During my visit to Tokyo last month, I visited with folks at the Japan Real Estate Institute (JREI). JREI, founded in 1959, is a real estate appraisal firm that also accepts commissioned research projects and consulting assignments (e.g., property investment decision-making). One of its researchers, Kazuya Tani, and its North American liaison, Kaz Fujiki, were instrumental in arranging this meeting as well as meetings with other real estate professionals during my time in Tokyo. JREI and Greenfield Advisors have about a 10-year history. We had a call about 2 years ago (with interpreters!) to discuss with JREI the U.S. experience after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. [Note that there is a 13-hour time difference between Atlanta, where I am based, and Tokyo; there is a 16-hour difference between Seattle and Tokyo!] JREI wanted to learn more about the potential real estate impacts of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as it is known over there, and the subsequent nuclear meltdown. So, after that call, we kept in touch.

Onagawacho (Miyagi Prefecture) after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami

Onagawacho (Miyagi Prefecture) after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami courtesy of Hajime NAKANO.

When I decided to attend the Asian Real Estate Society (AsRES) Annual Conference in Kyoto last month, it made sense to combine that trip with a visit to Tokyo. Two months of planning, with significant assistance from Tani-San, made my visits with other real estate professionals in Japan possible. [As an aside, it is no coincidence that ‘Tokyo’ is a rearrangement of ‘Kyoto’ (literally “capital city”). Kyo means “capital” and To means “east,” which means Tokyo translates as “eastern capital.” Formerly known as Edo, Tokyo replaced Kyoto as the imperial capital in 1868.]

I was warmly received at JREI (once I found the building!). JREI researchers, in addition to their real estate appraisal duties, are working on research related to multiple hazards—areas that are located near several fault lines and other potential hazards such as flood zones. The irony of the situation is that the paper I was asked to discuss at the upcoming AsRES Conference in Kyoto later that week focused on residential properties in Taiwan located near multiple hazards (fault activity zones and flood potential zones). So, obviously the Great East Japan Earthquake has influenced the East Asian real estate research community toward a focus on the impacts of climate change and multiple natural disasters on real estate. I suspect that this research focus will continue for the foreseeable future.

– Clifford Lipscomb