Charuzu Says:

      Jim Di Griz #5

      An excellent response.

      I assume Japanese misogyny is why J women want to marry less misogynistic men and also why J men want to marry Chinese women (whom they presume will tolerate high levels of misogyny in return for a better economic standard).

      Moreover, the presumption that the JSDF is so incompetent that it needs advice from non-experts is amusing.

      If the JSDF is truly that incompetent, then that would seem to argue for some radical reform of the JSDF.

      TJJ #6

      It may be necessary for local governments to know who owns real property, but if so that should be equally true for Japanese and non-Japanese.

      If the presumption is that it will be useful to identify whether likely environmental polluters own property, their citizenship should be irrelevant. Japanese have demonstrated themselves to be very adept at despoiling the environment without any foreign assistance, as Fukushima demonstrates.

    10. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Charuzu #9

      Thank you very much.
      I remember that one of the motivations suggested for J-women was a rejection of stifling traditional gender roles in marriage, which was not perceived to be prevalent in marriages with NJ men. Conversely, the same Japanese academics suggested that J-men were choosing Chinese brides since modern Japanese women were somehow letting the side down by not wishing to conform to gender roles, (wanting a career, and being ‘niku shoku joushi’). I found it amusing at the time that J-men were scared off from Japanese women, and choosing Chinese ladies. The female Chinese students I have taught were by no means submissive and quiet, but rather outspoken and direct, and very bossy to their BF’s.
      As a quick aside, one of my J-colleagues married her zainichi Chinese BF last year, and was shocked (‘I was very shocked’, she said) when on return from the honeymoon, they were held up at Osaka airport as her husband had (having never left Japan before) not obtained a re-entry permit before leaving Japan. ‘They treated him like he was a gaijin!’ she said.

    11. matty-b Says:

      There is a lot of fear being sold to the Japanese public about land being bought up by the Chinese and by other foreign investors, but a lot of the same people who react in a negative way to these purchases will in the next sentence say something like, “with the strong yen it’s possible to buy land and companies overseas, so we should take advantage while we can.”

      For the most part it’s a type of parroting of statements that they’ve heard on TV. They’ve been given the green-light to react in such ways, and so they do. I’m sure not if it’s to blow off steam or to preserve some sort of that inward-victimization.

      When it comes to acting on this type of thinking, there is little action being taken by citizens. However it is indicative of not only how the higher ups want the public to feel, but also of how what the higher ups want on a larger scale — the quiet victim with a heavy pocket-book and portfolio.

      It’s kind of like an old man’s who’s a repeat offender who uses the “I’m just a helpless old man, it’s the young immigrants who’re causing a ruckus!” line in order to continue his plotting.

    12. brad Says:

      620 hectares is about 0.0016% of Japans land area, not really anything to jump up and down about.

    13. debito Says:

      On a similar note, courtesy of JK:

      Tokyo to buy mountain forests / 570-hectare purchase would protect watershed areas from development
      The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 14, 2012)
      http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T121013001899.htm

      The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to purchase a vast acreage of mountain forests upstream of the Tamagawa river systems to protect water sources from problematic purchases.

      The metropolitan government has expressed concern regarding nationwide purchases of land containing mountain forests by foreign investors, including those from China.

      Due to sluggish business conditions in forest industries, many landowners are considering selling land containing mountain forests, including those in watershed areas.

      Water source forests are located in water catchment areas upstream of rivers or near dams. The Tamagawa river systems supply about 20 percent of Tokyo’s tap water.

      The metropolitan government plans to buy about 570 hectares of mountain forests in Okutama, a town in western Tokyo, and Tabayama and Kosuge villages in Yamanashi Prefecture, by the end of this year.

      The purchase is not the first time the Tokyo government has bought water source forests to preserve the quantity and quality of the water supply. In 1913, the then Tokyo city government also bought upstream areas in the Okutama region and Yamanashi Prefecture.

      The final such purchase was made in 1933, when the Tokyo city government bought about 4,780 hectares in Okutama. Since the Tokyo city government was reorganized into the metropolitan government, it has not bought any privately owned forests.

      Although the forestry industry flourished in the Okutama region at the time, it waned nationwide after the end of World War II due to competition with imported wood.

      In the Tama region, the number of forestry industry workers has been decreasing since the 1980s, while an increasing number of landowners have sold off mountain forests.

      Water source forests have also deteriorated. In 2007, Typhoon No. 9 caused landslides and other damage to land in the region. It also caused a huge quantity of fallen trees and dirt to accumulate at the Ogochi Dam in Okutama.

      The metropolitan government’s Bureau of Waterworks said prices of mountain forests have almost bottomed out.

      However, a metropolitan government survey conducted in 2008 found that nearly 20 percent of about 600 owners of mountain forests in the Tama region said they wanted to sell if possible.

      In Hokkaido and Okinawa prefectures, foreign investors have bought mountain forests with the intention of developing resorts. However, there are no laws or ordinances regulating land purchases by foreign investors.

      Since 2010, the metropolitan government has solicited owners of forests measuring five hectares or larger in watershed areas to sell their land, and has received over 300 inquiries.

      Metropolitan government officials said some owners had been asked by foreign investors to sell their land.

      Of a total of 48,000 hectares of forests in upstream water catchment areas above the Hamura diversion weir in Hamura, Tokyo, the metropolitan government has designated about 21,600 hectares as sources of tap water. The metropolitan government owns and manages the forests.
      ENDS

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