600 locations identified under new security law to require reporting for land sales

The national government has begun the process of designating locations across the country that need to be monitored for sales of land to foreigners. The list now stands at over 600 locations, including areas around nuclear power plants and military bases.

This is part of a new law to help the government improve its national security and to regulate land usage in sensitive locations. The law, approved in an ordinary session of the Diet in June 2021, will not actually go so far as to ban or restrict the sale of such land to foreigners but will introduce some notification requirements.

For land over a specified size in a ’Special Supervision Area’, the government will need to be notified of the sale before the transaction takes place. The notification must include the name and nationality of the buyer. So far, there is no indication that the government will have the authority to prevent the sale or transfer of ownership from occurring. 

Designated facilities will have a ‘Supervision Area’ within a 1-kilometer radius, as will outlying islands near the national border. If the owner of land within these Supervision Areas is found to be building large structures that obstruct or interfere with radio waves or cut off essential utilities, the government will issue advice or order the property owner to cease activities.

If the property owner ignores the advice or order, the maximum penalty is up to two years imprisonment, a fine of up to 2 million Yen (US$18,000), or a combination of both.

It is expected that an official announcement on the first areas to be designated will be made in late 2022.

Back in June 2021, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported on a survey conducted by the Ministry of Defense in 2017 and 2020 to check the names and addresses of landowners adjacent to the 650 self-defense force and US military bases in Japan. Of the 60,000 land parcels, only 7 were determined to be held by owners with foreign names or foreign addresses. Of those, 5 were in Tokyo’s 23 wards, 1 was in Kyoto Prefecture, and 1 was in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The Daini Tokyo Bar Association suggests that purchases of forestry in Hokkaido by overseas buyers are purely for speculative investments, and the purchase of land on Tsushima Island, almost halfway between Fukuoka and Busan, by a South Korean company was simply for building a hotel to cater to growing tourist numbers from Korea.

Sources:
The Nikkei Shimbun, August 12, 2021.
Daini Tokyo Bar Association, July 27, 2021.
NHK, June 16, 2021.
The Mainichi Shimbun, June 15, 2021.

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