What to check before buying a land in Tokyo

We are currently at the final steps of buying a land in Tokyo, so in this post I’ll share the information we checked when considering a given land. In an earlier post I looked at comparing the data on cities of Tokyo, which gives a good high level view, while this post will look at data-sources that are useful when looking at a specific land.

Reference layout

I highly recommend to only look for a land after you have decided the house builder, as some builders can’t build on some lands (e.g. if they use cranes to assemble the house, those need to be able to reach the land). So visiting any potential land with the house builder is very important. I also highly recommend asking them to give you a rough layout, just to make it easier to imagine how a house would look like there (ask them to include furniture in the design to make it easier to feel the space). This also helps clear up any major issue with building regulation, e.g. height limitations and limits on blocking sunlight from the house to the North can make solar panels or lofts impossible in certain lands. So sharing your approximate ideal design with the house maker and checking if your must-haves are possible will save you headaches later on.


Use Google Maps to map out what’s nearby.


Distance to the nearest train stations is probably on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Make sure to check the time in both direction (to and from the station), as they can be different if there are slopes (and real estate postings will likely show the shorter time).

If you are not right next to the station, also consider how you’ll get there. When checking buses, check both ways (as some routes will be circular or follow different path due to one-way streets). Also make sure the bus you are looking at goes regularly, as some only go once an hour.

Parking at the station for cars and bikes is also worth checking, if you are considering that.

Shops and restaurants

My only advice is to check the opening hours, as I’ve found some bakeries that would only open on one or two days a week. (Having a good bakery nearby was important for me.)


Don’t trust the real estate listing, as they often list the geographically nearest schools, but for public schools kids can only go to the one that’s school district the address belongs to. (Which is often but not always the closest.) Googling 学区域 and the name of your city will bring up the map (example). Elementary school is likely to be the most important, but junior high and high schools are also worth checking (as school districts will be different).

Other than the distance to the school, the road to the school is also important (any high traffic road without sidewalk on the way?). Walking around is likely the best, but a quick look on Google Street View can help rule out some lands, saving you a visit.

We found a cheap land but this would have been the road to the station:

We found a cheap land in the street on the right of this Street View photo, but that green death-zone was an immediate no from us

Also check juku (cram schools), English schools, international schools, if they might be interesting for you.


Spending time in nature is proven to make you happier, so checking the nearest green spaces is important. It’s also important to know about any nearby nature conservation areas and non-flowing waters as they can be a source of mosquitos and other bugs (if that’s a concern for you).

Hospitals and fire stations

Living close to a hospital or fire station (or any major road leading to them) will likely mean a regular sound of sirens, also during the night, so be aware. On the other hand having a bigger hospital in 10-15 minutes drive away can literally be lifesaving, so keep them close but not too close.


Similarly because of the noise, it’s important to check if there is any nearby airport (especially military ones), or if you are under the flight routes to a big airport (likely you’ll see if this is an issue when you are walking around, but it worths paying extra attention to).

Hazard map

In the land of natural disasters, it’s vital to be prepared. Each city publishes a hazard map highlighting all potential disasters and how bad they are expected to get. Just google “city name 防災マップ” or “ハザードマップ” (example). Make sure you understand what any note means, and if in doubt, ask your real estate agent. The real estate agent should show this map to you before you sign the contract, but I think it’s better to take the time to research it before hand. Also you can check with the house builder if the given hazard is something they can mitigate, e.g. Ichijo can make the house float but it costs extra.

Hazard map for an area of Koganei, with legend showing the maximum depth of water for each color

Zoning map

Japan gets praised a lot over their very permissive building zoning laws, which essentially means that zoning rules are the main thing that can limit what your neighbors can build (you don’t need to ask them for permission, but neither do they). Just google “city name 計画図” or “city name 用途地域等” and check your area.

We were looking at a land in Zone #1 (50%/80%), which essentially means 2 story homes: 50% of the land can be covered with building and the overall floor area can be up to 80% of the land size. The second neighbor to the South was facing a major road, but the noise wasn’t bad behind the two houses, and both houses were 2 story apartment buildings. However checking the zoning map we learned that both of those lands fall into Zone #3 (80%/300%) which essentially allows 4 story buildings. So if the area continues developing, there is a chance that those houses will be taken down and a 4 story building built in their place. Since this was the South side of the land, that would block out much of the sun, and remove any privacy from our small garden (no more pool party for the kids). We passed on that land.

Zoning map example

Private road

Regular roads are owned and maintained by the city, however when a bigger plot of land is split up, the new lands must keep their connection to the road, which often leads to part of the old land turning into a road. The land under this road however is owned privately (hence the name, private road, 私道). The existence of private road is usually on the real estate listing.

If there is a private road, it’s important to check a few things:

  1. Will you get partial ownership of the road? If not, you might need to get a permission from the owner to do any construction (e.g. water or gas connection), which can be an issue.
  2. Is there an explicit “permission to drill” 掘削に関する覚書 document that would allow work on connecting utilities? Again addressing the same issue. (more info)
  3. Rules of maintenance of the private road: will you need to pay a portion of it, or will the city take care of it? Who manages the maintenance work?

The real estate agent should be able to get the answers for these, or you can ask them at the city hall.

Trash collection method

How is trash collected? Do you just put it in front of your house (戸別収集) or is there a local garbage station you need to bring the trash to (ステーション収集)? The downside of the second is that the neighbors also need to keep that station clean, which often involves a having to clean it when it’s your turn.

Garbage station and a crow - source: https://www.ec-life.co.jp/blogs/productinfo-20170808-2/

Neighborhood associations

There might be a neighborhood association in your area (自治会 or 町内会), which might involve managing the garbage station or a message board. The real estate agent should be able to figure it out if there is one, or you can ask at the city hall. (More on these here.)

Did someone die on the land? 事故物件

Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the resale value of a land can be affected if someone died there (especially if it was a violent death). The real estate agent has to disclose this to potential buyers (legal requirement) and there is no expiration limit in the law, so it worth checking it (if for nothing else: to use it to ask for a discount). https://www.oshimaland.co.jp/ has a map, and Google Translate can help understand what happened at a given address.

Annoying neighbors 道路族マップ

Another map that’s worth checking is 【あぶない】道路族マップ【うるさい】 which includes user reports about nuances, like

There is a large park next to it. Despite this, children play and make strange noises on the road. Why play on the road instead of in the park? Can’t we just teach them that the road is not a place to play?”


From 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, they ring the tricycle’s bell and run wild down the road screaming. At least 3 people, if things go wrong, there will be about 6 people from the neighborhood.

So yeah, it shows nuances, but it also shows annoying neighbors who will complain about kids being kids. Of course just because this map doesn’t show anything for your area, doesn’t mean that all neighbors will be angels, but it doesn’t cost anything to check.


So that’s it. When we liked a land, I collected these infos into a Google Doc to keep it for easy reference, and also sent any question to our real estate agent. We also included a section in the doc about our concerns, and any information we could find on those. I also shared this document with my friends, and they provided additional tips on what to think about and sites to check (which I included in this post), so huge thanks to them for that.