Article Japan: Major Land-Use Regulation Act Enacted

Japan’s new Act on the Review and Regulation of the Use of Lands and Buildings Around Important Facilities and Border Islands (Act No. 84 of 2021) was published in the Official Gazette on June 23, 2021. Some provisions of the act will come into effect within 15 months of the publication, while other provisions will come into effect within one year. (Act No. 84 of 2021, supp. art. 1.)

Under the new act, the prime minister may designate a “vigilance area” within approximately 1,000 meters (about 0.6 mile) of important facilities anywhere on the main islands and on one of the remote islands adjacent to the Japanese border. (Art. 5.) Important facilities include Self-Defense Force (SDF) facilities, U.S. military bases, Japan Coast Guard facilities, and nuclear power plants. (Art. 2, para. 2.)

Background to the New Act

Land purchases by foreign companies that did not appear to be for residential or commercial purposes have alarmed the Japanese government and people for several decades. In 2013, the government started to investigate the use of lands and buildings near SDF bases and facilities and on border islands. Concerns for national security were raised especially by land purchases in 2007 by South Koreans on Tsushima Island (located mid-way between Japan’s Kyushu Island and South Korea) and by a Chinese company’s purchase in 2014 of a large land parcel about 3 km (1.86 mile) from an Air SDF base on Hokkaido. However, no law has enabled the government to collect for national security purposes information on real-property transactions and the actual use of land and buildings.

Specific Content of the New Act

Government officials will check the names and addresses of owners of land and buildings in the vigilance areas and review the manner in which the land and buildings are being used. (Art. 6.) The prime minister may require the heads of relevant national government agencies and local governments to provide necessary information regarding the use of the land and buildings. (Art. 7.) If further information is required, the prime minister may also require related persons, such as land users, to file a report or submit documents. (Art. 8.)

When the prime minister finds that land users are disturbing or clearly threaten to disturb the functions of the important facilities or remote islands, he or she is to recommend that the users take remedial measures. (Art. 9, para. 1.) If the land users fail to do so without legitimate reasons, the prime minister may then order them to take the remedial measures. (Art. 9, para. 2.) The government is to compensate the land users for costs incurred in taking such remedial measures. (Art. 10.) Failure to comply with such an order is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine of up to 2 million yen (about US$18,240). (Art. 25.) If the users request the government to purchase the land or building because the remedial measures would significantly inhibit their use of the land or building, the government must purchase it at fair market value. (Art. 11.)

The prime minister may also designate special vigilance areas where the facilities and islands are of particular significance and particularly susceptible to disturbance and where it would be difficult to find alternative facilities. (Art. 12.) The parties who intend to make a contract to transfer the rights over the land and buildings must notify the government. The notification must include their identities, the address and size of the land and/or buildings, and the purpose of their intended use of the land and buildings. (Art. 13.)

Under the new act, the Council of Actual Land Use is to be established within the Cabinet Office. (Art. 14.) The council will advise the prime minister regarding designation of important facilities, vigilance areas, special vigilance areas, and other relevant important issues. (Art. 15.)

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