Land prices at five commercial areas in Tokyo edged up an average of 0.5 percent in calendar 2004 for the first increase in 14 years.

But land prices of 31,230 designated locations nationwide fell an average of 5.0 percent for the 14th consecutive year of decline, according to an annual survey by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry that was released Wednesday.

Some areas in Osaka and Nagoya meanwhile saw significant growth, it says.

Prices in rural areas started to show signs of bottoming out, with the margins of declines in residential areas and commercial areas narrowing for the first time in almost a decade, the survey shows.

The ministry attributed the rise in land prices in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya to growth in property transactions as well as increased demand for buildings. Condominium builders, buttressed by a recovery in the economy, were also scrambling to put up buildings in urban centers in the Tokyo area.

The ministry said such trends reflect the growth in the real estate securitization market, where investors purchase asset-backed securities and receive yields.

Land prices in residential areas nationwide slid an average of 4.6 percent, with the margin of decline marking its lowest since 1986. Those in commercial areas slipped an average of 5.6 percent.

Prices of land plots in prime urban areas such as Tokyo’s Chiyoda and Chuo wards rose an average of 0.5 percent.

Prices of commercial areas in Tokyo’s 23 wards as a whole slipped 0.5 percent.

Land in residential areas in Tokyo dropped 3.2 percent, with the pace of decline shrinking for the third consecutive year. But those in five wards in central Tokyo firmed 1.4 percent for the first gain in 17 years.

In the Osaka metropolitan area, land prices rose at 22 locations in areas such as Osaka and Kyoto in the first rise in 14 years. The number of locations whose land prices remained flat increased from eight to 24.

In the Nagoya metropolitan area, land prices at seven commercial spots around JR Nagoya Station climbed more than 10 percent due to the construction of high-rise buildings.

In rural areas, land prices in residential locations fell by an average of 5.4 percent, and those in rural commercial spots fell 7.5 percent.

But land prices in some rural areas such as commercial locations near JR Kagoshima Chuo Station gained after a new bullet-train line started operations in the area.

The officially assessed land prices serve as a benchmark for public and private land transactions, and for government assessment of inheritance and property taxes.

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