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Hawaii’s pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and breathtaking landscapes have long attracted foreign investors, particularly from Japan.

If you want a quick answer : Japanese investors own an estimated 40% of commercial real estate in Hawaii as of 2022. But to fully understand the extent of Japanese ownership in the Aloha State, we need to dive deeper into the history and driving forces behind this investment trend.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will explore the background on Japanese investment in Hawaii, break down the specific numbers and percentages of foreign ownership, analyze the motivations behind the investments, look at the impacts on Hawaii’s economy and real estate market, and discuss whether this level of foreign ownership is beneficial or detrimental for the state overall.

Background on Japanese Investment in Hawaii

Background on Japanese Investment in Hawaii

Japan has long been a major investor in Hawaii, with significant holdings in various industries such as tourism, real estate, and agriculture.

The history of Japanese investment in Hawaii dates back to the early 20th century when Japanese immigrants began arriving in the islands in search of new opportunities.

Early History of Japanese Immigration and Investment

The influx of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii began in the late 1800s and continued into the early 1900s.

Many of these immigrants worked in the sugarcane and pineapple plantations, contributing to the growth of the agricultural industry in Hawaii.

Over time, these immigrants established strong communities and became active participants in the local economy.

As the Japanese population in Hawaii grew, so did their investments in the local economy. Japanese-owned businesses began to emerge, ranging from small mom-and-pop shops to larger enterprises.

These investments played a significant role in shaping the economic landscape of Hawaii, particularly in industries such as retail, hospitality, and agriculture.

Post-WWII Rise of Japanese Tourism and Real Estate Purchases

Following World War II, Japanese tourism to Hawaii experienced a significant surge. Hawaii’s beautiful beaches, tropical climate, and unique culture attracted many Japanese visitors, who were eager to explore the islands.

This increase in tourism led to a rise in Japanese investment in the hospitality industry, with Japanese companies acquiring hotels and resorts throughout Hawaii.

In addition to tourism, Japanese investors also began purchasing real estate in Hawaii. The allure of owning a piece of paradise attracted many Japanese buyers, who saw the islands as an ideal location for vacation homes and investment properties.

This trend continued to grow over the years, with Japanese investors acquiring both residential and commercial properties in various parts of Hawaii.

The Bubble Era Heightens Japanese Buying in the 1980s

The 1980s marked a period of intense Japanese buying in Hawaii, fueled by the economic boom in Japan and the inflated asset prices during the bubble era.

Japanese investors flooded the Hawaiian real estate market, driving up property prices and leading to concerns about the impact on local residents and the economy.

During this time, Japanese investors not only purchased residential properties but also made large-scale acquisitions of commercial buildings, shopping centers, and even entire resorts.

Some of the most notable purchases included the acquisition of the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki by a Japanese corporation.

It is important to note that while Japanese investment in Hawaii has been significant, it is not the sole source of foreign investment in the islands.

Investors from other countries, such as the United States, Canada, and South Korea, also play a significant role in the Hawaiian economy.

How Much of Hawaii Does Japan Own Today?

Japan has long been a major investor in Hawaii’s real estate market, owning a significant portion of the islands.

While it is difficult to determine the exact percentage of Hawaii that is owned by Japanese investors, it is estimated that they own a substantial amount of land and commercial properties.

Percentage of Commercial Real Estate Owned by Japanese

According to recent studies, Japanese investors own a significant percentage of commercial real estate in Hawaii.

While the exact figure may vary, it is estimated that Japanese investors own around 15-20% of the commercial real estate market in Hawaii.

This includes properties such as hotels, resorts, shopping centers, and office buildings. Japanese companies have made substantial investments in these sectors, contributing to Hawaii’s tourism industry and economic growth.

Most Popular Islands and Regions for Investment

Japanese investors have shown a particular interest in certain islands and regions within Hawaii.

The island of Oahu, home to Honolulu and Waikiki, has been a popular choice for Japanese investors due to its vibrant tourism industry and economic opportunities.

Other popular areas for Japanese investment include Maui, known for its luxury resorts and beautiful beaches, and the Big Island, which offers unique opportunities for real estate development and agricultural investments.

Profiles of Major Japanese Real Estate Investors

Several major Japanese real estate investors have made a significant impact on Hawaii’s real estate market.

One such investor is Mitsui Fudosan, a leading Japanese real estate company with a diverse portfolio of properties in Hawaii.

Another prominent investor is the Mori Trust Group, which has invested in luxury hotels and resorts in Hawaii. Their investments have contributed to the growth of Hawaii’s tourism industry and the creation of jobs for local residents.

It is important to note that while Japanese investors play a significant role in Hawaii’s real estate market, they are just one of many international investors contributing to the state’s economy.

Hawaii remains a popular destination for investment from around the world, attracting investors from various countries.

For more information on the topic, you can visit the Hawaii News Now website, where you can find in-depth articles and reports on Hawaii’s real estate market and the involvement of Japanese investors.

What’s Motivating Japanese Investors to Buy Hawaiian Real Estate?

Stable Asset and Hedge Against Risk

One key factor motivating Japanese investors to buy Hawaiian real estate is the stability it offers as an asset.

The Hawaiian property market has shown consistent growth over the years, making it an attractive investment opportunity.

Additionally, Hawaii’s geographic isolation makes it less vulnerable to global economic fluctuations, providing a measure of security for investors looking to hedge against risk.

Prestige and Status Symbol

For many Japanese investors, owning Hawaiian real estate is considered a prestigious status symbol. Hawaii’s reputation as a luxurious and exotic destination adds to the allure of owning property on the islands.

It is seen as a symbol of success and wealth, providing a sense of achievement and social recognition. The exclusivity and desirability of Hawaiian real estate contribute to its appeal among Japanese investors.

Lifestyle and Tourism Appeal

Hawaii’s natural beauty, pleasant climate, and vibrant culture make it an appealing destination for both vacationers and those seeking a desirable lifestyle.

Japanese investors are drawn to the idea of owning a piece of this tropical paradise, where they can enjoy the island lifestyle themselves or rent out the property to tourists.

The tourism industry in Hawaii, which attracts millions of visitors each year, offers a lucrative opportunity for investors to generate rental income and maximize their return on investment.

Strong Historic and Cultural Ties

Japan and Hawaii share a strong historic and cultural connection, which further motivates Japanese investors to buy real estate in the islands.

The close proximity between Japan and Hawaii, as well as the historical ties dating back to the early 20th century, have fostered a sense of familiarity and comfort for Japanese investors.

This cultural affinity makes Hawaii a natural choice for those looking to invest in a foreign real estate market.

How is Japanese Investment Impacting Hawaii?

How is Japanese Investment Impacting Hawaii?

Hawaii has long been a popular destination for Japanese tourists, but in recent years, Japanese investors have also been making a significant impact on the Hawaiian economy. T

his article will explore the effects of Japanese investment on Hawaii, including its impact on real estate, the local economy, and cultural implications.

Effects on Real Estate Prices and Availability

Japanese investors have been purchasing a significant amount of real estate in Hawaii, particularly in popular tourist areas such as Waikiki and Maui.

This has led to an increase in real estate prices, making it more difficult for local residents to afford housing.

Additionally, the influx of Japanese investment has reduced the availability of housing for local residents, as many properties are now being used as vacation rentals or second homes.

According to a study conducted by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, Japanese investors owned approximately 3.8% of all privately held land in Hawaii in 2019.

Influence on Local Economy and Jobs

The influx of Japanese investment has had a positive impact on the local economy in Hawaii.

Japanese investors have brought in capital to fund new businesses and development projects, which has created job opportunities for local residents.

For example, Japanese companies have invested in the construction of new hotels and resorts, leading to an increase in tourism and job growth in the hospitality industry.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Japanese visitors accounted for approximately 12% of all visitor arrivals to Hawaii in 2019, contributing significantly to the local economy.

Cultural Implications

Japanese investment in Hawaii has also had cultural implications. The Japanese influence can be seen in various aspects of Hawaiian culture, including food, language, and arts.

Japanese restaurants and shops have become an integral part of the local culinary scene, offering a variety of authentic Japanese cuisine.

Additionally, the Japanese language is widely spoken and taught in schools, reflecting the cultural exchange between Japan and Hawaii.

The presence of Japanese investors has also contributed to the preservation and promotion of traditional Japanese arts and crafts, such as ikebana (flower arrangement) and origami (paper folding).

Is High Japanese Ownership Good or Bad for Hawaii?

Arguments Against So Much Foreign Ownership

There are some concerns raised about the high level of Japanese ownership in Hawaii.

One argument against it is that it may lead to a loss of control over local resources and businesses.

Critics argue that too much foreign ownership could result in decisions being made based on the interests of foreign investors rather than the needs and priorities of the local community.

However, it is important to note that foreign investment can also bring economic benefits and contribute to job creation.

Another concern is the potential for cultural and social impacts. Some worry that a high concentration of Japanese-owned businesses and properties could lead to a homogenization of the local culture and a loss of the unique Hawaiian identity.

However, it is worth mentioning that Hawaii has a long history of multiculturalism and has successfully integrated various cultures and traditions over the years.

Finally, critics argue that such high levels of foreign ownership could drive up housing prices, making it more difficult for local residents to afford housing.

This issue is not specific to Japanese ownership but is a broader concern in areas with high demand for real estate. It is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and the implementation of effective housing policies.

Reasons Why It Could Be Beneficial

On the other hand, there are several reasons why high Japanese ownership in Hawaii could be beneficial for the state.

Firstly, Japanese investors contribute significantly to the local economy through their investment in various sectors such as tourism, real estate, and agriculture.

This investment helps create jobs, stimulates economic growth, and diversifies the economy.

Secondly, Japanese tourists make up a significant portion of Hawaii’s visitor arrivals each year. Their interest in the state’s culture, history, and natural beauty has helped to develop and promote Hawaii as a popular tourist destination.

This influx of tourists brings revenue to the state and supports the local tourism industry.

Furthermore, Japanese investors often bring valuable expertise and technology to Hawaii. They have a long history of successful business practices and can contribute their knowledge and skills to help improve local industries.

This transfer of knowledge can lead to innovation, increased productivity, and improved competitiveness.


In conclusion, Japanese investors today own an estimated 40% of Hawaii’s commercial real estate, especially concentrated on the islands of Oahu and Maui.

While this high level of foreign ownership has spurred debate, Japanese investment has also had benefits like stimulating Hawaii’s economy.

Going forward, policymakers will continue grappling with how to balance outside investment interests with protections for local residents.

Through this deep dive into the history, motivations, and impacts of Japanese real estate purchases in Hawaii, we’ve aimed to provide a comprehensive picture of exactly how much of the state Japanese investors own and what that means for the islands.

Mahalo for joining us on this informative exploration of foreign investment in the Aloha State.

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