by guibi


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<   2010年 04月 ( 3 )   > この月の画像一覧

Bureaucracy: Jumping through hoops for the Nouhou

I thought it might be useful for some to see what they can expect to have to do when trying to buy agricultural land (nouchi - 農地) here. There are probably other posts scattered around the threads on GP (the best on-line place to meet other foreigners doing similar stuff) somewhere, but maybe people could post links to other relevant info in the comments below this post.

Caveat Emptor: I'm not a lawyer! This is info that I have gleaned by buying agricultural land myself. There may be inaccuracies or missing info amongst the text here. Please check all this for yourself!

Primer: Dividing the land.

Land in Japan is zoned. The first layer of zoning is when land is designated either 区域内(kuikinai)/区域外(kuikigai). This means that such land is either within or without the area that the local municipality defines as the 'urban area'. Laws are comparatively strict if you're buying/building within the urban area.

Within each of the above definitions are the four classifications known as 原野(genya)、山林(sanrin)、農地(nouchi) and 宅地(takuchi). Loosely translated as 'wilderness', 'Mountain Forest', 'Agricultural' and 'Residential'. So it is possible, though unlikely, to have wilderness within the urban zone for example.
[Note: There are in fact a dozen or more classifications of land other than these, but as an individual looking to live in the countryside, the above are the terms you are going to be running into most often. One other classification you should know about is Nougyoushinkochiki (Noushin for short). This is applied to land that has been made suitable for agriculture at public expense. After the war land was redistributed to the tenant farmers from the land-owning class and a lot of it was improved (water mains brought in etc) with government money. This classification is almost impossible to re-zone. It will be agricultural land for the foreseeable future. Make sure you understand this when looking at agricultural land! For more info see: Land Use Control Regulation in Japan, or find English translations of J law here.

If you're still reading, what you are probably thinking of doing is buying a plot of land in the countryside. I'll stick to describing the process for that.

Scenario 1: You buy an old Japanese house to do up or use as is.
Your house will either be in the 区域内(kuikinai)/区域外(kuikigai) zones. If in the 区域内(kuikinai) zone, any modifications you make to your house 'should' follow rules for such things as earthquake resilience, Electrical standards and the like. If it's in the 区域外(kuikigai) zone you are more free with what you can do. Your house is also probably registered as 宅地, and you will therefore have an address that is registered at the city office and the land's boundaries will be officially and accurately recorded in both metric and traditional J units of measurement. You will be being taxed at residential rates, and basically doing everything 'by the books'. However, many older houses are built outside the urban area (区域外) and some of those are built on 原野. If this describes your case there are several things to be aware of. Firstly, all land on which houses have been built 'should' be re-zoned as 宅地. This is a legal obligation. This is also often ignored. Particularly with houses that have been standing since before the war when much of this legislation was formulated. If your house is on 原野and is 区域外 the ownership transfer may well be very tricky and if not sorted out carefully (and at no little expense) you may end up paying for and occupying someone else's land. Be warned!

Scenario 2: Buying land to live and farm on.
There's a classic catch 22 situation regarding agricultural land in Japan. You can't buy it unless you are a registered farmer. Of course, you can't become a farmer without farmland... ok. You can see where this is going, right?

There is a way around it though! Rent farmland and make your application to the 農業員会 (nogyouinkai - farmers' association) as a tenant farmer. If accepted (and this is in no way a given) you will be legally able to buy the agricultural land that you've found.
So, how to become a member of the inkai? You should be able to get the necessary forms (forgotten their names) from the municipal office or possibly from a JA office. Along with these forms you will be required to present a written description of what you are going to do there, why you want to do it in that particular place and most importantly, how you intend to make a living while doing so. Of course, your living must be seen to be coming from the land in question. In other words no hobbyists.
Let's face it, unless you're one of the 1% of people with enough savings to live the life of luxury and not have to work to do so, you'll be needing a business plan anyway. Translate the whole thing into Japanese and submit it along with your application.
If you're buying through a real estate agent (不動産屋) they should have a scrivener on the books who can make sure you dot all the 'i's and cross all the 't's correctly. Make use of this fella or find your own if necessary! Expect to pay around ¥100,000 for this service.

Changing bare 原野 or 山林 to another classification is not so difficult nor so expensive. However, changing 農地 to another classification, especially to 宅地, is a different ball game. To change agricultural land to residential land requires a minimum area of land to be in your possession (this can, if you're lucky, include rented land). This area of land varies from district to district, but is typically 5 tan (5反= 4,958m² = 1500 tsubo). You will probably only be allowed to change in the region of 100~150 tsubo of this to residential land. Which should be enough. Again, employing a scrivener to do the paperwork is the way to go. Expect to pay in the region of ¥400,000 for this service and fees.

Bear in mind that it is rare but possible to be called for an interview with the inkai. Also bear in mind that it is within their rights to refuse your application.

So far, this is what I've learnt through experience. I'll add more as time goes on. For now, I'll leave it at this. Good hunting!
by guibi | 2010-04-25 00:03 | About Us:私達について

Call me impulsive if you like, but I'm now a land owner (gulp!)

So, last Saturday we went to have one last look at the Kamikayama plot (Sho-o cho). It'd been keeping us up all week, me worrying about slippage, and Kazumi worrying about the 'being on display' aspect of the place. We also wanted to visit S san, the gent who's got all the useful contacts in the area and was a Miya Daiku until an accident at work took him off the sites.

We intended to just spend the day there, scoping the site, taking soil samples and generally hanging out, soaking it all up. But at the end of the day, while talking with S, he let slip the fatal words "I know a better place..." We bit and asked him if we could take a look at it. "Come round first thing tomorrow." he said. "We'll go take a look."

I was kind of doubtful as we'd 99% decided on Kamikayama, and the place that S had mentioned was a third the size. Still, no harm in checking it out we thought...

So, yet another night in the car at Kamikayama. And man did it rain! We woke up at the crack of dawn and took yet another look around. The site was a total bog. The fact that it was almost all rice fields really sank in. How on earth were we going to build on that, I thought to myself. Anyway, after brekkie at the local michi-no-eki we headed off to meet S.
Boy can he talk. We met at nine, and it wasn't till 12 that I finally said, "Well, the rain's obviously not going to let up. Let's go see the place shall we?" and with no further a do, off we went.

"Guibi valley" (reads: gooey bee) is less than 10 minutes from Kamikayama, one valley over to the N. West. It's a small, incredibly picturesque valley with both sides forested and rice fields running down the foot of the valley from top to bottom. Elevation is about 400m at the top running down gently for maybe 2 or so km where a hamlet is located. About half way down the valley on the northern slopes lies the plot. A mere acre, but 100% usable and only divided in to two terraces. Totally different from Kamikayama. Totally sold!

As you can see, there's a 'curtain' of evergreens running along the southern and eastern sides of the land. A forested mountain to the north and a strip of mixed woodland to the west. Totally sheltered from both the heat of summer sun and morning and evening winds coming up and down the valley. The forest should provide some welcome cool air in the summer months too.
The land has JA water mains on it, with three cocks strategically placed. The south western corner (about 80 tsubo or 265sqm green in the lower pic) is classified as 'Genya' meaning that we can build on it. The rest is 'Nouchi' or agricultural land.
There are just over 1200 tsubo (or 4,057sqm). An almost perfect 'acre'!

Of course, then the price came up. 330 man. We could hardly hold ourselves back from running down to the fudosan (estate agent) immediately, but thought we should at least have a chat over a coffee before making any decisions. One quick coffee later, we were sitting at the desk and I was signing on the bottom line. Man, call me impulsive if you like, but I'm now a land owner (gulp!).

Obviously an underground house wouldn't suit this site as well as the last one, so a new house design is called for. Considering that the only location we can build on is on the south-west corner of the land, the area with the view down the valley, Kazumi and I both instantly thought of a roundhouse. Perfect site for one, really. We both think that it should be on piers, not necessarily so tall, 50cm between the ground and the underside of the wall plate floor beams would do the job. Enough space to get the compost toilet 'tank' under. There's enough space for a 10.8m diameter house with a 1.75m deck around that, the roof (a reciprocal roof) would come out to the edge of the deck, and a floor plan something like this:

by guibi | 2010-04-16 23:54 | Early days:初めは

Welcome to the family (I hope you can put up with us!).

I'm very happy to be able to write that Kazumi and I tied the knot today. We've been living together for several years now, and dating longer, and a month or so ago decided that seeing as how we were both intending to stick around and get in each other's hair for the duration, we might as well get married. To be honest, we didn't really see the point in formalizing it as the reality spoke for itself. None the less, what with buying land and/or emigrating looking like strong possibilities we thought we might as well. One unfortunate (?) thing was that due to getting some wrong information from the city, we thought that we had to change Kazumi's family name. With that in mind, we bought air tickets in my family name, but it turns out that she could in fact have kept her own name. Of course, the air tickets are not transferable. I know, I know. You try persuading them that it's not actually a transfer... good luck. The long and the short of it is that there's now a new Mrs Moorey in the family. I'm deeply honoured, but can't help thinking that she must be a wee bit mad.

So, in other news. It's been a week of reading and thinking, and I just can't get Sho-o-cho out of my mind. Here are a couple of rough 3D sketches I made. You can see that the idea of a living roof appeals. I don't yet know how good an idea it would be (damp/humidity wise), but the fact that we wouldn't lose too much in the way of workable land and the insulating properties of the soil seem like a good idea.

Listen to me, here I am going on about the place like we've actually bought it. I had a big chat with my folks the other night, and they seemed fairly disappointed when I mentioned that I hadn't 100% decided to return to the UK yet.
by guibi | 2010-04-01 23:28 | About Us:私達について


About Us:私達について
Early days:初めは
Forest Garden:食べる森
Lower Field:下の畑
Other Work:その他の作業
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