Kyoto City trying to clear up ownership of its two biggest streets

Horikawa Street after houses were forcibly demolished in 1945

Some of the land under Kyoto’s two biggest streets, Gojo Dori and Horikawa Dori, is said to still be privately owned by various individuals. According to the city, approximately 166 land titles covering a total area of 10,000 square meters underneath both Gojo and Horikawa streets are still in private names, representing about 1% of the total street size.

Kyoto City is considering acquiring the land from the owners, but some parcels of land may be valued at as high as 1 billion Yen (approx. 9.9 million USD).

In 1944 and 1945, buildings housing up to 10,000 households were forcibly demolished in Kyoto to create firebreaks to prevent the spread of fires during WWII air raids. Residents were given about a week’s notice to relocate. This practice was carried out nationwide with as many as 610,000 buildings across Japan forcibly demolished. In many cases these firebreak zones were converted into roads following the end of the war.

Kyoto bought up the various land parcels after the war but the ownership of some properties was never transferred to the city. In many of these cases, the sale contracts were executed but the title was not transferred. In one case there is a 2,800 square meter parcel of land where the original contract of sale cannot be found.

According to the latest government assessed land values (chika-koji), land alongside Gojo Dori is valued as high as 386,000 Yen/sqm. This would make the 2,800 square meter parcel of land valued at 1 billion Yen.

Other cities may have similar issues. In Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture, one landowner recently discovered that he was the owner of land which is now used as a prefecture road. After conducing a land survey on land he had purchased 43 years ago, the surveyor found that the land under adjoining road was in fact under the same title. On September 27, the landowner filed a lawsuit against the city and prefecture for illegally occupying his land and is seeking 73 million Yen in compensation.

The Asahi Shimbun, September 26, 2016.
Mainichi Broadcasting System, September 27, 2016.

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