Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tokyo is back in business. And everyone's shopping for real estate.


Earlier this week, just after I'd returned from my holiday in Tanzania, I had a visitor from Tokyo who filled me in on what was happening in the city I once lived in for close to 20 years.

We had a nice lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Manila.

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"Tokyo's back," he said, almost seconds after we'd finished ordering our food.

I looked at him inquiringly, as if to say, "What's next?" It's not exactly breaking news that Japan has been on the recovery, albeit one that's stalled and sputtered occasionally.

EVERYONE'S RETURNING TO TOKYO



He then told me of his week in Tokyo, prior to flying to Manila.

Four common friends from places as disparate as London, Hong Kong, New York and Edinburgh had landed in Tokyo at about the same time, and they were all shopping around for high-end real estate in Tokyo.

"Wow," was all I could say.


It's been a long time since I'd heard of so many people seriously buying up high-end properties in Tokyo.

In fact, it's been 20 years since that happened.

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THE ASTUTE INVESTOR FROM HONG KONG

The funniest story, however, was about our friend who is based in Hong Kong, but who actually shuttles between about five houses all over the world.

He doesn't have a house in Tokyo yet, though, and so an acquisition was the main purpose of his visit last week.



This guy from Hong Kong is a very astute investor, and a real tightwad with cash as well -- which is probably why he's a good investor.

"XX stayed in a dingy hotel in Shinjuku, but he was shopping around for US$5 million dollar apartments," my friend from Tokyo said, of our Hong Kong investor friend.

I really laughed when I heard this, because it was so typical of this Hong Kong friend, to travel on a budget but buy big.

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THE TOP-END OF TOKYO

Tokyo is one of the major capitals of the world, but the top-end of the apartment market goes for around this amount, which is quite a far cry from London or New York.

"Even YY was in Tokyo shopping around for real estate," he continued, about another friend.

YY is a big hedge fund guy and one of the most brilliant investors I know.

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BULLISH ON MANILA

He has absolutely no connection to the Philippines.

But one day he swooped into Manila and picked up a really big house in Forbes Park and placed it under the name of his Filipino housekeeper in one of his houses somewhere in the world, since he could not acquire landed property as a foreigner.

I learned this week that he'd unloaded his Manila property sometime back for a quick and easy 80% profit.

And now he was sniffing out luxury properties in Tokyo.

But at least in Japan, foreigners can buy properties outright.

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BACK IN BUSINESS

It was certainly a good sign, not to mention a nice thought, to have friends dropping by Tokyo again. Not too long ago, Tokyo was a No Man's Land because of the effects of a crippling 20-year recession.

Even I avoided it like the plague.

Finally, I said: "Everyone probably just wants somewhere nice to stay and have people over for the Tokyo Olympics."

That probably isn't so far off either...



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