Purchasing and running an entire commercial space in Japan is like a business operation, which can be contracted out to management companies.
There’s a big difference between individual commercial units located within residential mixed purpose apartment blocks, as compared to wholly commercial buildings or centres. While ground floor shops or offices in a mixed-purpose building can be purchased by anyone, similar to a residential property, and then leased out to business owners, the situation is quite different with wholly commercial blocks. These are typically entirely owned by a single operator, who runs the entire complex and provides services to its entire renter community.
In the latter case, business operators would be required to apply to the building or centre management if they wish to lease shop or office space. The operator, on their part, would be required to provide certain services such as infrastructure, in-house advertising space, floor and building maps references to the business, etc.
While it is definitely possible for foreign investors to purchase and run an entire commercial space, and while there are management companies who can do this on their behalf, this adds an entirely new layer of complexity to the investment, which becomes more than a simple real estate and rental management transaction. It has become, in effect, a fully pledged business operation, which requires hiring, providing for and training of staff, outsourcing of advertising, stock management, etc.
The closest equivalent is probably purchasing and running a hotel or other guest or short-term stay accommodation business, as opposed to “straight-out” real estate property investment.
PLENTY OF HOTSPOTS
As for attractive locations – there are plenty of those, in Tokyo and beyond. While traditionally, spots located within walking distance to the JR Yamanote line (Tokyo’s central “circle” train line, which runs in a loop around its main suburbs) were all considered its prime business locations, these days the profitability map has expanded far beyond it, as new and attractive suburbs are being developed and re-developed regularly.
Neighbouring cities such as Chiba, Yokohama and Kawasaki are also highly desirable, as are various areas in Japan’s other big cities, such as Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, etc.