The Savvy Foreign Investor’s Guide to Japanese Properties How to expertly buy, manage and sell real estate in Japan


From Toshihiko Yamamoto


Japan is the second-largest real estate investment market in the world. That’s according to a June 2018 report from leading investment research firm MSCI Inc., which said it was worth US$798 billion in 2017.


Most people aren’t aware of that fact, even Japanese investors. Many who do know still hesitate to get into the property investment game here, despite the possibilities. Why?


Well, one major problem investors from abroad face is a lack of information in English about this market—or in any other language, for that matter. Consequently, foreign investors—who are the primary audience for this book, including foreign residents of Japan—don’t know how the Japanese market works, what kinds of properties to look for, who to deal with (and who to avoid), sources of financing or what yields to expect.


This book answers those questions, and a great many more. The answers are based on my own decades of experience in investing in property here, feedback during regular seminars I’ve provided for fledgling investors for the past seven years, and from the perspective of a licensed real estate broker. I bought my first condo at the age of 27, and my first residential building—a 13-unit apartment complex in Tokyo—in 2008, and another 13-unit complex in Chiba. I’ve dealt with real estate agents and brokers, property management firms, contractors providing renovation services and many others.


Let me acknowledge two more issues: the real estate business in Japan does not have a stellar reputation—something that is also unfortunately true elsewhere—and very few in the industry are equipped to deal with foreign investors.


I am one of the few who can. My background has a great deal to do with that. I was born and raised in the international port city of Kobe, and have a B.A. in economics from Osaka Prefecture University as well as an MBA from Bond University in Australia. I began my professional career in Tokyo working for a large trading company, Nissho Iwai Corporation (now Sojitz Corporation). I’ve held senior positions at major multinationals, including an international video game company, Konami Corporation, and a major Hollywood studio, Sony Pictures Entertainment. I also worked in London for over five years as a commodities trader.


Along the way, I’ve conducted business with hundreds of people from over twenty nations, including China and Hong Kong, Australia, the U.S., Germany, the UAE, Tanzania and Thailand. Even if I don’t really know the country firsthand, I can handle the cultural differences and cues, and always respect them.



My primary focus now—and the reason for writing this book—is to advise foreign investors looking to acquire great properties in Japan, negotiate on their behalf, and help them profit from their investments. My services include:


  • Boutique agency services (for both buyers and sellers) to foreign investors and owners
  • One-to-one consultancy services for private investors
  • Assistance in finding kominka (old traditional Japanese houses) for investment
  • House flipping assistance
  • Mortgage assistance
  • Real estate and neighborhood tours
  • Residential houses and buildings acquisition
  • Commercial buildings acquisition
  • Unusual real estate opportunities such as hotels, hostels, vacation rentals (Airbnb), and abandoned and distressed properties


My coauthor, architect Masatoyo Ogasawara, answers questions related to building or renovating structures here, and addresses concerns you may have related to earthquakes and other natural disasters in Japan. (More from him below.)


I doubt that you’ll find this combination of insider insights and information on the Japanese property market anywhere else. I also provide up-to-date information on market trends via my blog,, and on LinkedIn. You can find links to my LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages on my blog.


My advisory welcomes all inquiries about the possibility of investing in what is one of the most stable and profitable real estate markets in the world. My network extends beyond Tokyo, and I’m happy to connect you to others I trust in areas I do not cover directly.



From Masatoyo Ogasawara


What I bring to this book is a global architect’s perspective and practical experiences both abroad and in Japan.


In my first chapter, I get into the detailed countermeasures taken in Japan to guard against disasters such as earthquakes and fires so that you can judge any potential threat to your investment properly. I’ll tell you what those countermeasures are, how they developed, and what you should look for.


My second chapter tells you how to find a top architectural firm in Japan and the most effective ways of interacting with them, how to ensure you have the right contractor and get your property built or renovated to your satisfaction, and what pitfalls to watch out for along the way.


Some of the issues I get into are how communication styles differ between Japan and the rest of the world, project logistics and who controls them, and other aspects. I also provide a few case histories about clients my firm has worked with, and what we do to ensure ultimate satisfaction.


About my professional background: I’m a U.S.–trained architect who specializes in high-end architecture, both residential and commercial, and the founder of Masatoyo Ogasawara Architects (, an architectural firm in Tokyo. I’m both a registered architect in the State of New York and a first-class architect in Japan.


After graduating from the University of Tokyo with dual degrees in aeronautics and architecture, I attended the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and then moved to New York to join the well-established firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.


I acquired many skills as a professional at Pei Cobb Freed, surrounded by seasoned architects who worked on high-profile projects with Pritzker prizewinner I. M. Pei such as the Grand Louvre modernization (the glass pyramid in Paris), National Gallery East Wing in Washington, DC and the Bank of China in Hong Kong. This experience gave me access to and knowledge about top-class materials and construction details, and also provided me the chance to deal with high-end international clients.


After four years at Pei Cobb Freed, I came back to Japan to pursue professional excellence and seek out opportunities to be the lead architect on projects. I also earned my doctoral degree in engineering in fall 2017 from the University of Tokyo.


My firm has a proven track record of providing aesthetically elegant and technologically efficient buildings and houses.


Our clientele are diverse, including a European company, an Asian billionaire, a Chinese business owner and others. It is noteworthy that our clients are predominantly non-Japanese who own properties in Japan.


My firm provides world-class, high-end and diversified services in English (and I also speak a bit of Mandarin) in Tokyo. We welcome your inquiries on projects already in progress or upcoming.