Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

Interest in final resting places never dies

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Can't afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we go a deal for you.

Can’t afford prime real estate in Aoyama Cemetery? Have we got a deal for you.

With graveyards often located on the outskirts of cities, visiting the family grave to perform memorial services can be somewhat of a mission for busy families. But new businesses have now eased the burden for many with new “graveyards” built within office blocks conveniently located in cities. Nowadays these crypts can even be visited virtually by those who are physically unable or too busy to make the trip.

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

Syunkei-ji high-tech crypt offers virtual memorial services for busy relatives

The high-tech graveyard business is growing, according to a recent article in the Yomiuri. Scheduled to open its doors in 2014, a six-story crypt just five minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station will offer 7,000 spaces to store the ashes of loved ones. Built on prime real estate, the project indicates that it is potentially more profitable to rent out space in a building for “burial” slots rather than for offices or apartments. A similar crypt opened in 2009 in Machiya in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward has now filled 70 per cent of its 3,400 capacity.

Two kinds of new-school cemeteries are now crowding the final resting place market. The first is the simple “coin locker” variety where remains are stored in a slender box that family members can visit. The second is more high tech. Activated with an electronic key card, a robotic arm retrieves the funereal urn of a loved one from a storage shelf and places it in a special booth. Relatives can perform memorial services in peace as photos of loved ones are displayed on the screen above them.

Burial slots in these buildings go for far less than a plot in a traditional cemetery and have the added convenience that family members can get to them easily and even fit in a spot of shopping or some lunch afterward. Those too busy to get there can take advantage of virtual memorial services offered by organizations like Syunkei-ji. When you log in to make your visit, a priest chants sutras as you pray for your relative from the comfort of your own home.

In a final resting place side-note, visiting old school graveyards has become a popular pastime for some Japanese, as has the  hobby of visiting the graves of celebrities. Enthusiasts trade info on the web , take guided tours offered by volunteers and consult books such as “Tour the Graves of Celebrities all over Japan.”

A team of volunteer guides at Zoshigaya Cemetery in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, show visitors the graves of famous people such as writers Natsume Soseki and Kafu Nagai. According to Asahi Shimbun, visitors come from as far away as Shizuoka. They’re not only interested in seeing the graves, but are also drawn to the peaceful environment of these old-fashioned graveyards.

2012: The year in buildings

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

There was a lot going up in Tokyo in 2012, most notably Tokyo Skytree. It really felt like the landscape of the city shifted this year, more than it has in the nearly 10 years since Roppongi Hills opened.

Trendy magazine ranked Tokyo Skytree as the biggest new-development hit of the year, noting that some 20 million people visited the tower within the first four months after it opened to the public on May 22. In addition to the tower, a shopping center and a half dozen hotels opened up around it – more concentrated, large-scale development than the area east of the Sumida River has seen in decades, if not ever. The recreational complex is called Solamachi (“skytown”), and it was named one of Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012.

Trendy also had a good roundup of other construction milestones of the past year, and some impressive statistics – proving (as if it needed to be proved) just how much Tokyoites love new things.

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu

This mega outlet mall, with 171 shops, opened on April 13 just across Tokyo Bay in Chiba — on the less-visited “uchibo” (inner) coast. As a result, use of the Aqua Line (the toll road that traverses the bay) doubled on weekends for the first half of the year.

Diver City Tokyo Plaza

Odaiba’s latest shopping center, filled with fast fashion brands, opened just a few days later, on April 19. Within the first two months, 4,000,000 people had paid a visit. Diver City did get a little help from a great big guest of honor — a 1:1 scale model of Gundam, which demonstrated the mainstream marketability of anime.

Shibuya Hikarie

This 34-story glass tower, which opened on April 26, is a big deal. It’s the first in a series of redevelopment projects that Tokyu Corp has planned for Shibuya over the next decade to bring moneyed sophisticates (read: shoppers older than Shibuya girls) back to the neighborhood. By the end of the first five months, 10,000,000 people had visited Hikarie and sales were 20% higher than projected.

Tokyo Station

On Oct. 1, Tokyo Station unveiled the results of a painstaking renovation project that saw its domes – destroyed in WWII air raids – finally restored. During the first week of October, passengers using Tokyo Station increased by 140%.

With all of this, next year is likely to feel dull in comparison. Or will it? 2013 will see the continued renaissance of the Marunouchi area, with the opening of the JP Tower in March, which incorporates the original 1933 Japan Post Office facade and promises nearly 100 shops. In April, Kabuki-za will reopen after a three-year renovation, and Mitsui has another outlet mall planned for the summer, also in Chiba.

Shared office space bringing businesses together

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Shared open-plan space at Co-lab's Shibuya Atelier allows co-tenants to collaborate

Even if you’re sharing the same floor with another business, traditionally in Japan, to preserve a sense of privacy, office boundaries are properly demarked with booths and partitions. But lately, according to Nikkei Trendy, some new real estate ventures are offering office spaces that blur or even demolish these lines, allowing businesses to interact in potentially beneficial ways.

Take Co-lab, for instance, a company that owns trendy office space in several locations across Tokyo. They offer open-plan office space to those in creative industries, with the aim of getting residents to collaborate together. In order to rent office space, companies must first submit creative work to be vetted by the people at Co-lab before being allowed into the fold. Rather than being secretive about what they’re working on, creative types have the opportunity to share ideas and even collaborate together on projects.

This model resembles the way entrepreneurs are sharing office space and ideas at startup incubators. But open plans are not the only way to encourage connections between businesses located in the same building. Real Gate real-estate agency manages five office blocks across Tokyo, with a sixth to be opened in Aoyama in March, and organizes networking events at all of them to bring tenants together. In addition some buildings also house communal spaces such as bars, gyms and spas, where people can gather to socialize and exchange ideas.

Their latest venture, The Share, in Harajuku offers shared office space similar to that found at Co-lab and, in addition, shared housing space, so that those working there are also able to rent living space if they chose to do so. Opened in December 2011, the place now has a waiting list for those wishing to rent units. Shared housing starts from  ¥95,000 a month for a small private room and access to shared kitchen, bathroom and lounge facilities.

Another space-sharing idea is for businesses to rent out space when their property is not in use, or to rent out surplus space. Website MaGaRi serves as a bulletin board for businesses offering just that. A bar in Shibuya, for instance, is renting out its space in the day to a young woman selling homemade sweets. The bar gets a little bit toward the rent and the businesswoman gets a prime retail spot. Those offering surplus office space also get the chance to make connections with companies in complementary fields, not only lowering their rent, but also potentially giving their business a boost through collaborations.

2012 trends: consumer ‘neta,’ relocating and regional flavors

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

On Jan. 10 Recruit, a corporation that has its fingers in a number of different pies, including tourism, recruitment, real estate and publishing, published its trend forecasts for 2012. Though Recruit has a vested in fulfilling its own prophesies, a few predictions really did seem on the mark. Here’s the best of the bunch:

  • Free word of mouth: The rise in the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter during 2011 obviously brought more young Japanese closer together, and more than ever, marketing divisions wanted to tap into the consumer posses that make recommendations. Recruit’s free magazine R25 predicts that the big thing this year will be companies finding clever ways to provide netizens with opportunities to write neta (amusing stories). The shy consumer on the social network will have something to post, sans that nasty self-promotional aftertaste, and the company gets a free, natural-tasting word-of-mouth plug. Sounds like super-stealth marketing to us, but we’ll see.
  • Relocating: When the earthquake occurred, many of those working in Tokyo were unable to get home after train services were cancelled. Being stranded in Tokyo was that bit more stressful for working couples who had children. In light of this experience, Recruit’s real estate website SUUMO predicts that double income families will be looking to either relocate to locations closer to work, or seek employment closer to home. Centrally located compact apartments for those who can’t change jobs but want to cut the commute may prove popular in April (the busiest month for real estate agents in Japan). For added peace of mind and extra childcare support, many couples will also be considering moving closer to their parents, or even moving in with them, and that might mean that large apartments that can accommodate three generations could be in demand.
  • Gotouchi-ism: According to Jalan Research Center (a subsidiary of Recruit), the quake in 2011 sparked a resurgence of pride in all things Japanese, particularly in the unique charm of different localities. Gotouchi means “your home town” and has been a buzzword used particularly in connection with the b-kyu gourmet boom: a trend for simple regional cuisine. Last year as well as gotouchi gourmet, there was a rise in interest in gotouchi idols — pop groups who promote their localities. Following on from this it’s predicted that tourists taking holidays within Japan in 2012 will be seeking a gotouchi experience: to connect with the everyday lives of the locals by paying to participate in activities that offer a taste of the local lifestyle. Though Recruit don’t specify what this might exactly entail, we think it could be making crafts, or even going out into the fields and working alongside farmers.

Pulse Rate: ‘Free rent’ pricing aims to fill up empty apartments

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Summer heat doesn’t just slow down pedestrians in Japan – it also stifles the real estate industry. Most of this is due to the Japanese employment/academic calendar, which begins in April every year and ends the following March. Between February and April, students move closer to the schools where they will matriculate, and new company employees move out of the house and start life as a shakaijin (社会人, working adult).

As covered on the June 11 broadcast of “Gacchiri Academy,” a weekly info-variety program on TBS about saving money, once everyone gets settled, real estate agents have to scramble to fill the empty rooms. They can’t lower rents because that causes current tenants to complain and also reduces the value of the property. In the absolute worst cases, rooms that don’t find tenants by the end of April remain empty for a full calendar year. In response, some real estate agents have started offering “free rent” (フリーレント) deals on certain rooms.

No, “free rent” does not imply totally free, but it does mean that the first two months are free. Additionally, many of these have no “key money” payment to the landlord, which can be as much as two months rent, and no introduction fee to the agency. The only thing required is a month’s rent for deposit. The goal of the “free rent” discount is to get bodies into the room so that the landlord can stop taking losses.

Shortly after the broadcast, the term “free rent” skyrocketed to the top of the Google Trends keyword searches. Clearly, there is a near-constant hunt for bargain living spaces in Japan. Japan Pulse has previously covered the boom in room sharing. Yen for Living has also covered room sharing as well as discounts on rooms where people have died. Gacchiri Academy suggested that a little negotiation might be a previously unconsidered tactic – real estate agents and landlords might be willing to offer the free rent policy for rooms that were previously not discounted.

Apartment shares in Japan draw a share of the herd

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Hitsuji Real Esate, for those who want to share

Hitsuji Real Esate, for those who want to share

Last October the Japanese edition of the magazine The Big Issue addressed the youth housing problem in Japan, conducting a survey of young Japanese in Tokyo and Osaka and interviewing several experts on the topic. Kobe University Professor of Human Development and Environmental Studies Yosuke Hirayama noted that changing demographics have caused housing problems for Japan’s youth. Most housing benefits came from “groups” that people joined – notably companies and families. Participation in these groups, however, is declining. People are waiting longer to get married, and the number of people with regular employment is falling. Housing subsidies and cheap company housing provided by companies for full-time employees enabled young people to save money, which they could put toward a house in the future.

Options for youth now are limited. Young singles are not usually eligible for cheap public housing, and while post-bubble deflation affected most of the economy, rents continued to rise. This has lead to “parasite singles” (youth who live rent-free with parents, draining their resources) and “net cafe refugees” (people who, not being able to make rent, turn to cheap options at net cafes for a place to turn in for the night).

Hitsuji Real Estate is a Web site that is doing its best to promote collective housing as a solution to the problem. The site, which started in 2005, maintains an extensive list of apartment shares across Japan, most of which are in the Kanto area. In exchange for listings on the site, which include professional photographs, apartments must meet the standards of the site. This is in contrast to the looser atmosphere of roomshare.jp, a message board where those with rooms to rent and those looking for rooms can freely post messages and search text listings.

In the survey conducted by The Big Issue, however, 60 percent of respondents stated that they did not want to live in shared housing because “it would be troublesome to live with strangers.” While cash-strapped foreigners in Japan have long opted for guest houses and shared housing, such as the English-friendly Sakura House, Japanese have been more hesitant to use the same techniques, perhaps with the exception of university dormitories. In order to help, Hitsuji Real Estate provides a detailed FAQ on the site with answers to questions like “Who lives there?” “What is it like to live there?” “Do problems ever happen?” and “What does dormitory-style mean?”

Some young Japanese are even working on their own to combat the housing problem, which I can attest from personal experience. I currently share an apartment with five Japanese and one Korean. Teppei Ohashi, one of my roommates, incorporated himself into the company G Place and rented the apartment. Initially all the roommates were Japanese. They lived together at a guesthouse in Gotanda and decided to move somewhere smaller. My roommate Ayako noted that it was, to a certain extent, easier to live in the guesthouse, as there was less responsibility, beyond paying your own rent and keeping the place clean. The apartment does have its perks – more space and privacy. Teppei rents another apartment as well, which he then lets out as a women-only apartment share. Currently three women from Myanmar are living there while they work at a bento company. As is evident from his site, he has other apartments and is looking for other real estate to rent out.

He is also interested in collective housing as a solution to Japan’s aging population – if young and old could share together, he believes, the young could help care for the old as part of their daily life. He works as a caretaker, spending some nights on call.

The media coverage in Japan treats shared housing as exceptional cases, which is easy when you find a group of geeks living together, but it’s clear that, despite hesitancy, collective housing is becoming more natural for the natives.

Read more about the benefits of shared housing in Japan on Yen for Living.

Real estate and railways

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Tama Home store on the platform of the Yamanote line in Shibuya

Tama Home store on the platform of the Yamanote line in Shibuya

Last year we reported that cosmetic stores had been popping up on train platforms, allowing busy women to stock up on beauty products while they wait for trains. Now it seems the idea has caught on with real-estate vendors Tama Home, who have installed themselves on the Yamanote Line platform of Shibuya Station.

The shop doubles as a café for busy commuters, offering coffee at the low price of ¥200, or for free if you don’t mind filling out a questionnaire. Visitors can also get advice from shop staff about real estate and probably will hear a lot about the benefits of buying a brand new Tama home.

The marketing concept of having Tama Home on the train platform might be down to the fact that home is pronounced “houmu” in Japanese and the same word means station platform, making it a neat little pun. But why place a real-estate agency in Shibuya, an area renowned attracting footloose youths who are not necessarily potential home buyers?

Tama Home’s advertising used to concentrate on appealing to couples with young children with a typical commercial showing a happy family innocently singing a simple song about the joys of living in a Tama Home: “Happy life, happy home, Tama Home!” Falling birth rates must have put a dent in their staple market because they’ve now recruited the dashing Takuya Kimura to appear in a new series of advertisements. Most decidedly single, he’s depicted struggling with the confines of a tiny bachelor pad and yearning not for a mate but for more space.

While the Tama Home platform store is built to resemble a train carriage, for sheer perfection of product placement, nothing beats the Gatan Goton store located on the platform of Tsuruhashi train station in Osaka. Gatan Goton (the noise trains make when they roll over rails) sells model train sets for enthusiasts both young and old and even has a little model railway set out in the center. Houses purchased at the store go for considerably less than those at Tama Home.

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