Unraveling the Mystery of Unclaimed Real Estate in Japan | Unknown Facts



In Japan, the issue of property without heirs has become a significant challenge for local authorities. Many deceased individuals in the country leave no wills and have no relatives to claim their assets, leading to difficulties in managing and distributing these properties effectively.

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In Japan, the issue of property without heirs has become a significant challenge for local authorities. Many deceased individuals in the country leave no wills and have no relatives to claim their assets, leading to difficulties in managing and distributing these properties effectively.

Take a walk through the three-room apartment located in the Edogawa ward, east of Tokyo, and you'll find remnants of the deceased owner's life scattered all around. From a yellowed family photo to a dusty black hair dryer, old 100 yen bills, stacks of papers, magazines, and books, the apartment holds memories that have been left behind. Sadly, it was here that a 76-year-old woman passed away alone and was discovered months later.

Unraveling the Mystery of Unclaimed Real Estate in Japan | Unknown Facts

This particular case is just one example of the many elderly people who die in solitude in Japan. In this instance, the deceased woman had a daughter who had long neglected her mother. When the woman finally passed away, the daughter hired the Bxia Sanitation Company to clean up her mother's belongings. The company's employees meticulously separated cash, valuables, important documents, clothing items like belts and kimono accessories, and other personal belongings. Some of these items were loaded onto trucks for disposal, while others were taken to recycling centers and sold to overseas customers. The customers who utilize the cleaning services of Bxia can expect to pay up to 505,000 yen ($3,520) for a two-day cleaning rental.

Japan is currently dealing with a rapidly aging population, as the death rate far exceeds the birth rate. At the same time, there is an increasing number of single-member households in the country, with approximately 21.1 million recorded in the national census of 2020. Among these households, nearly a third account for people over the age of 65 who live alone, totaling around 6.72 million individuals.

The declining number of registered married couples is a cause for concern as well, with only 519,823 couples recorded in 2022, reflecting a significant 35% drop compared to 2000. A survey conducted by the Japanese Government in 2021 revealed that 17.3% of men and 14.6% of women between the ages of 18 and 34 expressed no intention to get married. These demographic trends indicate that the number of single households in Japan will continue to rise in the coming years.

In fiscal year 2021, Japan's state treasury received a staggering 64.7 billion yen from the assets of deceased individuals without heirs, marking a substantial 7.8% increase from the previous year and nearly doubling the figure from a decade ago. Additionally, every year, around 120 billion yen worth of inactive bank accounts are left unclaimed. However, under new laws, the government is now permitted to utilize these unclaimed funds to support non-profit organizations. On June 21, 2021, Japan's National Assembly passed a revised law, which allows for investment of these funds in startups for the public benefit.

While dealing with financial assets is already challenging, managing physical assets such as apartments and houses proves to be even more difficult. Abandoned houses, in particular, have been rapidly increasing throughout various communities in Japan. Tokyo's Setagaya ward alone houses over 50,000 abandoned structures, the highest number of any residential area in the country. These houses were primarily built by the Japanese government after World War II to address housing shortages. However, after the burst of the real estate bubble in the early 1990s and subsequent economic downturn, these homes were predominantly rented to elderly individuals, low-income families, and persons with disabilities.

The impact of population aging is particularly severe in these areas. For instance, as of March 31, 2021, approximately 24.9% of households residing in social housing within Tokyo were occupied by individuals aged 75 and above who lived alone, accounting for 52,886 households. Furthermore, the number of "kodokushi" or lonely deaths, increases when individuals living alone, like the woman from Edogawa ward, are found deceased in their homes. In fiscal year 2019, there were 580 reported cases of "kodokushi," a number that rose to 675 in fiscal year 2021. This means that almost two people die alone in apartments owned by the city every day, and dealing with their assets has become a tremendous headache for authorities.

The situation becomes even more complex when factoring in the amount of time it takes for a new tenant to move into a vacant property. It can take up to six months to complete the necessary paperwork and preparations. Consequently, countless communities in Japan are being plagued by the presence of abandoned houses. A study conducted by the Japanese government in 2015 revealed that nearly one-third of the heirs to these abandoned properties intended to maintain the status quo, as a way of preserving the memories of their parents or loved ones.

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In light of these circumstances, companies like Bxia have emerged to address the challenges posed by property without heirs. In Japan, these specialized cleaners are known as "ihin seirishi," professionals experienced in handling the belongings of the deceased. In fact, there is even a private accrediting organization that provides certificates to individuals practicing in this field.

Looking ahead, the inheritance problem related to the aging population in Japan is only expected to worsen. By 2025, the baby boomer generation in the country will be 75 years old or older, leading to an increase in the number of individuals passing away and leaving behind inheritance complications.

The phenomenon of property without heirs in Japan is a pressing issue that local authorities are grappling with. The aging population, declining birth rate, and an increasing number of single-member households have resulted in numerous cases where deceased individuals have no relatives to inherit their assets. This poses significant challenges in managing and distributing these properties effectively. Additionally, the presence of abandoned houses further aggravates the situation, requiring specialized cleaners and extensive efforts to handle these properties. As Japan's population continues to age, it is crucial for authorities to address these inheritance problems effectively.

Unraveling the Mystery of Unclaimed Real Estate in Japan | Unknown Facts

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