If you believe everything you read, buying a house in Japan is to be treated with considerable caution.

Unlike many properties in Europe and America where the owner can, with reasonable confidence, assume that a property will still be desirable to new buyers many decades — sometimes centuries — after it is built, newly built homes in Japan quickly lose both their sparkle and their building value, often considered disposable and fit for demolition after only 30 years or so. Nobody, it seems, wishes to live in tired old buildings.

Japan's declining population also means that the outlook for real-estate prices is unclear. In fact, in many ways it seems as if Japan has — both in terms of market value and psychology — never recovered from the enormous trauma of the spectacular bubble of the late 1980s, when the real-estate value of Tokyo was preposterously supposed to be more than that of the entire United States.