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Shinagawa to be Japan’s Gateway to the World?

During the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate isolated Japan from the outside world, Shinagawa was the first station on the Tokaido highway connecting Tokyo to Kyoto. Today, it is one of Tokyo’s major transit hubs.

In the next decade, there will be developments that will transform Shinagawa into an even bigger transit point, with the goal of making it into Japan’s newest global gateway. As to be expected, property prices in the area are reflecting this expectation.

Property Prices Rising

As reported by Tokyo Kantei, the average price (on an asking-price basis) per tsubo (one tsubo is equal to 3.30 square meters) for a second-hand family-style condo near Shinagawa station was 3,030,000 yen, for the June to August, 2014 survey period). This is a 12.2% increase compared to the same period in 2012. In fact, the average price per tsubo for a second-hand condo in the area had held at a steady 2.8 million yen for most the past decade, except for a brief building boom in 2008-9. Property and land prices in the area have continued to rise since 2014. What is behind this?

New Station

The proximate cause was JR East’s announcement on June 3, 2014, that it would add a new station to the Yamanote line (the loop line that encircles Tokyo) between Shinagawa and Tamachi stations by the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The new station will be located about 0.9km to the north of Shinagawa station and about 1.3km to the south of Tamachi station. It will also serve the Keihin-Tohoku line, which connects Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures. The new station will be the 30th on the Yamanote line and will take up most of what is now a rail yard in the Konan district of Minato ward.

However, JR East is not just planning to build a new station. The project is part of a urban revitalization plan. The company is planning to develop a large plot of land (approximately 130,000 square meters) adjacent to the station into a hub for the “interaction of companies and people from around the world.” In terms of size, the project site is bigger than the project sites for Tokyo Midtown (about 78,000sqm) and Roppongi Hills (about 109,000sqm).

Ease of connection to Haneda

The Sengakuji subway stop, which provides direct transit to Haneda Airport in about twenty minutes, is also only 300 meters from Shinagawa station.

Last March, Haneda Airport unveiled a major expansion to its international terminal in a bid to compete with other domestic airports and Asian hubs. Thirty thousand slots were added for a total of 90,000 international slots a year, enabling more daytime flights to Europe and North America. Haneda is much closer to the center of Tokyo than Narita International Airport, so the expansion of its international capacity is expected to encourage more international carriers to offer Haneda routes, which will also bring synergistic effects to the development of the Shinagawa area.

Special Zone for Asian Headquarters

In 2011, the Japanese government also designated the Shinagawa-Tamachi area (along with four other areas in Tokyo) as a Special Zone for Asian Headquarters. These zones have been set up with the goal of attracting more Asian regional headquarters and R&D centers by attracting foreign companies, and thereby raising Tokyo’s international competitiveness. The government is offering tax incentives, de-regulation, and administrative and financial support to foreign companies which set up operations in the designated zones.

Maglev in 2027

The future is also coming to Shinagawa, in the form of maglev. In 2011, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism granted permission for the construction of a maglev train line that will ultimately connect Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. Construction of the line started last year.

JR Central aims to begin commercial service between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, with the Nagoya-Osaka section to be completed by 2045.

Shinagawa will be the terminal point in Tokyo. Currently, it takes about 100 minutes on the shinkansen (bullet train) to go between Tokyo and Nagoya. The new maglev train will cut that to 40 minutes.

It remains to be seen whether Shinagawa will become an international gateway to Japan, as various government and private initiatives are aiming for, but what is already clear is that these moves are going to be pushing property prices up in the area.

Sources: Tokyo Kantei (Japanese), JR East Press Release, Japan Times, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Wikipedia

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