The town of Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture is about to start keeping track of real estate owned by foreigners. This database will be the first of its kind in the prefecture.
The ski resort town lies just outside of Nagano City. It had a population of 9,462 as of January 2020. Of those, 1,208 were foreign residents – a 165% increase from five years ago. Many are seasonal workers, with foreign residents dropping to around 300 in the summertime.
In 2018, foreign tourists spent a total of 164,377 nights in the town, up 44% from 2017. Almost 90% of stays were during the winter months from December to March. Half of the visitors were from Australia and New Zealand – a 71% increase from the previous year.
The growth in foreign tourist numbers has been explosive. In 2015, foreign guests spent just 21,216 nights in the town. Back then, visitors from South Korea made up 73% of hotel guests (they now represent less than 3%).
As the town’s popularity grew, so too did the number of properties owned by foreigners. However, this has come with some challenges for town officials, mostly relating to communication difficulties. Complaints from neighbors about fallen trees or garbage go unheard as no one knows how to contact the foreign owner. Property taxes go unpaid as some offshore owners fail to appoint a local tax agent.
These issues are not going to go away on their own, which has led the town to embark on creating a database of the various foreign owners. District leaders and real estate companies will be assisting with the process.
Source: The Chunichi Shimbun, March 4, 2020.
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