Retirement Hotspots in Japan

It’s an open secret that Japan is the ideal retirement destination in Asia due to its supreme service to the elderly and its beautiful and serene surroundings.

japan2bWe’ve been discussing the ins and outs of real-estate property investment in Japan for quite some time now – how it all works, what are the advantages, disadvantages, and achievable goals, and perhaps most importantly, where exactly should one purchase investment properties.

However, as most seasoned investors know all too well, purchasing an investment property is completely different to purchasing a property to live in. And while Japan’s work and business environment is notoriously stressful (at least if you work for a Japanese company), not necessarily the highest paying, and generally speaking, not on everyone’s top list as far as career paths go – things change completely when one is thinking about a holiday home or tourism destination – and become even more attractive when one is considering to live in the country full time, particularly as a retirement destination.

The country’s fast ageing population and general Asian approach to old age mean that growing old in Japan is a very appealing concept to many, including those who do not speak the language and haven’t lived here for any extended period of time previously. The Japanese service mentality and inherent respect for the elderly, combined with the country’s affinity to nature, well-mannered demeanour and attention to detail make it a heaven for those who seek peace and tranquillity in their later years – and that’s without even touching upon subjects such as the divine food, sublime aesthetics, artistic design and supreme emphasis on convenience and accessibility.

Where, then, are Japan’s most popular retirement hotspots? Well, like investment hotspots, that entirely depends on one’s criteria. Here are a few locations and the reasons one might have for choosing them –


j1For the urbanites among us, there’s just no beating the world’s biggest and most populated metropolis. If it’s luxurious inner city apartments you’re after, or if you’re keen to remain close to some of the world’s best food, arts, fashion and shopping meccas, there’s just no beating Tokyo. And the huge number of small centres and townships contained within this monstrous metropolis means that one can choose the exact right balance of business/ leisure/residential proximity, for one’s preference.


j2One of Japan’s most internationally renowned holiday and retirement destinations, Niseko village, in the snowy north landmass of Hokkaido, is a ski enthusiast and winter lover’s dream, and provides close and personal access to ski slopes, winter lodges, and a very international English/French/ Italian speaking vibe – in fact, so many expats and holiday makers own a stake in the city, that they are now heavily represented in the local council as well, and are consulted in day-to-day management.


j3Japan’s own piece of tropical heaven, the Okinawa chain of islands, in the far south-west of the country and a good sail/flight away from Kyushu, the nearest large Japanese landmass, is quite different from the rest of the country. They have their own local dialect (and even a native language completely different to Japanese), their own food and their own alcohol varieties. But most importantly – oh, the heavenly, heavenly beaches. If palm trees, hammocks and sun all year round is your thing, Okinawa is definitely somewhere to keep on your retirement map. And the large concentration of US military bases also make for an international environment – the local population, by and large, speak good English and are quite used to foreigners


j4Peninsula Long touted as Japan’s “rich and famous” retirement spot, this picturesque mountainous area is home to some of the country’s best and most popular natural volcanic hot spring resorts, and is an absolute beauty to behold, any time of the year. If you’re looking for a large house, with attached land parcel, plenty of golf courses, country clubs and like-minded high net-worth friends to hang out with, Hakone is the place to be – however, be prepared to pay an appropriate price, and don’t expect any of the typical Japanese urban transportation or commerce services so prevalent in the rest of the country. Hakone and Izu are rich, but are still very much country retreats, with everything that that entails – so you’d better have your Jaguar or Porsche ready, finely tuned, and handy at all times.

The Not so Obvious (and more affordable) Choices


j5One of the most beautiful places in Japan, Kyoto is Japan’s traditional and architectural capital – nowhere else will you find such a large concentration of temples, gardens, museums, tea-houses (with or without dancing and singing Geishas), old palaces/mansions and hidden little groves and nature/river walks and trails. Many say that living in Kyoto is like living in a constant, beautiful and elegant dream – and they may just have a point. If you feel a longing for the past, in all its majesty and mystery, and aren’t afraid to explore the wonders of traditional Japan well into your later years, then Kyoto is definitely the place for you.


j6A short 10-15 minute train ride from Tokyo is Japan’s second largest city – similarly international (also home to the country’s largest “China town” centre), with plenty of upmarket shopping, including one of the country’s biggest malls, the “Red Bricks” complex – but not nearly as crowded and hectic, Yokohama is the discerning city dweller’s choice.



j7Well known to Singaporeans, Taiwanese and Koreans, less so to other foreigners, Fukuoka is one of Japan’s best kept secrets. The country’s youngest and arguably most dynamic city, Fukuoka’s proximity to Southeast Asia and its extremely busy but also extremely convenient international airport, which is located right in the heart of the city, makes it Japan’s Western gateway to the world – with daily flights to many of Asia’s (and Europe’s!) most popular destinations, a huge amount of greenery, parks, bicycle and walking trails, trendy and fashionable nightlife, dining and shopping options, and a large number of schools. It is one of Japan’s most family-friendly cities – and its most up-and-coming business and investment destinations these days. In fact, Fukuoka city is second only to Tokyo in the number of international conventions and seminars that take place in its state-of-the-art waterfront international convention centre and various luxurious hotels. Not to mention the fact that their baseball team, the Softbank Hawks, won the national series last year!


j8The capital of snowy Hokkaido and Japan’s fourth largest city, Sapporo city is an advanced, white collar and academic capital, with its main industry, by far and large, being tourism – the city hosts approximately 2 million visitors annually, many of whom come especially for its spectacular winter and snow yearly festival. And while it is close enough to the ski slopes to be convenient, prices in the city are far more reasonable – as are its accessibility and services.

zmZiv Nakajima-Magen, is Manager of Asia- Pacific, Nippon Tradings International (NTI), which specialises in assisting investors in capitalising on Japan’s vast property market.
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