Ashiya, located midway between the Japanese cities of Kobe and Osaka, is known for its sweeping hillside vistas overlooking the Osaka Bay. It is considered one of the wealthiest areas in Japan—with many large homes featuring tennis courts, swimming pools and tea houses.
“Ashiya has a history of attracting successful people,” said Rica Bradshaw, managing director of Core8, a bilingual real-estate agency specializing in the Kobe area. “The city has wide, tree-lined streets and high-class department stores, and certain residential areas are zoned such that the size of the lot has to be bigger than average.”
Ashiya’s boundaries resemble a long, vaguely rectangular strip about 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) at its widest point, with the eastern and western borders drawn jaggedly into specific blocks that border Higashinada ward to the west, and the city of Nishinomiya to the east. The limits reach north to Mount Rokko, and south to the Minami Ashiya beach and Ashiya Marina, where residents may dock their boats (and enjoy an on-site French restaurant).
Fraser Jermyn, a manager in Daiwa Homes Network’s foreign sales department, noted that there is a lot of reclaimed land in the southern parts of Ashiya, which tends to be more industrial-looking. The most luxurious properties are clustered on the hills north of the two railways: Ashiyagawa Station on the Hankyu Kobe line or Ashiya Station on the JR Tokaido line.
According to Ms. Bradshaw, property prices vary depending on the exact location and building values, which depreciate more quickly in Japan than elsewhere in the world, with structures losing all value within a few decades. “The land is the true asset,” she said. Still, newer houses and luxury apartments by the Osaka Bay can easily go for 100 million yen (US$908,000) and rise from there.
Mr. Jermyn noted more than 100 active listings in Ashiya, including a new, hillside estate priced at 285 million yen (US$2.59 million), with land size of 1,250 square meters (13,455 square feet). Prices at luxury condos at a newer development like Le Grandia Ashiya Higashiyama average around 140 million yen (US$1.3 million).
Other listings online include a massive 1 billion yen (US$9.2 million) estate featuring a 9,109-square-foot mansion with land size of 30,096 square feet and a 1,871-square-foot (on 2,464 square feet of land) four-bedroom, one-bathroom luxury home for 128 million yen (US$1.16 million). A listing for 18,160 square feet of land is priced at 300 million yen (US$2.72 million).
Closer to the Osaka Bay, there are larger condominium developments and many modern single-family homes that feature three to four bedrooms and two-car garages. On the hillsides, the mix of luxury housing includes mansions, townhomes and condos.
There are concierge services at higher-end developments such as Le Grandia, a five-story condominium with just 30 units. And this particular development also boasts amenities like an indoor terrace and English rose garden for residents. Mr. Jermyn added that most developments do not exceed four or five stories due to height restrictions, and pools are mainly a feature at private residences.
What makes the neighborhood unique?
“It’s historically a wealthy area, and a practical midpoint between Osaka and Kobe, which are two financial centers. People buy here for the prestige,” Mr. Jermyn said.
“The city is nicely laid out, with wide roads around the [train] station areas, and tree-lined streets by the [Ashiya] River. There are beautiful shops and restaurants,” Ms. Bradshaw added.
Many families in Ashiya send their children to private or international schools in neighboring Kobe or Osaka (many along the local bus routes), but the city itself has its own international schools, including the private Ashiya International School for pre-school and kindergarten through 6th grade; and the prefectural Ashiya International Secondary School for 7th-12th grade. There is also Ashiya University, a smaller private university.
Ms. Bradshaw noted that residents can take advantage of the Ashiya Country Club and golf course, and stroll the areas around the Hanshin Ashiya and Uchide train stations, which are flush with great shopping and dining, including the upscale Daimaru department store and fine-dining restaurants like Ristorante Bellini and Maison de Taka Ashiya. Muragen, the Michelin star-winning soba-noodle shop, is another perennial favorite.
There are historical highlights as well, including the Yodoko Guest House, built in 1924 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be the hillside residence of the Yamamura family, founders of the famous sake company Sakuramasamune.
Literary buffs may also enjoy the Junichiro Tanizaki Memorial Museum, a tribute to the famous Japanese novelist, who took up residence in the Ashiya-Kobe area for two decades, during which time he wrote “The Makioka Sisters,” a novel set in Ashiya.
Who lives there?
“For the Japanese, Ashiya is a city of success,” Ms. Bradshaw said. “Because it’s between Kobe and Osaka, business people who succeed in Osaka want to buy property in Ashiya because it has a name value.”
Residents are often employed at embassies, consulates, corporations, and banks, and some international companies provide expatriate housing in Ashiya as well.
“There are a fair amount of people from the financial industry, but also old money and property money,” Mr. Jermyn said, adding that while the demographic is international, there are also very influential expatriate communities a short train ride away in Kobe, particularly downtown and in the Kitano area.
Ashiya is home to founding family members of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia; Senichi Hoshino, a former professional baseball player who managed the Japanese team for the 2008 Olympics; and award-winning writer Yoko Ogawa.
Creative professionals are drawn to the more secluded Okuike-Ashiya area, which is a short ride north from central station areas. This is where world-renowned fashion designer Hiroko Koshino has set up a studio and residence designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Tadao Ando.
Ashiya is also the birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Ryoji Noyori, novelist Haraki Murakami, and futurist Morinosuke Kawaguchu.
“The whole area is quite popular,” Ms. Bradshaw said. “When the economy is good, Ashiya goes up faster than anywhere else. When it isn’t, it goes down much more than its neighbors—but it’s pretty good right now.”
“It’s a desirable area, with a whole lot of new stuff being built,” Mr. Jermyn said. “The land prices in Ashiya are much higher for property developers, compared to neighboring cities like Nishinomiya, where you can get a similar view. But Ashiya is still that address.”
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