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Kobe neighborhood occasionally held hostage by owner of only bridge out

15 Comments
By SoraNews24

Japan can be quite an urban planning nightmare at times. Its serpentine roads that occasionally date back over a thousand years run through densely packed urban areas that underwent especially explosive development during the bubble area.

So, it’s not uncommon to find restaurants one-meter wide and mysterious religious gates whose owners are unknown. And in Kobe, there’s now a problem surrounding a bridge that turns out to be owned by individuals rather than the city.

In September of 2020, a roughly 10-meter bridge spanning a small creek in Kobe was completely barricaded with sandbags, chains, metal tubing, and “DO NOT ENTER” signs. Also posted was a sign made by the bridge’s owner explaining that he did not want to be held responsible for any damage if the bridge fails.

▼ Google Street View shows the bridge before the troubles began.

Screen Shot 2021-03-24 at 10.22.08.png

This was the eighth time such a roadblock was erected and each time the police were called in to mediate. This bridge is the only route connecting about 30 homes to the rest of Kobe, making for an interesting legal dilemma. On one hand, the owner of the bridge can’t infringe on the residents’ right to live, but on the other hand the residents aren’t able to dismantle the owner’s roadblock because it is technically on private property.

As a compromise, the owner had a crude boom gate installed which is intended to allow only a single vehicle to pass through at a time. It seems like he will continue to do this until the residents meet his demands: buy his bridge for 12 million yen or pay a monthly toll of 20,000 yen per car and 5,000 yen per motorbike.

This type of subdivision isn’t uncommon in Japan. Typically the developer will pay for the cost of building a bridge for their properties and then hand it over to the city for free so they can deal with the maintenance. In this case, however, it seems as if the original developer had forgotten to transfer ownership.

Decades passed without incident and everyone just assumed the bridge was in the hands of the city. It wasn’t until April of 2019, when a cracked water main that was attached to the bridge needed repairing, that the city learnt they didn’t own the structure.

By this time the land developer had gone bankrupt and ownership of the tiny stretch of road fell into the hands of an unknown individual. This person then sold the bridge to the current owner for 12 million yen in 2017, and when the city came calling about the broken pipe he presumably thought his investment was finally about to pay off.

However, it would seem that this owner was unaware that bridges are normally given to the city for free and when he was told Kobe refused to buy it from him, he instead tried to pawn it off to the residents who could then give it to the city for free.

▼ The map shows how this bridge is the only way in and out of this community.

Screen Shot 2021-03-24 at 10.24.12.png
© SoraNews24

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15 Comments
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Property values in that neighborhood just took a big hit...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Wow what an interesting dilemma. I can understand how the "owner" of the bridge (parenthesis intentionally included) feels this way but on the other hands the residents should absolutely have right of passage to their property at no cost as it is not their fault they are in this situation.

Not knowing any further historical context it seems that the ultimate responsibility in my opinion would be with the City of Kobe as they allowed (allowing building permits) single family dwellings to be built in a location with only one access bridge.

The City should negotiate a deal to buy the bridge from the current "owner". If there was a structural issue with the bridge repairs could easly be in the high 10's of millions of Yen or even more depending on the issue.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Know the 428 road well but not the bridge. People enjoyed right-of-way for years so he can't charge the residents now. There are many rights-of-way across private lines.

The owner should gift the bridge to the city to avoid the repair and maintenance costs.

The property prices for that area are not so high.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

When I bought a house in Nara in a cul-de-sac, the road was owned equally by the 5 houses located there. I didn't want any part it and asked for a way out, but was told unless all 5 gave up their right to the city I was stuck with it. After I sold, a sink hole appeared in the road, 3 paid to have it repaired and are chasing the other 2 who say they knew nothing about the road being private. I think there's a lot of 'private' ownership that house owners only find out about when a problem arises.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I agree he should gift it to the city, but I also think Kobe City is being pretty cheap here and not offering him any kind of compensation. I think he bought it thinking he could get a much bigger payday, either from the city, or the landowners. He gambled and now he will lose.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

At the start of reading I was thinking " ok it is like where I used to live, a private road and the owners do not want to risk liability" .

But as I kept reading, We realise that this owner bought the bridge only a few years ago and it seems clear his/her plan was to sell it at a profit to the city.

Now that plans failed and he/she realises the city has no intention of paying, they now are trying to extort anyone possible to recover the ¥ 12 million they paid for the bridge.

This was a scam that has now backfired on this person.

I say the city should pass a land appropriation and take it by force as they bought the bridge clearly with malice intent.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I say the city should pass a land appropriation and take it by force as they bought the bridge clearly with malice intent.

There are no compulsory purchase laws in Japan. That's the problem with old disused properties. Like the farmer on the Narita expressway continued to live there for decades before eventually selling his land.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the homeowners would have an easement (called a servitude in the Civil Code) on the bridge which they could legally enforce against the owner. And I hope they do.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This person then sold the bridge to the current owner for 12 million yen in 2017.

Do some research before paying, pal.

It seems like he will continue to do this until the residents meet his demands: buy his bridge for 12 million yen or pay a monthly toll of 20,000 yen per car and 5,000 yen per motorbike.

Good way to build up some serious heat where you live, genius. You might wanna watch your back from now on.

Just cut your losses and give it up to the city already, you backed a loser.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I say the city should pass a land appropriation and take it by force as they bought the bridge clearly with malice intent.

That's not malice intent. It is not malice to want to make money. Imagine if he decided to dismantle his bridge. He would be within his rights.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

That's not malice intent. It is not malice to want to make money. Imagine if he decided to dismantle his bridge. He would be within his rights.

That absolutely is malice intent. If your way of making money is extorting money from your neighbors by preventing them from leaving their homes, you are acting with malice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There definitely was the intention of leverage. Whether that's considered malice or extortion depends on the person.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would simply announce my intention to dismantle my own property. Of course I would entertain any suggestions of the town purchasing my property. Simple course of action would be to simply blockade the bridge.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kobe is Yak central. Is this a Yak scam? Did they do the Suez canal too?

The lower graphic appears to show the wrong area.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's pretty clear that the seller and buyer are both greedy (the seller, to get rid of a bridge that is usually given away for free, and the buyer to have leverage over a group of people who rely on that bridge). However, the buyer really should have down their homework before purchasing it.

Nobody buys the sole entrance and exit to an area out of the benevolence of their heart. No, it's not a crime to want to make money but when it infringes on the basic rights of freedom of movement and livelihoods (if you read the Japanese language articles, the owner could be in trouble for 往来妨害罪 or the obstruction of movement), that's when it crosses the line. If this bridge was only one of many, the owner could do whatever he pleases with it.

I do think the city is being cheap and should offer some compensation but it's very clearly that owner bought this bridge with the sole intention of eventually making money on what is essentially a monopoly on movement.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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