What is Toki (Real Estate Registration) in Japan and Why is it important?

What is Toki (Real Estate Registration) in Japan?

Toki (登記) is a system for recording information about land and buildings in the tokibo real estate register (登記簿) managed by the Legal Affairs Bureau. Each piece of land or building in Japan is recorded in the register, with information about its location, characteristics and owner. For a small fee, anyone can view the register. You can also get a certified copy of a land or property record from the register.

Why is it important?

The real estate registration system is important because it provides transparency and a record of land and building ownership. In order for property transactions to run smoothly, ownership must be clear. The real estate register provides evidence of ownership, which gives buyers the knowledge that they are buying a property from the person who actually owns it.

Real estate transactions are also recorded in the register. As part of the purchase process, a judicial scrivener, for a fee, registers your ownership in the register. This establishes your ownership of the property with the Legal Affairs Bureau and helps to protect your rights as the owner.

Unlike in some countries, Japan allows foreigners to own, buy, and sell property freely (and not just to hold a long-term lease on it). In terms of property rights, there is no difference between being a Japanese national and a foreigner. It also doesn’t matter whether you live in Japan or abroad. The real estate register provides evidence of legal record of ownership; and transactions are recorded similarly for whoever owns the land or property, regardless of nationality.

What information is registered in the register?

Registration of real estate is done for each piece of land or building. The content is roughly divided into a title section and a rights section.

In the title section, for land, information is recorded which describes the location, area and type (for example, whether it is residential, commercial, or a field, etc.). For buildings, information such as the location, size, type of residence and structure (for example, whether, it is wood, reinforced concrete, or steel-frame construction) is recorded.

In the rights section, the owner’s name, address, and reasons for registering the property is recorded, as well as the date of registration. Rights other than ownership are also recorded here. Rights other than ownership would include, for example, a mortgage. If a mortgage is registered, use of the property may be restricted, even if the property is purchased because it means that the property is being used as collateral for a loan. Rights other than ownership also include pledges or superficies.

When is information registered in the register?

Mainly, information is recorded in the register when there is a transaction. This includes the purchase, sale, and inheritance of land and houses. It is also necessary when remodeling a house or demolishing a building. When the mortgage is paid off, the mortgage will be canceled and this is also noted in the register. When there is a change in the information related to the owner, such as a change in the owner’s address, this is also updated in the register.

Are there cases where people don’t register transactions?

Yes, there are actually many cases where changes in ownership are not recorded, especially when someone inherits land or a house. The Ministry of Justice has noted that in some cases of rural land and forests, for example, ownership information has remained the same since the Meiji era. This makes it problematic for the land to be bought or sold because the registered owner is no longer alive, which makes it difficult for the land or property to actually be put onto the market.

To bring more transparency to real estate ownership, starting in April 2024, Japan will start requiring people to register changes in ownership due to inheritance.

How do I register a real estate transaction in the register?

Although it is possible to take care of a registration yourself, most people hire a judicial scrivener (shihoshoshi or 司法書士) to take care of researching the register when they are making a property purchase and then to subsequently to record the transfer of ownership.

There are service fees for the judicial scrivener to verify the contents of the real estate register prior to transfer and record the lender’s mortgage and the transfer of ownership to the buyer. There are also separate recording taxes (登録免許税 or touroku menkyozei in Japanese). If you are planning to buy property in Japan, you should plan ahead for these recording costs; a local bilingual real estate agent will be able to help you understand these costs and to connect you with a judicial scrivener.

How much are the recording fees?

A qualified judicial scrivener will be able to give you details for your specific case, because there are often rate reductions available depending on the specific type of transaction.

In general, however, for example, to record an ownership right, the tax rate is 0.4% of the property’s value, based on the value assessed for purposes of fixed property taxes. For example, if the property is assessed at ¥40,000,000, the recording tax would be ¥160,000, in addition to the judicial scrivener fees.

There are also special deductions for things like building a new home or buying a newly constructed home; and also if the home is certified as long-term superior housing (chōki yūryō jūtaku or 長期優良住宅) or certified as low-carbon housing.

Bilingual Agents

All of the agents who list properties on realestate.co.jp are bilingual in Japanese and English. Some agents can also handle inquiries in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and other languages. Please click on the links below to see their listings:

All For Sale Property Listings

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FAQs About Buying Property in Japan

Can a foreigner buy property in Japan?

Yes. You can buy property in Japan regardless of your nationality or country of origin. There are also no residency requirements for buying real estate in Japan. Securing financing as a resident foreigner is more complicated. For info on financing, please see Basic Requirements for Getting a Mortgage as a Foreigner in Japan

Webinars on Buying Property in Japan

Please see our seminar page for a current list of seminars on: how to buy a home in Japaninvesting in Japanese real estate for beginnershow to apply for permanent residency in Japanhow to sell property in Japan, and much more.

How do I get a property loan as a foreigner in Japan?

Please see this article for information on: Getting a property loan as a foreigner in Japan

Mortgage rates in Japan: May 2022

What is the process for buying a property in Japan?

Please see our step-by-step guide: Guide to Buying Property in Japan

See how much you can borrow and your monthly payments in yen: Yen Mortgage Loan Calculator

For information about purchase and brokerage fees: Breakdown of real estate purchase fees and taxes in Japan

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How much is my property worth?

Real Estate Japan is pleased to offer free, no obligation appraisals for owners of property in Japan. Please click here and fill out the form: How much is my property worth?

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Photo credit: iStock/kazuma seki

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