A new book whose title translates as “Is China Turning Hokkaido into a Province of Its Own?” has caused quite a stir in Japan as the author, Miyamoto Masami (宮本雅史みやもと まさふみ), who sits on the editorial board of the Sankei Shimbun, sounded the alarm that Chinese capital was snapping up large chunks of land in the scenic northern prefecture.
One site mentioned in the book is a 2.1-square-kilometer golf resort that is just an hour by car from the prefectural capital Sapporo.
“In the massive luxury resort that stretches to the Fuji-like Mount Yotei, the only language you can hear is not Japanese but Mandarin,” Masami wrote.
The land plot was auctioned to a bidder from China in 2011 after the insolvency of the previous owner, and the Chinese operators retrofitted the facilities to cater to their compatriots as Chinese tourists and golf and ski enthusiasts, inspired by movies shot in Hokkaido, flocked to the Japanese island.
This is part of a bigger picture where Chinese companies buy and hoard sites in Japan, from Tokyo to Hokkaido, a momentum that has not been dampened by the prolonged estrangement and diplomatic rows between Beijing and Tokyo.
Masami’s own estimate is that Chinese buyers may have grabbed a total of 700 square kilometers of land in Hokkaido.
And it is not only golf courses that are sought after – farmlands are also among the sites bagged by Chinese investors as they outbid Japanese and other foreign buyers.
Some of these plots in Hokkaido are said to be just a stone’s throw away from Japanese military bases.
Chinese newspapers have rushed to hit back after the book was published, accusing Masami of making a fuss over normal business transactions.
A well-known scholar has also suggested that the Japanese people have a phobia about a stronger China.
But Japanese commentators say these Chinese investors, other than buying Japan’s land and resources, may also want to obtain Japanese residency.
On some Japanese forums known for their nationalist inclinations, netizens are also fuming over these dealings, with many demanding that the government impose a large capital gains tax to stem the “exploitation.”
But Hokkaido officials have reaffirmed their incentives to attract foreign investment. China is a fast-growing source of tourists to Japan as well, with more than 3.28 million visits made during the first half this year.