Looking for land? You might need to knock down a house first

A former Geisha house in Shibuya. Sold last year for the land, with the house demolished shortly after.

If you are looking for land to build a house or other building on in Japan, particularly in a city, you may find lots are small in size while supply is limited. Of Japan’s total land size of 37,800,000 hectares, 66% is forest and 12% is farmland. Land for building purposes comprises 1,960,000 hectares or just 5% of the total – and that includes land that is already built on. The remainder is roads, rivers and waterways, and fields.

In an urban location, most of the land is already occupied, so domestic buyers will also consider lots with existing buildings that they can demolish. This is unavoidable in an area with a short supply of listings. If you limit yourself only to vacant lots, you may find very few options. 

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More people living in flood zones

The number of people living in flood zones across Japan has increased by 6.05% between 1995 and 2015, according to a survey by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). The country’s total population over that same span increased by just 1.21%. Even prefectures experiencing depopulation saw growth in the number of residents living in flood zones.

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