Masayasu Shiroyama, a deputy director at the city bureau in Japan’s ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, tells Sebastian Shehadi why the country’s ageing population and upcoming international events spell opportunity for FDI in real estate.  

Q: In what sectors is the ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism hoping to attract investment?

A: As a government, we believe that the Japanese real estate market is not so well known among Western companies.

Q: Which areas of real estate are you prioritising?

A: When we talk about the Japanese market, I believe that quite a number of people abroad think the shrinking Japanese population, the ageing population, as well as frequent occurrences of natural disasters. So I believe that people abroad tend to have a negative image when they think about the Japanese market. However, we have many different investment opportunities. 

For example, when we think about Japanese residential market, the pace of construction of new houses is not rising due to the declining Japanese population. So, the existing buildings and infrastructure are getting older and require maintenance and renovation, and that requires investment, especially foreign investment. In terms of method, the PPP I think is a good way for investors to go. 

Smart cities are utilising IT, 5G and AI to solve their headaches, and this effort is being led by the government. Maybe we can use autonomous driving, or maybe we have to do something in the area of health and medicine. I think there can be lots of opportunities for investors.

Another trend is this project to link Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka to make a network of major cities. It is a very high-speed train. This will help balance the cities economically. 

Q: Are there any major international events you’d like to highlight across Japan’s cities?

A: Next year we have Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games and in 2025 we have the World Expo in Osaka. So in that sense, Japan is getting the attention of the global community and we shouldn’t just lose this good opportunity at the end of the events, but also highlight investment. 

Q: How is the government combating Japan’s shrinking population? 

A: We have been introducing measures to raise the birth rate again, as well as more advanced technologies so the productivity will be higher and the efficiency will be higher. This way we can compensate for a smaller workforce.

Q: The buildings in Tokyo often look rather dated. Why is that?

A: The 1970s was kind of a high-growth period for the Japanese economy, so there was such a momentum for new construction during that time. It’s a problem and we have agreed to replace those old buildings with new buildings. 

We also have a challenge which is how to renew those old areas in Japan that suffered from natural disasters. Old buildings tend to catch fire when we have earthquakes, so we need to have new buildings with earthquake resistance. Japan is already working on it but it’s a chance for foreign investors because is not that easy to build these. 

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
fDi Magazine

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