Monday, April 13, 2015

Sakura season in Japan and how Tokyo and Osaka are now the new HongKong. And about buying real estate in Tokyo.


So on Tuesday afternoon,  living a #TravelifeI headed back to Manila from Tokyo.

It was my lucky day, as my car came to pick me up at home for the airport at 4 PM and it took exactly 50 minutes to reach Narita Airport from central Tokyo.

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It was a very nice visit to Japan this time around, as the sakura were especially beautiful this year, and particularly in Yoyogi Park, which is my neighborhood park.


The vision of cherry trees all over the park in full bloom was truly lovely, and it seemed like clouds of fluff had descended onto the park.

THE NEW HONG KONG



As you probably know by now, Tokyo and Osaka have become the new Hong Kong for Southeast Asians, judging from the sheer influx of visitors to these cities.

Every other person is posting photos of themselves on Facebook in front of a temple or eating in a tempura joint in Tokyo. Or posing all smiles under a cherry blossom tree.

So I had my hands full with visitors during my two weeks or so in Japan, living a #Travelife.


EVERYONE WANTS TO BUY AN APARTMENT
IN TOKYO

The other interesting thing is that all my visitors, bar none -- and it didn't matter which part of the world they came from -- were looking to buy real estate in Tokyo.

I found this development quite interesting.


It kind of makes sense, though, as Tokyo prices, although expensive, have not kept up with the prices in other world capitals like London, New York, Singapore or Hong Kong.

So if you want a world capital at a relative bargain, Tokyo is the city for you. Especially with the Olympics coming up in 2020.


WHAT ONE MILLION DOLLARS 
WILL GET YOU IN CENTRAL LONDON

Last I looked, one million US dollars will get you a small garage space for your car in a fancy-ish London neighborhood like Kensington or Knightsbridge.

But in Tokyo, if you're not too picky about things like buying something in the best neighbourhoods, one million US dollars will get you a brand-new 80 square meter pied-a-terre in the peripheries of central Tokyo.

There's a good train system and most areas are pretty safe, so even the peripheries are nice to live in.


EVERYONE'S LOOKING 
FOR A REAL ESTATE AGENT

I am really surprised to be deluged by requests for introductions to real estate agents and real estate advice.

In fact, I have a backlog of unanswered emails about the Tokyo property situation right now. And if you're one of those I owe an answer to and you're reading this blog, I promise to write a proper response when I'm by the beach in Thailand next week, living a #Travelife.

But as Tokyo property prices have generally been lacklustre for the last two decades, I'm quite hesitant to recommend it as a major investment unless you have several million dollars just for punt money and you really enjoy Tokyo as a city.

There are far better places to invest the same amount in, otherwise.

The Monocle store is in my neck of the woods

WHY JAPAN IS NOW HOT

All this attention on Japan is the result of this current government doing lots of things right.

It's not perfect, and I wish the strong chockerhold that Japan's ultra-traditional farming sector has on the government were less so that it can really undertake much-needed reforms; but for now, it's good enough.

The Nikkei hit 20,000 for the first time in 20 years, and everyone's spirits are up. Interestingly, it's mostly foreign money as domestic investors are still wary of their bad experiences in the past.

THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT
IS GETTING THINGS RIGHT.
INCLUDING APPLYING FOR A VISA FOR JAPAN.



Nevertheless I am a great fan of this government, which incidentally pushed for a liberalisation of Japan's once strict immigration policies even for tourism.

Now it's easy for practically anyone to get a visa, which also explains why Southeast Asians and Chinese tourists are flocking to Japan in droves. In contrast, I can think of a couple of lovely countries that have just made it harder for wealthy tourists to apply for visas --- and it's their loss, entirely.

Even I don't want to go to these countries anymore.


MY NEIGHBOURS ARE RUNNING JAPAN

The former prime minister of Japan, who is also currently the finance minister, lives two doors down from me. Sometimes I see him jogging without aides in the neighborhood and I'm always tempted to stop him and tell him what a great job he's been doing so far.

He's been under some flack, you see, for all the reforms he's been doing. And some people also think he's not doing enough. But if you know how rigid it's been in Japan in the past 20 years, you'll understand that these reforms are giant steps rather than baby steps.

The current prime minister lives in the same neighbourhood as well, along with the guy who bought Viber as a side business and the guy who owns Sanrio.

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So you might say that the powers of Japan from a political and business perspective, all live within a few meters from me.

Along with some ambassadors and Dewi Sukarno, former Indonesian first lady, who lives in a brick house just across.

But back to the prime minister and finance minister who live in my neighborhood. I'm so happy that my neighbours are getting it right, so that Japan is once again on the radar of travelers and investors, as well as of everyone living a #Travelife.




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