In 2018, foreign funds purchased 373 hectares of forestry across Japan. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), there were 30 acquisitions made across seven prefectures.
Hokkaido accounted for almost a third of foreign purchases, with 108 hectares sold. The largest transaction in Hokkaido was the 34 hectare purchase of forestry in Shosambetsu, Tomamae, to a private individual from Hong Kong. The land was purchased for the purpose of asset holding.
There were a number of smaller acquisitions made around the popular ski resort of Niseko, including a 3 hectare sale to a Hong Kong and Chinese pair for the purpose of building a holiday home. Of the six transactions in Niseko, 4 were made to buyers from Hong Kong and 2 were made to buyers registered in the British Virgin Islands. Rankoshi, close to Niseko, had seven sales to foreigners, of which 6 were to private individuals from Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Canada, and Macao.
Outside of Hokkaido, most of the foreign funds were purchasing land to develop solar farms. American funds purchased 258 hectares of land in Hyogo Prefecture for this purpose.
There were just 3 sales made to foreign funds from mainland China, amounting to just 7 hectares or of 1.9% of the total. Buyers from Hong Kong accounted for almost a quarter of the total land sold.
Between 2006 and 2018, a total of 2,076 hectares of forestry has reportedly been sold to foreign buyers.
Data is only collected for transactions that apply under the Forest Act or for land parcels over a certain size. Although there are no laws or restrictions against the purchase and ownership of forestry by foreigners, a revision to the Forest Act in 2012 requires advance notice of the sale of forestry to foreign interests. A further 16 prefectures in Japan also require advance notice of the sale of land in areas considered to be water sources.
MAFF Press Release, May 31, 2019.
The Hokkaido Shimbun, June 1, 2019.