January 12, 2018

Dear Rica, I have heard that Japan requires registration for almost everything!

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica, I have heard that Japan requires registration for almost everything! I am feeling a bit nervous about our upcoming move to Kobe from Tokyo this spring. My husband is Japanese and I am on a spouse visa. Since my husband works full-time, the task of getting all these registrations done has fallen to me. I am feeling a bit daunted by it all! Daunted Debbie Dear Daunted Deb, Fortunately, although it can definitely be time-consuming, Kobe City has provided careful instructions for 3 different moving scenarios. Please check the scenarios below and click

July 2, 2017

What Professionals are Involved in a Home Purchase?

Ben Y., a 40-year old Australian telecommuting computer engineer, has been eager to purchase a home for his growing family (a Japanese wife and 2 children under 5) for several years. He already owns a house in Australia, but wants to live in the Kansai area near his wife’s aging parents. Ben has limited Japanese skills, and even less knowledge about buying property in Japan.  From the outset, he has been concerned about the differences between Japan and Australia in this regard. We spoke with Sachiko Inoue and Fumihiro Saeki, both  shihoushoshi-lawyers and co-founders of Kobe Legal Partners, to get the scoop about the various players involved in a home

July 2, 2017

Ashiya-Okuike—Hyogo’s Up-and-Coming Shangrila

For many city dwellers, the word “Shangrila” conjures up images of a remote, beautiful, peaceful, yet mythical place where life approaches perfection. Ashiya-Okuike, located 500-600 meters above sea level in the Rokko mountain range north of Ashiya proper, may be pretty close to this Utopian ideal according to local residents. Okuike is a world unto itself. Surrounded by national forests on all sides, yet only a 15-minute drive to the conveniences, restaurants, and culture of the greater Kobe area, Okuike offers an almost retreat-like atmosphere of serenity and solitude that attracts many who desire their own secluded oasis. Until the 1990s, Okuike’s generally affluent residents co-existed with hundreds of corporate

May 18, 2017

Due Diligence—10 Things to Check Before Buying a New Home

Before buying your new home in Japan, there are certain things that you need to check out. Due to language barriers and differences in disclosure requirements between your home country and Japan, it is advisable to use your bilingual real estate agent to gather information and field questions for you. In addition to the physical structure of the building itself, there are a number of concerns and possible risks stemming from Japan’s unique geography—earthquakes, tsunami, etc. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. The questions you need to ask will depend on the type of property you buy and want you would like to do with it. Check

May 18, 2017

7 Steps for Buying Residential Property in Japan

So, you have decided to give up your  gypsy lifestyle as a renter and take the big plunge of becoming a homeowner—king or queen of your castle! However, you have never bought residential property, let alone in Japan. Read on to see the 7 steps  involved in buying a condo or home in Japan for your residence. After an offer is made, a purchase agreement is usually signed within 1-2 weeks, with the closing occurring 3-4 weeks after that. Finding the Right House or Condo (and the Right Real Estate Agent!): Although you can search through ads and online listings, this can be very time-consuming and may not provide you

May 18, 2017

Dear Rica, I am seriously thinking about buying a home in Japan

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica, I am seriously thinking about buying a home in Japan—either a condo or a house. I have always been a renter, so buying my first home in a foreign country is a bit unnerving. What are some of the major differences between buying a home in Japan and elsewhere, say the U.S. Nervous Nellie Thanks for the great question! As the lead English-speaking real estate agency in the greater Kobe area, CoreEight is very aware of anxiety foreign buyers feel when buying a home in Japan, especially if this is your first time!

April 6, 2017

Real Estate Investment in Kobe

If you have a bit of extra money on your hands and are looking for new investment possibilities, you should consider the possibility of real estate investment in the Kobe area. Now is a prime time to invest in the Kobe area where the prices are relatively low compared to real estate investment in other countries and the ROI can be relatively high. Foreign real estate investment in Japan has soared in the past few years.  Real estate deals in Japan in 2014 totaled JPY 5.6 trillion, representing an increase of 16% over 2013. One reason for this unprecedented level of foreign investment was the 14% plunge of the value

April 6, 2017

Dear Rica, Are there restrictions on foreigners owning real estate in Japan?

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica, I am a 50-something foreign professional and have lived in Japan for the past 20 years. I like it here and would like to retire here. I have a small nest egg that I would to invest, possibly in real estate investment. I have been warned by friends that there may be restrictions on foreigners’ owning or investing in real estate in Japan. Is this true? Todd S. Hi Todd, Now is the perfect time to join the wave of foreigners (mostly from China and other places in Asia) who are investing in

April 6, 2017

6 Things to Know About Property Managers

Core Eight has more than 10 years’ experience managing investment properties of foreign nationals, ranging from whole-building investments to single unit investments. We are proud of our reputation as a reliable, hands-on property manager. As the top English-speaking real estate and property management company in the Kobe area, we have broad market knowledge of the real estate investment market and an extensive network of professionals to handle anything from locating tenants, repairs and renovations, to complete build outs. One of Core Eight’s unique strengths is its ability to put together a team of creative professionals (designers, architects, high end suppliers, and construction companies) to reform (or renovate) your investment property

March 15, 2017

Preserving Japan’s Legacy— A Chance to Give Back

Kobe and Architectural Heritage Preservation Inspired by the cultural diversity of Kobe’s architectural treasures, which range from streamlined, modernistic Tadao Ando masterpieces to Meiji-era, Western-influenced residences and office buildings, Rica Bradshaw Otani, Core Eight’s founder, has become increasingly concerned about the fate of these legacy buildings and saddened by the increasing disappearance of these legacy buildings in the Kobe area. In her 15-years’ experience as the leading English-speaking real estate agent in the Kobe area, she has become keenly aware of the importance of these heritage buildings in attracting both foreign residents and tourists to Kobe. With a surge in the number of foreign tourists visiting Kobe each year, it

March 15, 2017

Dear Rica, Is a turn-of-the-century style home in Kobe an option?

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica, After living in a typical 2LDK in Osaka for close to ten years, we are a bit depressed by the cramped space and total lack of charm. We are ready for a move and are considering buying an affordable older home. Is an older Japanese house or a turn-of-the-century style home in Kobe an option? Jonathan P. Dear Jonathan, Great question! There are many options, each with benefits and drawbacks. Buying an older home can be a real bargain. However, it can be difficult to get a bank loan, so you should be

March 14, 2017

Tadao Ando’s Kobe Phase

Tadao Ando, a native of Osaka, is without doubt Japan’s most renowned architect. Largely self-taught, Ando was influenced by such celebrated architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Louis Kahn. He was the 1995 recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. Ando’s masterpieces ranged from apartment complexes to places of worship, public museums and commercial shopping centers. Although Ando-designed buildings can be found in many countries throughout the world (Spain, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, Nepal, and the U.S., to name a few), Kobe and surrounding areas are blessed with many Ando masterpieces, particularly from Ando’s early years as an architect. His architectural tours de force speak of the spirit of

February 2, 2017

Kobe’s Earthquake Museum-A Unique Must-See

Kobe’s unique Earthquake Memorial Museum, which is part of the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution opened in 2002, gives you a unique opportunity to experience what an earthquake feels like and how terrible the aftermath can be. The museum includes: A large-screen theater with a multi-media documentary of realistic images of the 1995 Kobe earthquake and recovery efforts Interactive games about disaster prevention Realistic reproductions of the city and surrounding areas after the quake. Visitors to the museum can absorb vital information about disaster-prevention—definitely worthwhile for anyone living in Japan, one of most earthquake-prone countries in the world! The exhibits are extremely child-friendly and the bi-lingual staff is very

February 2, 2017

Shake, Rattle and Roll—Earthquake Preparedness

This month marks the 21st anniversary of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, in which 7,400 people died, prompting a nation-wide reassessment of building regulations. Since Japan is one of the world’s most seismically active countries, minor tremors can be felt an almost daily occurrence somewhere in Japan. Even more recently, Japan experienced significant earthquakes in Kumamoto in 2016 and in Fukushima in 2011. On the up side, the Great Hanshin earthquake was a wake-up call for Japan’s national preparedness authorities, and ever since Japan has been on a mission to improve building codes, earthquake preparedness, and disaster reduction. Structural Safety-Stringent Building Codes As a general rule, residential and commercial construction

February 2, 2017

Dear Rica, Should I purchase earthquake insurance?

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica, We want to buy a house in or near Kobe. But after all the devastation we have seen on TV after the Kumamoto earthquake last year, we realized we needed to learn a lot more about earthquake insurance in Japan. We do not even know if it exists or not or how much it costs. Mary B. Dear Mary, That is definitely a good question! In Japan, earthquake insurance is generally an optional insurance to fire insurance. This means that you need to get fire insurance first. This is true for homeowners and

December 4, 2016

Megamiyama (目神山)—Hyogo’s Hidden Gem

Megamiyama (目神山), Nishinomiya’s hidden gem, is an idyllic location for those who want it all—the excitement of city life and the tranquility of country life. Megamiyama is a stone’s throw away from the expansive greenery and hiking trails of Mt. Kabuto Shinrin Park. Yet it is only a 30-minute commute to Takarazuka, Umeda, and Sannomiya. The area is served by the Hankyu train line. The nearby upscale neighborhoods of Koyoen and Nishinomiya Kitaguchi, which ranked as the best neighborhood in the Kansai in SUUMO’s 2016 survey, offer shopping convenience and a variety of trendy eateries. Bargain land prices have made Megamiyama a mecca for those interested in building their dream

December 4, 2016

Dear Rica, How do I budget for out-of-pocket expenses?

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica: We want to rent an apartment around Kobe, but are concerned about how much money we need to budget for. Can you give us the scoop on this? Confused in Kansai Dear Confused, Your confusion is very understandable. A tenant’s initial out-of-pocket expenses can add up pretty quickly. Below is a short list of fees that a tenant may need to pay before moving in. However, they can vary based on the location and type of apartment, so be sure to check with the landlord or real estate agent. First month’s rent—You will

December 4, 2016

Talking to the Landlord about Repairs: Basic Japanese

Scenario: You recently moved into the apartment of your dreams—but suddenly you can get no hot water in the Japanese bath and you have no clue how to program the timer on your A/C. Even worse, you speak no Japanese and your landlord (or the concierge) can manage a perky “HARO” at most. Below is some Japanese vocabulary to help you talk to your landlord (or the concierge or management company). Tips: Write the English meaning of buttons oe machines on post-its and affix them to the machines for easy reference. Remember to give your landlord or concierge a small gift for the New Year. Basic Vocabulary air conditioner   エアコン

November 7, 2016

Customized Hinoki-buro—Preserving Japanese Craftsmanship

Since the black ships first arrived in Japan, foreigners have been fascinated with the elegance and sensuality of Japan’s bathing rituals in what was otherwise an austere country with ascetic practices. Nothing exemplifies this better than bathing in a hinoki-buro, a wooden bathtub made of Japanese cypress. The passion of Italian (and Japan-licensed) architect Iacopo Torrini for spreading the gospel about hinoki-buro and preserving the integrity of Japanese craftsmanship has coincided with a boom in the West for health-related products and in Japan for restoring traditional Japanese structures such as kominka and machiya. Below is a summary of our interview with Iacopo. Preserving Architectural Heritage Soon after arriving in Japan

November 6, 2016

Dear Rica, I’ve been told I need a guarantor to rent an apartment…

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica, I plan to rent an apartment in Japan, but was told that I need a guarantor even though I have a job. What kind of person should I ask to be my guarantor? What happens if I cannot find a guarantor? Clueless Dear Clueless, Unfortunately, guarantors are required in most cases. This is a person or company that acts as the insurance for your rental contract, promising to cover any rent or damage costs if you can’t pay or suddenly terminate your lease. Your safest bet is your Japanese employer or a Japanese

November 6, 2016

And All That Jazz! Kobe’s best jazz clubs

Kobe has long enjoyed a vibrant, cultural heritage which has attracted foreign tourists and long-term expats alike since Kobe first opened its port. In particular, Kobe has long been known as a jazz mecca. In fact, the first Japanese jazz band was formed in Kobe in 1923! And Louis Armstrong, the king of jazz, visited Kobe twice with his orchestra. Kobe continues to claim fame for jazz through the annual Kobe Jazz Festival, held each fall. However, for those of you who missed out on Kobe’s jazz festival this year, consider checking out some of Kobe’s famous live jazz hot spots below: ♫ Sone The granddaddy of Kobe’s live jazz

October 2, 2016

Dear Rica, What neighborhoods do you recommend for a family?

Get Answers about Owning, Renting and Living in Greater Kobe. Please submit your comments to Dear Rica, My husband is being transferred to the Kansai area this fall. We want to rent a house or largish condo in the Kobe area. What neighborhoods do you recommend for a family with 2 kids and an active mom with limited Japanese skills? Desperate in Tokyo Dear Desperate, Welcome to the Kansai area! A good jumping off place for your search is Rokko Island, which is very popular with expat families. It is close to international schools, and has plenty of parks and open, green spaces. It also boasts a vibrant, close-knit foreign

October 2, 2016

Estate Planning—8 Essential Facts for Foreign Real Estate Owners

Estate planning, an essential part of any financial plan, can be complex—especially when foreign real estate and foreign laws are involved. Below are 8 essential facts you need to know to simplify your estate planning if you are a non-Japanese citizen living outside Japan, but own real estate in Japan. These comments apply only to your heirs who are non-Japanese citizens, not living in Japan at the time of your death. Advice from Qualified Professionals Because of the complex issues and procedures involved, you should get advice from qualified professionals as early as possible. In Japan, shihoushoshi (司法書士), who are qualified legal professionals, can provide comprehensive advice about real estate-related

March 12, 2016

News of the month – June, 2015

Property of the Month This month we have two featured properties ideal for families located in Kitano and Rokko Island. Each one is large, pet-friendly, and Western-style. Vishram Palace – Kitano Second Floor This two bedroom corner apartment features an abundance of natural lighting, one and a half bathrooms, and a full-size dryer. Conveniently located on the hill between Shin-Kobe and Sannomiya, one can enjoy the view of the mountains from the large living room windows. First Floor Located in an affluent neighborhood near the famous Ijinkan area, this property boasts a large kitchen with three gas burners, full-size oven, and dishwasher. For dog owners, the property contains a wide