Japan’s first JW Marriott Hotel to open in Nara

JW Marriott NaraMori Trust announced that the Marriott International hotel group will open their first JW Marriott luxury branded hotel in Nara City in 2020. The JW Marriott Hotel Nara will be built on vacant land across the street from the Nara City Hall and near the former Heijo Palace – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mori Trust acquired the 4,000 sqm block from the prefecture and will start construction of the 15,000 sqm (161,400 sq.ft) hotel next year. The 6 ~ 7 storey hotel will have 150 guest rooms, restaurant, bar and pool facilities.

No bidders for Nara Dreamland

Nara Dreamland 2

The foreclosed Nara Dreamland amusement park in Nara City failed to attract a single bid when it was put up for public auction on November 11. The 297,000 sqm site was listed for sale with a minimum price of 730 million Yen (6.3 million USD). Although ten inquiries were received, no bids were made.

Too expensive?

With a minimum price of around 2,400 Yen per square meter, this might seem like an exceptional bargain when compared to the surrounding area, but the park is dotted with a number of overgrown and unsafe structures and rides which would require several hundred million Yen to remove.

The land is also subject to a number of strict building regulations that make redevelopment a difficult task. The land falls in an Urbanisation Control Area and current uses only permit welfare, sports, museum, zoo or school facilities. Approval from the prefectural governor is required before construction.

Housing, commercial, retail or hot spring development is not allowed. It is also within two kilometres of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Todai-ji temple and Kofuku-ji temple), which means the land is designated as a scenic and conservation zone under the Act for the Preservation of Ancient Capitals. As a result, building heights are limited to 10 meters, while building-to-land ratios are limited to 30%. Nara’s mayor said the city has no intention to provide any allowances on the construction regulations.

Nara Dreamland foreclosed

Nara Dreamland 1

Before Tokyo Disneyland there was Nara Dreamland – a Disney-themed park in Nara Prefecture that closed in 2006 and has since become a popular spot for urban explorers. Due to unpaid property taxes, Nara City is planning to put the property up for public auction soon. 

Nara Dreamland was opened in 1961 by Nihon Dream Kanko. After meeting with Walt Disney at California’s Disneyland Park,  Nihon Dream’s president Kunizo Matsuo expressed a desire to build a similar theme park in West Japan to cater to Japanese. Disney was apparently okay with this idea and sent some experts to Japan to advise on park design. While Nihon Dream claimed to have a franchise agreement in place, Disney later denied any official affiliation as they could not come to an agreement on franchise fees.

West Japan also worried about foreign capital buying up forestry

In February, two men wearing sweaters visited the Uda Forestry Cooperation Uda City, Nara Prefecture. The men said they were managers of an Osaka-based business and spoke with the Co-op chairman for about 30 minutes. The chairman did not take long to determine that they were only after land with a water source and told them in no uncertain terms that he had no sellers for them. The two men promptly left.

Uda City has 18,330 hectares of forest. It is the source of the drainage system for Osaka’s Yodogawa River and the majority of the forest has restrictions over timber felling. The chairman said that although there are members of the co-op who want to let go of their land, he worries that troubles may arise if forestry falls into the hands of foreign capital.

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