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Mainland Japanese buy U.S. military properties

Date Posted: 2011-01-21

Criticism is mounting as more people learn that mainland Japanese are buying up properties on Okinawa that are being used by the U.S. military.

The military properties have been targets of investors for years, but now figures from the Ministry of Defense showing mainland residents from Okinawa Prefecture are buying and selling the properties at an increasing rate has many, including the Okinawa Military Landowners' Association, concerned. The Ministry says 32 people bought and sold 15,000 square meters during the 2007 fiscal year, with another 33 dealing in 19,000 square meters a year later.

Overall, the Ministry says 213 cases have been recorded of ownership moving from Okinawa to mainlanders, with about 69.5% being by inheritance, and the other 30.5% by sales. Since 2005, trading information has been available on the internet, leading to increased interest by mainland Japanese.

The Okinawa Military Landowners' Association says it isn't right, because they "don't bear the bases' burden but just get the profits of U.S. military properties." The President of Okinawa International University, Moritake Tomiyama, agrees. "It is indispensable that agreement of landowners to put unused land on base to good use, and there were precedents on land use because it took time for consensus-building of landowners in the free market economy," he says, but adds "I think it may be that we cannot stop trade of U.S. properties by mainland residents." He says that will "in turn influence town planning."

The U.S. base properties, which are owned by hundreds of individual land owners, are seen as increasingly valuable as the land value increases each year. Ther's also the ability for land owners to get rent from the government for the property being used by the military, something Okinawans have always seen as stability that offsets the property being used as as bases.

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