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  • Asahi: Media-fostered xenophobia forces prefectural countermeasures against NJ buying “strategic land”

    Posted by arudou debito on January 14th, 2013

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    Hi Blog. Debito.org has reported in the past on how media fearmongering against foreigners (by the Yomiuri, natch) has caused people in the boonies to get paranoid about NJ purchasing land for apparently nefarious purposes (for who knows what they’ll do to the water table beneath them!).  Well, the Asahi below has surveyed this paranoia and exposed it for the bunkum it is.

    It’s especially ironic when the New York Times does a story two days later (in their “Great Homes and Destinations” column, a promo piece on the buyer’s market for real estate in Japan) and buys hook line and sinker the assertion by vested interests that “Foreign buyers face no restrictions in Japan.”  Not anymore, and not for a little while now (Debito.org’s earliest story on this is from 2010!).  More under-researched bunkum posing as news.  Especially in this time of politically-motivated NJ Witch Hunts in Japan’s property market. Arudou Debito

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

    Local governments swallow scare stories over ‘foreigners’ buying strategic land
    Asahi Shimbun December 25, 2012, courtesy of Yokohama John
    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201212250046
    By KOSUKE TAUCHI/ Staff Writer

    A flap over “foreigners” buying Japan’s upland forests and potentially controlling the nation’s water resources has caused some local authorities to push the panic button and introduce heightened oversight of some land sales.

    Four prefectural governments have written new rules and nine others are considering similar measures, which they say are intended to help protect the national nature of Japan’s water resources.

    But The Asahi Shimbun has found limited evidence of foreigners buying Japan’s forests—and not a single confirmed case of them doing so with the aim of securing control of water.

    Fears that foreign nations—notably, China—might buy up forest and deplete subterranean water caused a storm in political circles and the news media three years ago. At that time, China’s economic power was increasingly being viewed as a threat, amid acquisitions of Japanese enterprises and real estate by Chinese capital.

    News reports fueled the scare. One suggested that China was looking to acquire headwaters areas in Japan. Another said investors from Hong Kong had purchased a forest in Hokkaido.

    The Forestry Agency said in 2010 it had about 30 confirmed cases of forests being bought with foreign capital.

    In March of this year, Hokkaido became the first prefectural government to approve an ordinance to counter such acquisitions. Saitama, Gunma and Ibaraki prefectures followed suit.

    All four prefectures now require sellers and buyers of land in headwaters areas, both Japanese and foreign nationals, to notify the authorities in advance. Corporations and individuals who fail to do so, or ignore subsequent government recommendations, risk being publicly named.

    “It will help curb foreign acquisitions,” said Kiyoshi Ueda, governor of Saitama Prefecture.

    Seven other prefectures—Yamagata, Yamanashi, Nagano, Fukui, Gifu, Tokushima and Kochi—said they are considering similar moves. Two others—Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures—initially said they had no such plans when The Asahi Shimbun first contacted them in August, but their respective prefectural governors later said they would consider following suit.

    In a survey of all 47 prefectural governments across Japan, The Asahi Shimbun found that foreign capital had purchased a total 1,234 hectares of forest. The sales were in eight prefectures. More than 80 percent of the forest concerned was in Hokkaido.

    asahiforeignlandbuys122512

    Source:  Asahi Shinbun 12/25/12

    Acquisitions by Chinese capital accounted for 408 hectares, and most of those purchases were made with capital from Hong Kong.

    Most purchasers gave their motivation as asset ownership or speculation in land prices ahead of likely resale. There was no confirmed case of a purchaser aiming to “secure water resources.”

    In nine of the 13 prefectures that have either tightened rules or are considering doing so, there were no records—ever—of foreign purchasers buying forests.

    The story appears to be a case of politicians exploiting sensitivity over Japan’s “homeland” and “territories”—and running one step ahead of reality.”

    ENDS

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

    INTERNATIONAL REAL ESTATE
    House Hunting in … Japan
    THE NEW YORK TIMES, Great Homes and Destinations column,
    By NINA ROBERTS
    Published: December 26, 2012 (excerpt)
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/greathomesanddestinations/real-estate-in-japan.html

    [...] MARKET OVERVIEW

    Japan is a buyers’ market, said Erik Oskamp, the owner of Akasaka Real Estate in Tokyo. “Owning property in Tokyo is probably half or a third of the monthly price than if you rent,” he said, “and still people are not buying; that’s how depressed the market is. You always have to explain to people, ‘We’re still here, Japan still exists.’ “

    The housing stagnation dates to 1991, the year that diminished expectations about Japan’s economy sent property values into a nosedive.

    “During the 1980s, Japan became the financial center of the Asian region,” said Jiro Yoshida, an assistant professor of business at Penn State. “People had a really rosy expectation about the future of the Japanese economy.” With lowered expectations came “a huge drop in property prices,” Mr. Yoshida added, recalling that property prices fell by about 50 percent over the next decade.

    The free fall abated in the early 2000s, and a gradual ascent began by 2006 and 2007, Mr. Oskamp said. Still, according to Mr. Yoshida, residential values remain about half what they were in 1991, and even 70 percent less in some areas. In resort areas like Minikami and Chiba, Mr. Oskamp said, values are down by as much as 90 percent.

    That said, however, the global economic downturn did not have a huge impact on Japan because its banks had not expanded globally, Mr. Yoshida said.

    WHO BUYS IN JAPAN

    Almost no foreigners are buying primary residences in Japan, according to Mr. Oskamp. Some are buying as an investment or for use as a second home, but the number is minuscule. “Less than 1 percent of all real estate transactions in Japan involves a foreigner,” he said.

    Compounded as it was by the 2011 earthquake and the resulting fear of radiation contamination, the financial crisis pushed many foreigners — especially the banking professionals who typically buy property — to choose Singapore or Hong Kong instead.

    What few foreign buyers there are tend to be from China or Taiwan, said Yukiko Takano, the Japan Sotheby’s International Realty agent who has this listing.

    BUYING BASICS

    Foreign buyers face no restrictions in Japan. Hiring a lawyer for residential real estate transactions is not standard practice; instead, real estate agents typically handle the legal work, with the seller’s agent drafting the contracts. A judicial scrivener, or notary public, investigates the property’s history of ownership and registers its change.

    Employed foreigners are generally able to obtain mortgages from Japanese banks. If a borrower defaults on a mortgage, the bank has the right to go after personal assets.

    WEB SITES

    Japan Tourism: jnto.go.jp/

    Tokyo Travel Guide: gotokyo.org/en/

    Mount Fuji tourism: yamanashi-kankou.jp/

    EXCERPT ENDS

    33 Responses to “Asahi: Media-fostered xenophobia forces prefectural countermeasures against NJ buying “strategic land””

    1. dude Says:

      For years I have heard Japanese people panicking about “foreigners” (in this case, Chinese) buying up Japan’s forests… When Japanese companies do it overseas it is called “land-banking”. When someone does it in Japan it is time to make new laws…

      I think we will see more of this in the near future. The game is “blame the foreigner”. We are still early in the game.
      Does anyone else thank that Japanese people go almost insane about Chinese people? I don’t know what it is that sets them off, but they sure have issues with Chinese tourists, business people (especially if they are successful), Chinese etiquette, etc.

      I understand the symptoms, but don’t understand the reasons.

    2. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Employed foreigners are generally able to obtain mortgages from Japanese banks.

      This isn’t true, unless you insert “…who have obtained permanent residence” after “foreigners”.

      – Yup. As I said, an underresearched article.

    3. Markus Says:

      I think the majority of Japanese feel hatred for anything Chinese, even more so since China overtook Japan in the “who’s got the biggest economy” contest (which the East Asian nations take much too seriously anyway).
      Even if the Japanese are masters at keeping things vague and holding back their opinion, the level of hate for the Chinese seems to be so high that they often forget their own social norms and let it out. I have personally witnessed many Japanese who usually don’t speak much and would rarely say anything negative about anything, launch into full-blown rants when the topic changed to China (and this was before the Ishihara-Senkaku mess).
      Let me partake in a bit of amateur psychology here. It seems obvious to me that most of the xenophobia, and especially the hatred for China, comes from a deep-seated inferior complex. China and Japan share more cultural history than the Japanese would ever admit. Of course, they like to perpetuate their Galapagos myth, but it’s much more likely that the island we now know as Japan has seen huge immigration waves from mainland China hundreds of years ago (sorry to be so unscientific here).
      Another aspect seems to be that the Japanese, in a kind of reverse logic, blame China for the atrocities the Japanese did to them.
      There is a saying in Germany (made famous by German writer Henryk Broder), which goes like “The Germans will never be able to forgive the Jews for Auschwitz”. These people think that Germany has “done enough” to make up for the Holocaust, and seem to have a hard time living with the atrocities Germany is associated with. Criticism about such apologist ideas in Germany is loud and constant – there’s a debate.
      As for the Japanese, it is possible that they hate the Chinese for a similar reason – they are a constant symbol of the worst aspects of Japanese culture. And the stronger China gets, the more people will hear about the ugly past that the Japanese would rather ignore. They are offended because not all cultures react to a stink the same way they like to do – by putting a cover over it.

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Markus #3

      ‘Another aspect seems to be that the Japanese, in a kind of reverse logic, blame China for the atrocities the Japanese did to them.’
      I disagree. Surely most Japanese would say, ‘What atrocities?’

      ‘people think that Germany has “done enough” to make up for the Holocaust, and seem to have a hard time living with the atrocities Germany is associated with. Criticism about such apologist ideas in Germany is loud and constant’
      Whereas, in Japan, there are virtually none that show remorse for what Japan did to China in the war (because it didn’t happen, see?), and any politician who tries to apologize then has to appease the nationalists by visiting Yasukuni-jinja, or retracting his apology, or simply just making the apology as vague and meaningless as possible in the first instance.

      I think that the majority of Japanese know that the Japanese Army was hideously brutal to the Chinese in the war, even if they are all in denial. Now with China’s economic, political, and military supremacy over Japan, the secret fear of the Japanese is that the Chinese Army will come to Japan to rape and murder. Hence all Sick-note’s WW2 propaganda cliches about the ‘beautiful country/sea’; Japan the pure white virgin at the mercy of the dirty barbarians.

    5. john k Says:

      #2 Mark

      I was not employed by any Japanese company (still not, I’m self employed), nor had permanent residence when I bought my land 4 years ago. I just had a fistful of cash..which they seemed happy to take :)

      – Good for you, but most lending institutions with pinkies will not lend to NJ without PR. Explicitly as stated in their guidelines and backed up by court precedent. So that is a restriction. Stay on topic.

    6. Jim Di Griz Says:

      As an appendix to my above;

      The Japanese believe that the Chinese Army will come to rape and murder as a kind of payback OR…..

      The Japanese really believe that this natural resource barren, capable of producing only about 40% of it’s own (contaminated) food from 71% imported seed stock, topographically awkward little country, with an aging population and a workforce totally unsuitable and unfamiliar to hard physical labor, could ever be worth occupying and forcing into labor because it’s just so damn ‘beautiful’?

      The only thing that Japan was offering China was a market for huge amounts of raw materials. Japan hasn’t got anything they can’t get from somewhere else. Japan needs China’s markets, but instead, Sick-note can’t keep his mouth shut, and his illiterate buddy Aso is jetting of to Burma. The pair of them have got dreams of doing other asian nations the ‘favor’ of organizing them into an axis against Chinese influence in the region, and leading asian in the containment of China. A kind of neo-’co-prosperity (something or other)’. Kind of links in with all the favorable press the Japanese were giving Burma in that other post Debito made. The Japanese think that Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Russia are up for it. Poor S. Korea will be left out (better than being forced against their will like the last time!).

      That’s my prediction, Debito et al. The Japanese right has engineered and manipulated the Senkaku situation as a pretext to sell the idea of a resurgent Japanese military, and the (unofficial) goal of ‘Co-Prosperity Sphere, V0.2′ to the Japanese people, and the world. All the pieces fit.

    7. Bayfield Says:

      “That’s my prediction, Debito et al. The Japanese right has engineered and manipulated the Senkaku situation as a pretext to sell the idea of a resurgent Japanese military, and the (unofficial) goal of ‘Co-Prosperity Sphere, V0.2′ to the Japanese people, and the world. All the pieces fit.”

      I agree with your prediction their. The Co-Prosperity Sphere will likely sell better this time than last time. Japan’s previous attempt to create an “Asian-Utopia” in the Pacific didn’t go so well. Perhaps a lot of it had to do with bad timing and the circumstances of the time.

      I predict this time it will sell like gold because:

      1) The cold war has the world thinking that anything remotely communist is bad and must be eradicated by any means necessary. Even though China is communist in name only, the label was enough to place China as a villain irregardless.

      2) Japan has an image of a democratic and modern nation, at minimum to those who barely know Japan.

      3) If Japan does have any military aims, for example like stripping constitution 9 or bringing in a draft, the world community at large, will not even be suspicious, simply with the excuse of “we are defending the world from communism”.
      In almost every news article I find on the net, the comments section are flooded with participants who look forward to seeing Japan being armed to the teeth.

      4) The loudest opposition to Japanese militarization seems to only come from China and Korea. But most people will disregard their opinions or warnings because the west tend to think that “communist opinions don’t matter”. Japanese also reserves the worst discrimination for the Chinese and Koreans. I get the feeling that Japan has a racial hierachy as to how bad or how good to treat an NJ by basing them on their race.

      5) The average Japanese can’t really do or say anything, because they are not allowed to be a nail that sticks out. It is an unwritten law that dissent is forbidden. People just learn to know their place as they grow up.

      The whole thing with the territorial row, is that from what I have saw and heard in the west. The discussions are pretty much all one sided. Most views in the west tend to be in favor of the Japanese. There does seem to lack a moderating voice to balance things out. A lot of people don’t seem to mind Japan having nukes even.

    8. Mike Says:

      “The Co-Prosperity Sphere will likely sell better this time than last time”

      I disagree. Unlike Japan, Singapore, China, both Koreas make it a point to educate their people about what Imperialistic Japan did and is capable of. They are aware of Japans every move. Japan will continue to turn inward and manipulate its own people, but the rest of developed Asia dont trust them and some even hate them. I would agree with you that Vietnam, Phillipines and Indonesia might take sides with Japan just to have an ally against an aggressive China, but that isnt a stable position for Japan. It would be in Japans interest to make mends with the larger East Asian neighbors and become a real progressive democracy but this is something they dont want. The Co prosperity sphere that Abe and Ishihara want is nothing more than a front to control and manipulate, just like the Japan governments attempts to establish the Yen as a type of Euro for this regions currency. Nobody is buying it.

    9. dosanko Says:

      Debito @ #5, Thanks for the link to the Herman case–interesting stuff. I’m just trying to square your comment that “most lending institutions with pinkies will not lend to NJ without PR” with the following statement from the link you provided: “Herman … said that during his trial he asked eight other major Japanese banks about their housing loan policies and was told by seven that they do not discriminate based on whether the applicant has permanent residential rights.” Have you seen an increase in banks discriminating against non-PRs since that time? My wife and I have been considering the purchase of a besso recently, so we are particularly interested in this. Thanks.

      – We talk about it in Handbook. Kin’yuu Koukou (the GOJ lending agency) requires it. As did all banks in Hokkaido I ever approached back in 1997. Mark in Yayoi also has a lot of personal experience with this, so he can comment if he wants…

    10. Mike S. Says:

      The whole hating on China speak seems to be getting way out of control recently. I read an article a while back entitled “The Lucifer Principle”. I believe it was a summary of the book with the same title by Howard Bloon. If I recall correctly in the book he makes a direct correlation between countries which have a history of disputes and their cultural and traditional similarities. The idea is that this hatred between countries who share similar cultures comes from tribal survival practices. It may have been of benefit to the tribe to wipe out another tribe which had too similar practices to your own. Perhaps someone else knows of this idea? It’s been a while since I read the article. But applying this idea to the Japan/ China relationship it seems to ring true. I guess geographical location has a lot to do with island disputes etc but the other stuff- the general dislike and mistrust of anything Chinese, well maybe that is rooted in the unpleasant idea (to a Japanese) that the two cultures are very similar.

    11. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @John #5: I think you’re missing an important point. The statement isn’t about owning real estate; it’s about obtaining a mortgage to buy real estate. You had a fistful of cash — as did I, eventually — so we were able to own property. Someone who has the standard 20% down (or, for that matter, 90% down) will generally be refused by major banks unless they’ve already obtained permanent residency.

    12. giantpanda Says:

      @Dosanko I have obtained two mortgages in Japan, without having permanent residency. The first time, in 2004, they were relatively easy to deal with. Second time, in 2009, I got the impression things had become stricter – despite me having been in Japan longer and having a higher income – but then again I was seeking a much bigger loan. The bank that lent to me before wouldn’t offer a second time (strange, because I paid that loan out in full) but I still got a loan from another bank (despite a minor kerfuffle when they found out I was 9 months pregnant!) It seems to depend largely on the individual branch managers and how much of a risk they are willing to take, and also how good a relationship your real estate agent has with them. Both times, the lending bank was introduced by the real estate agent, who very helpfully did all the legwork and calling around.

    13. Scipio Says:

      Mike S. Says:
      January 15th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      The idea is that this hatred between countries who share similar cultures comes from tribal survival practices. It may have been of benefit to the tribe to wipe out another tribe which had too similar practices to your own. Perhaps someone else knows of this idea?

      It is called ‘the “narcissism of small differences”…to achieve a superficial sense of one’s own uniqueness, an ersatz sense of otherness which is only a mask for an underlying uniformity and sameness.

      It’s really big in anthropological theory to explain the Yugoslavian wars and the massacres of the Tutsi in Rwanda. Ultimately I think it’s a very valid theory of the dangers of the world having a uniculture – ‘You can always tell a muslim because they wear Adidas’.

      It would really serve Asia well to see some study into the subject.

    14. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I don’t know much about the scene behind this…, and I am not a big fan of outsourcing water management or any environmental projects at the local level in general. My stance is that it is prefecture/state (or county/city/ward’s) responsibility to protect the local environment; so letting local firms dealing with water management or any environmental engineering/industry business, under the supervision of local environment administration, would be the ideal (this sounds so naive, but that’s a fair game to me, at least, as long as they are able to take care of what they are supposed to do (Don’t know how many people can have faith in that today, though.) My premonition is that Hokkaido prefecture is historically under-funded (and now it’s affecting the public work very seriously, I guess?) and incurring the public debts in millions of dollars. Since they can’t afford(or don’t want?) to pay themselves for natural preservation projects, so they just seem to have let any private businesses buy out the forests/reservoirs, regardless of bidder’s entity(i.e., local/regional) in the last couple of decades.

      So I think the way J-media infuses fear-mongering is indeed a spot-on. It flies in the face of close-minded people and conservative politicians to feed them in through this kind of propaganda. (The more distractions, the more fun for them, huh?). It’s not the matter of whether a bidder is foreigner or not. Outsourcing is no risk-free. It always involves the risks of harming public interests for loopholes private bidders will likely use for maximizing their profits, as history of natural disaster in Japan and developed countries have proven(i.e., nuclear radiation, chemical disasters, oil spill, fire caused by so sort of fracking business). And there’s absolutely no evidence to prove that Japanese under-bidders can be more trustful than foreign counterparts. Don’t forget TEPCO and JOC in nuclear accidents. Regarding the issue, any attempt that links foreign entity with the risk of harming vest interests—in the absence of verifiable scientific or historical proof or evidence –is misleading, and hence, untenable.

    15. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      “Who knows what those Chinese will do to the water table?”
      But notice how the formadehyde in the Tone River system was completely forgotten? I don’t even know if the culprits were ever identified. (But we were informed about how bad the air is in China, how blah, blah in China…)

      When the Sasago Tunnel roof collapsed, I was shocked at the lack of media outrage. I’m sure that if the same thing had occured in China the Japanese media would be having a field day.

      No, China exists to give the Team Japan something to point at just so they can feel better about themselves, or to help fill up a news hour between the special on food and the sports reports.

    16. Jim di Griz Says:

      I was right! Prediction is coming true!
      Today’s news;
      http://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/politics/abe-turns-to-southeast-asia-to-counter-china

      Abe turns to Southeast Asia to counter China
      By Linda Sieg and Jonathan Thatcher
      Thompson Reuters Jan. 16, 2013 – 07:00AM JST

      TOKYO — The last time he was prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe’s inaugural foreign trip was to China. In the job again 7 years later and relations with Beijing now chilly, Abe is turning first this time to the rising economic stars of Southeast Asia.

      Abe wants them to help counterbalance the growing economic and military might of China at a time when Japan needs new sources of growth for its languishing economy and is debating whether to make its own military more muscular.

      But experts warn he will have to tread carefully during his visit to Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, which starts Wednesday, to avoid provoking Bejing by appearing to “contain” China.

      Beijing is also scouring the region in search of new investment and trade opportunities and sources of raw materials. But it is also clashing with countries in the region in territorial rows in the South China Sea, as well as with Japan over tiny isles in the East China Sea.

      Moreover, Abe may find his hosts keen to avoid upsetting China, now their major economic partner as well.

      “The Japanese government is trying to solidify its relations with other countries in the region and strengthen its bargaining power before talking to China,” said Narushige Michishita, an associate professor at the National Graduate Institute.

      Abe had hoped to go first to Washington this time after his Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) big win at the polls last month, in order to bolster the security alliance with his country’s main ally. But because U.S. President Barack Obama was too busy, he will start with members of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

      Japanese firms are already eying Southeast Asia as an alternative to investment in China after a long-simmering feud with Beijing over disputed islands in the East China Sea flared up last year, sparking protests in China and hurting trade.

      Abe has made clear that ASEAN’s planned integration in 2015, creating a bloc with combined economies worth $2 trillion and a population of 600 million, is a significant lure for a Japanese economy that has been trapped in deflation for decades and whose population is ageing fast and shrinking.

      He also says, however, that he wants to go beyond mere economic ties and expand relations in the security field. He is expected to give a policy speech in Jakarta.

      In an echo of the push for a broader Asian “arc of freedom and prosperity” that underpinned Abe’s foreign policy during his first term in office – which ended when he quit abruptly – the Japanese leader is also likely to refer to his desire for deeper ties with countries that share democratic and other values.

      “Japan’s path since the end of World War II has been to firmly protect democracy and basic human rights and stress the rule of law,” Abe told NHK. “I want to emphasize the importance of strengthening ties with countries that share such values.”

      Abe has said repeatedly that he wants to improve ties with Beijing despite his tough stand over the islands dispute. But some warn his rhetoric could been seen as trying to box in China, provoking Beijing and worrying Southeast Asian countries whose economies are increasingly linked to China’s.

      “What is the point of making an enemy of China?,” said Hitoshi Tanaka, a former diplomat who is now chairman of the Institute for International Strategy in Tokyo. “It is not smart diplomacy in my view and the last thing the nations named as targets of ‘values diplomacy’ would welcome.”

      Abe will need to reassure his hosts that he will not let the islands row with China get out of hand despite his hawkish security stance and his desire to revise Japan’s take on its wartime history with a less apologetic tone.

      “Prime Minister Abe might be seen as revisionist but this should not influence the dispute as all countries in the region would rather focus on economic development than see this conflict deteriorate,” said Damrong Kraikuan, director-general of the Thai foreign ministry’s East Asia Affairs Department.

      “But the South China Sea will not be the highlight of his visit to Bangkok,” he added. “Thailand will take note of what Japan has to say and we will listen, but we have to take other countries into consideration to make progress.”

      Japan’s remains a huge economic influence in ASEAN. It is the group’s biggest source of foreign direct investment, after the European Union and almost three times the size of China’s.

      That is a position Japan wants to keep in what has become one of the world’s fastest growing regions.

      “Japan is concerned about losing out to China in trade and investment,” said Jayant Menon, lead economist at the Asian Development Bank’s Office for Regional Economic Integration. “(The visit) sends an important message.”

      In Vietnam, Japan pledged investments of $4.9 billion in the first 10 months of last year, nearly double the whole of 2011. In Thailand, from January-September, foreign investment almost tripled to around $8.1 billion.

      In the group’s biggest economy, Indonesia, net direct investment last year looked to be heading for a record amount.

      And Japan was ASEAN’s second biggest trading partner in 2011, just behind China, according to the group’s figures.

      “The visit comes at a very important time … Despite the serious (global) economic situation, Japan keeps helping Indonesia. And Indonesia is a market and source of raw material to Japan,” said Arbi Sanit, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia.

      “It is a more compassionate relationship, not simply one of economic rationale,” he said.

      Abe’s young government has already been pushing hard to improve relations in the region. He sent his foreign minister last week to Brunei, Singapore, Australia and the Philippines. Manila, for one, has welcomed signs of Japan’s willingness to play a bigger regional security role.

      Finance Minister Taro Aso went to Myanmar early this month as part of Japan’s push to tap the potential of the country’s opening up to the outside world.

      Nevertheless, Abe will have to tread carefully on the topic of Japan’s wartime aggression, which remains a sensitive issue.

      His government has said it would stick by a landmark 1995 apology for Japan’s wartime aggression.

      But Abe also wants to issue a statement of his own and has expressed interest in revisiting a 1993 government statement apologizing for military involvement in kidnapping Asian women to work in wartime military brothels.

      “Everyone knows that if the new government were to change the basic line then Japan will be isolated in East Asia because China, Korea and even Southeast Asia will make lots of issues out of a change in interpretation (of the past),” Tanaka said.
      ENDS

    17. adamu Says:

      actually in many cases banks wont lend to foreigners even with PR(myself being one case)

      – It’s completely at the discretion of the bank. But by giving one clear case of how NJ will not be lent to due to their visa status, it gives more counterevidence to the NYT assertion that there are no restrictions on NJ buying land in Japan.

    18. sendaiben Says:

      @Dosanko #5

      I couldn’t get a 500,000 yen loan from a bank without PR (this was in 2004). Tried six banks then gave up and borrowed the money from a friend.

    19. giantpanda Says:

      @Adamu, well, there’s lots of Japanese people they won’t lend to either – single women, older people, anyone with less than full-time worker status….

      – Therefore…?

    20. Paul Says:

      Therefore, the bank — as a privately owned lending institution with obligations to their own shareholders and regulators — is obligated to comply with due diligence before lending out money with risk of default or delinquency. Anyone — absolutely anyone — who fails to meet specific lending criteria, who has a poor credit rating, who lacks sufficient collateral, or who actually possesses the means which they can evade repayment by being a flight risk out of the country, raises certain red flags. There is nothing unusual or racially discriminatory about a bank conducting due diligence on prospective borrowers.

      – Hoo boy. All this was applied to Steven Herman by Asahi Bank despite his meeting all specific lending criteria except PR, and that’s why there was a lawsuit. Not only are you cloaking explicitly discriminatory practices with “shareholder-protection” sophistry, your egregiously including “flight risk” on your list (right, the word “yo-nige” doesn’t exist in Japanese because Japanese don’t flee) to tar NJ with the “untrustworthy” brush is particularly indicative of your mindset, and unwelcome at Debito.org. Spam bucket.

    21. Welp Says:

      Anyone with a passport, Japanese or non-Japanese alike, is just as much of a ‘flight risk’ as anyone else. Thinking that Japanese people are less likely to flee the country simply because they are Japanese is farcical; plenty of Japanese people flee the country all the time (see: the guys who attacked that fellow in that Roppongi club and then fled to South Korea and SE Asia). It’s a matter of personal morals and ethics, not citizenship, and should not be confused as such – treating non-citizens as “more dangerous” simply because they lack citizenship is the very definition of discrimination based upon nationality, which is the exact thing that resident foreigners anywhere, regardless of country of origin or residence, could stand to live without.

    22. Loverilakkuma Says:

      All right. My turn:

      ….Therefore, it’s quite likely that bank executives set at least a couple of standards (likely put in their in-house secret manuals labeled ‘maru-hi manyuaru’) applied differently to the clients based on nationality/race. For Japanese, press #1. (Nope.) I mean, they will review the applications based on client’s profile including occupation, marital status, credit rating, transaction records, savings, income, etc. For foreign internationals, press #2. (Ugh. Stop it.). There could be several additional factors that the banks may consider as requirement for approval, even though the state/national law does not say so (Isn’t that a fraud?). Whatever they are will be anybody’s guess.

    23. dosanko Says:

      Debito, GiantPanda, Sendaiben, Thanks for the input. This matches up with what I’ve heard anecdotally from others. Some non-PRs have had horrible times getting a mortgage while others have sailed through, even though they seem to have similar credit-worthiness (similar job, domestic assets, etc.). Anyway, if we do decide to give it a go, I’ll let you know how we fare.

    24. Curious Says:

      I’ve been told by the banks that things have changed in the past 10 years. Now, if the loans are less than 10 million yen or so (depending on the bank,) the bank itself will lend the money at their discretion. However, above that set amount, the loans are approved not by the bank, but by a “Guarantor Company.” These guarantor companies replace the previous need to have a personal guarantor to co-sign your home loan.

      A guarantor company will go over your situation and credit history and determine, according to their own secret set of rules, whether you qualify for a loan. They inform the bank of their decision and the bank informs you. If they say, “no,” the bank says the guarantor company will not give a reason.

      I was refused at more than 5 different banks (which were subject to the decision of 5 different guarantor companies.) I have PR status. I still have not been given a reason why. This non-disclosure policy gives them the power to hide racist policies.

    25. Piglet Says:

      Is there any credit score system in Japan? Is there any place to check credit scores?

    26. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      @Piglet #25: There has to be some kind of system, though it wouldn’t surprise me if different banks had different formulas.

      When I tried to get a home mortgage, I couldn’t convince any bank to lend to me even with 80-90% down. You’d think I would be a shoo-in, and so did my broker (who went to bat for me with bank after bank) — but it didn’t work out.

      But when we tried to go for a personal loan — basically the same thing as putting money on a credit card — I not only got the loan, but got an even better rate than the lowest rate the bank advertised! My first (“home”) bank, into which my salary had gone for the past 10 years, had been providing me with a credit line of Y150,000, and suddenly this second bank offered me Y3,000,000!

      Now keep in mind that Japanese mortgages are (AFAIK) recourse loans, meaning that the lender can go after any and all assets owned by the borrower in the event of a default, so even if the value of my home were to plummet to one-fifth or one-tenth or what I bought it for and the bank repossessed it, the debt is still on the books even if the bank can’t get the full value of my loan in a foreclosure sale.

      That’s a lot of security for the bank. From the bank’s perspective, the mortgage-type loan was much safer for them. But nobody would offer me that — yet they would offer me an unsecured personal loan at the best possible terms!

      The problem can’t be that I had some fatal flaw in my credit history that made a loan impossible. And it can’t be that banks don’t want to do business with foreigners, because I eventually got a loan. A loan at the best possible rate, and twenty times what any bank had ever previously trusted me with. What is going on here?

      – Thanks for this. I’ll say it plainly: You were disqualified for a bank mortgage loan simply because you were a foreigner without PR (despite what that “foreigners are a flight risk” commenter, who keeps sending stuff straight to the spam filter, keeps claiming about things being a simple matter of “due diligence risk assessment”…)

    27. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      One thing I forgot to add: when refusing a mortgage to a non-PR, several banks trotted out the “you could be denied a visa renewal and then you wouldn’t be able to pay off your debt” excuse. But I was still denied even when attempting to borrow money and scheduling to have it paid off before my then-current visa were to expire. (Specifically, I had just renewed a 3-year visa, but couldn’t get a loan to be repaid in 3 years.)

    28. Johnny Says:

      The whole case by case thing is in play with the banks here. Japanese banks do have arrangements with various foreign companies to offer loans to their employees. Investment banker types generally had no issue getting property loans, PR irrespective.

      A number of the foreign banks did go into this market, but for the most part due to regulatory chicanery (moving goalposts etc.) on the part of the FSA, the number of foreign banks willing to do any retail banking in Japan has fallen.

      As regards credit checks, there is a system in place, and it will show whether or not you have been paying on time etc for any credit cards, card loans, car loans, home loans etc., and how much you owe on those facilities.

    29. giantpanda Says:

      There is a credit information system in place, but you can only access it if you are a financial institution, and it doesn’t help much if, like a lot of NJ you don’t have much credit history in the country. It also doesn’t ultimately seem to make much different to the bank’s assessment. I think they look much more closely at (1) your income (which should be steady, not showing too much fluctuation, and of course more than sufficient to support you and your dependents while paying off the loan) (2) your employer (are they big? stable? have you been there more than 3 years?) and (3) your job. If you have some kind of professional qualification it gives the appearance of stability. If you have been in Japan several years and have a Japanese spouse (I don’t) it also gives the appearance of stability.

      Despite the very true comments about the bank having lots of security in the event of a default, banks absolutely hate to deal with foreclosures in Japan. It is expensive and time-consuming. The legal and administrative fees do add up, and even if they get a decent return from a sale of the property (which, quite often has not been kept in good repair by the debtor) it might not cover the debt. The banks won’t go to the trouble of refurbishing a property before a sale, because that’s not their business, and a lot of times the debtor, in addition to trashing the place, has run up a huge debt on the tsumitate-kin and the common use fees in the building, which will have to be paid by the buyer of the property, so again, a lot harder to offload than your average mansion. All in all, a huge pain the @ss that takes the bank away from their profit generating business, which they would rather avoid if they possibly can.

      The only advice I have, if you haven’t got PR, is to have the agent call around absolutely everywhere. The default position will be “no”, but it is possible to change this, if your agent has some good ammunition to argue on your behalf. (good job, decent savings, long term residence, Japanese spouse, etc. etc.). Good luck!

    30. Welp Says:

      @#29 “If you have been in Japan several years and have a Japanese spouse (I don’t) it also gives the appearance of stability. ”

      This didn’t help me. Been here six years, five years at the same job, stable income (closer to six figures than not), no debt and no children and married to a citizen, who has been at the same job for six years. I couldn’t even get a friggin’ Rakuten credit card – the thought of getting a loan for property here is actually completely hilarious to me because it’s just so far outside of the realm of reality.

      Just another reason why I’m getting out of Japan this year and not looking back. Good riddance to this sort of crap.

    31. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Giantpanda #29

      ‘The default position will be “no”’, which is rather the crux of the problem, isn’t it? Despite the fact that ‘there’s lots of Japanese people they won’t lend to either’ (Giantpanda; #19), the default is NJ=NO.

      I am hoping that the USA rams TPP right down Japan’s throat, using the leverage of being needed to face off the Chinese over the Senkaku’s, or embarrassing Sick-note again by refusing to let him meet Obama. All the trade barriers and tariffs need to come down, and western banks need to be able to enter the Japanese high-street. After all, how could the USA bank (that you have an account back home with) refuse you a mortgage if you went into your local branch in Japan meeting the same criteria that would be required at home?

    32. trustbutverify Says:

      Interesting parallel in terms of foreign control of water resources:

      http://www.sumitomocorp.co.jp/english/news/2013/20130205_023009.html


      As the new owner of SESW, Sumitomo will be involved in the operation and management of SESW and will endeavour to contribute to improve quality of service by leveraging Sumitomo’s extensive water sector experience.

      SESW, established in 1862, is the monopoly supplier of drinking water to residential and business customers in the affluent east Surrey, west Sussex, west Kent and south London areas, including Gatwick airport.

    33. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Trustbutverify #32

      I’m going to write to the UK government right away and warn them that the Japanese know all about the potential for poisoning tap water!

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