Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week


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Hi Blog.  Earlier this year I was forwarded a manuscript by a Mr Christopher Dillon, entitled “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan“.  I liked it so much that I’m recommending it here on  As I say within the inside cover:

“Dillon’s book is so good that while reading it, I felt like I was an adult in a toy store:   Envious of the stuff kids have now that I would have loved to have as a kid.  If only I had the information in this book when I was building my house in the 1990s, I wouldn’t have ended up with the financial albatross I have now!  LANDED is an essential resource for anyone considering buying the most expensive consumer good in one of the most expensive (and tricky) housing markets in the world.  It’s even a good read!”

As per the spirit of (which seeks to help and empower people in Japan), and in the spirit of my first Housebuilding in Japan Essays I wrote more than a decade ago, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone looking to settle down for good in Japan.  Here are some cover and table of contents scans, and information about next week’s book tour in Tokyo.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Word from the author today about his book tour in Tokyo next week:

Hi Debito, I hope you’re having a good Golden Week break. I will be in Tokyo next week to speak at the following events, which are open to the public:

May 11 at 12:00 noon — Book launch sponsored by the Canadian and the Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce.

May 13 at 7:30 PM — The Tokyo Writers Salon (

May 14 at 12:00 noon –The Forum for Corporate Communications (

I hope you can attend.

Kind regards


Christopher Dillon

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16 comments on “ Recommends: “LANDED: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan”, By Christopher Dillon; Tokyo book tour next week

  • sendaiben says:

    Looks great, but it’s not available on, and it costs almost 100 USD from Any chance of a special deal?

    — Dunno. Ask the author. Tell him I sent you.

  • Sendaiben – there’s a link to buy it from the author’s website. You can get to it from the link at the end of Debito’s article, or the direct link is here:

    The price is still a whopping HK$659 (about US$87 at the time of writing). His other book about buying property in Hong Kong is less than half the cost of the Japanese edition, so maybe he’ll drop the price of this one eventually if there is sufficient demand.

    That said, 87 bucks for something that could provide valuable advice and insight into the single largest purchase most people make in their lifetime probably isn’t all that that much to ask.

  • Hopefully, there is a chapter in the book that disabuses people of the notion that just because a mortgage rate is 1.5% (adjustable), that “it’s a great deal!”

    I had somebody tell me this at a networking get-together, and I hesitated to point out that if his property goes down 25% in the next ten years, he is basically at zero equity in the house. ($400,000 house, 10% down, 30-year amortization.) So I kept my mouth shut.

    I hope that people who buy do so because they WANT a house, and not simply for any finance reasons.

    Still has the initial 4,000,000 yen downpayment though. I meant little additional equity.

  • Yikes – it’s US$85 on his website (at current exchange rates).

    The index of the book looks good, we probably could have used it on the first house we bought (would have been nice to know we got to pay all the fees/taxes/commissions etc.) instead of me finding that out after the fact (the spouse apparently thought I already know this) – although having them all be set out by law at least let me feel like I wasn’t being completely screwed. I would love to have a read of his chapter on buying foreclosures because we have looked into it several times over the years and decided not to even bother trying due to the difficulty in evicting the foreclosees…

  • I have learnt a lot regarding the “housing” industry since i ‘landed’ in Japan. How new and used houses are bought and sold, the agents and the ‘house makers’.

    Having gone through the stressful times of taking an estate agent to court and learning the real meaning of what laws apply and how they are applied. And then the thorny issue of house makers willing to sell their grandmothers just to get a sale and when you get the final bill, wonder why the bottom line has risen more than 200%….with the oh, so sorry, that is what you selected; but ‘accidentally’ fail to tell you this at the time.

    I have now advised several freinds about the housing industry, Japanese freinds. I have saved them so much money in the process, and prevented them from buying with ‘sharks’.

    It is a nightmare out there, another industry that is screaming out for real change and independent regulations. Im trying my bit, by attempting to get the law changed,…but it is a long slow process.

  • The Shark says:

    You can also buy property in Japan through a court auction:
    [Japanese language skills required!]

    On that site you can also check for how much past properties were sold and how many people were bidding.

    My guess would be that often real estate agents aquire properties this way and then try and re-sell them for 2 or 3 times the price they bought them.

  • Shark, the problem isn’t buying the properties at auction (which is relatively straightforward and easy to do).

    There are 2 problems.

    First is getting the people out of the property after you’ve bought it at auction. Often people who lose their house don’t want to go which is why you’ll see houses on that (and other) sites where it looks like they just walked into someones house and took a few pictures (if they are allowed into the home – if there are no inside pics don’t assume noone is currently living there). I’ve heard it’s become easier to evict the former owners but when we were looking into it (about 3 years ago) the easiest way to get people out of the house after you bought it was to pay them off to leave (never mind that often the property will need extensive renovations).

    Second is that banks aren’t going to loan you money using the property as collateral so you will need a good amount of cash or the ability to get a personal line of credit.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    (Warning: this is a long post! Skip if you don’t care about the interactions between interest rates, mortgage payments, and property values.)

    Hoofin, low interest rates are indeed a Trojan horse, but not only for the reasons you describe. A bigger one, I think, is that property prices vary not just with incomes and rents (property price = 150-200 months’ rent is a good rule of thumb), but also with how much a typical buyer has access to, including borrowing.

    This means that for the same monthly payment, the price of a house can go much higher, and sellers can overprice their properties.

    For example, imagine if interest rates were to suddenly triple from 1.5% to 4.5% (a historically-normal figure). Someone who could afford to pay $930 per month on a 30-year mortgage could buy a house for $270,000 would find that the same monthly payment can only get him a $170,000 mortgage, thanks to all that interest he would have to pay.

    All those properties at $270k then have to go down, or they’ll have trouble finding buyers.

    This is why the government “guidance” to banks, preventing them from issuing mortgages to non-nationals who don’t yet have permanent residency, is such a problem. Not only do these buyers have to save their money for many years in order to pay cash, but they also might end up overpaying, because the low cost of borrowing (something they can’t take advantage of) is “priced in” to the property.

    So with abnormally-low interest rates, we get a kind of caste system with three levels: (1) the trusted people who can borrow as much as they desire and pay it off at leisure, (2) the regular borrowers who have a monthly payment that they have to work to make every month, and who pay the same over the life of the loan whether it’s a high principal and low interest or a low principal at high interest, and (3) the personae non gratae who aren’t eligible to borrow money from banks and have to (over-)pay in cash.

    (Incidentally, when I describe caste (3), it’s not just a “woe is me” complaint from someone who got turned down by the banks; Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto makes similar points when he describes the difficulty of accessing capital can prevent otherwise-intelligent and hardworking third world people from becoming successful. If the mortgage system were abolished and no one could go into debt to acquire a positive cashflow asset, the economy would suffer terribly!)

    If interest rates were higher (and thus, prices were lower), things would be “fairer”, since those in caste (1) could always pay down their mortgages early and make big profits, those in (2) would offset their higher interest payments by paying less for their homes, and those in (3) would have an easier time saving up enough cash.

    I wonder what will happen to Japanese real estate in general when interest rates inevitably rise — the massive debts being piled up by Hatoyama can’t go on forever.

    As for my own real estate experience, I was lucky and had a great agent when I bought my home just over a year ago. He was honest, up-front, respectful, communicated with me at my convenience, and basically did everything he was supposed to. No tricks or shenanigans, and he was on my side the whole time. He earned his fee; no question. When I rent out this property some day, I’m going to go to his agency.

    I’d be interested to see the rest of the chapters of Mr. Dillon’s book. The brief excerpt on his site about the addressing system in Japan seems far too cursory for a book that costs Y8000; I hope the difference between street/block addresses (what you use every day) and lot numbers (what will be on the construction designs and government tax records) is explained. Then again, the contents of the book look very thorough.

    The Shark, I’m looking at that site you linked to, and see some amazing discounts. I can’t help but wonder, “what’s the catch?”

  • about the catch of and :
    1- remember these are foreclosures, and some owners will not be willing to leave the place
    2- you can’t visit the property before buying ; you have to rely on the pics provided
    3- in some cases you will own the debt of the previous owner : this especially apply for mansions owners who never paid the managements fees : you will have to pay these in arrears if you buy the property.

    Here are some catches. In any cases, all the info are provided in the PDF that you have to download… be sure to understand all the info it contains before bidding !

  • GiantPanda says:

    I’ve also heard rumours from those in the real estate industry that you have to be extremely wary of yakuza involvement. Try evicting someone with yakuza connections and see what happens!

  • The Shark says:

    Jerry and Romain: Thank you for your valuable comments regarding the difficulty of getting someone evicted. Very much appreciated!

    So ,it looks like auctions however tempting might would not always be the best option.

    May I just throw a few more questions based on the comments so far:
    1) If I wanted to go for an auction, could I know before whether or not people are still living there?
    2) Could I also know if the previous owners had any yakuza connections? – Sorry, a bit studpid question. The answer is probably ‘No’.
    3) Would I know details about any debts (management fees etc.) before the auction?

    If the answers were all ‘No’ then I guess bidding at auctions could be quite risky.

  • The Shark,

    1- info provided in the PDF (however, the pdf does not offer legal guarantee on this specific point… so it might happen that the house was empty when the auction agent came to take the picture ; but you wont be able to cancel the sale or sue anybody if you actually find somebody living in when you take possession of the property)

    2- info not to be provided

    3- info provided in the PDF (amount and nature of the debt, usually very well detailled ; in most cases only the management fees of mansion’s building are concerned here.

    I hope this replies to your questions.
    Here is an additional catch :
    – the previous owner still living in the place might decide to destroy many facilities before leaving the house… u never know what to expect with people, they are all different ; yakuza or not.

  • The Shark says:


    Thanks again for the information in comment no. 13. It’s very useful information for me and I suppose for many others as well. You seem to be very knowledgable in this area!

    Your final worry is actually also my worry. I guess I and many others would really be concerned (before bidding) that previous owners might mess up the place or even destroy some facilities deliberately as you pointed out.


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