Bloomberg Businessweek

Japan’s Priests Turn to Property Development

Many shrines are in bustling city locations

• Shrines are costly to maintain, and they occupy prime land

• “They need side businesses to make ends meet”

Shinto elders at the centuries-old Unesco World Heritage Site of Shimogamo Shrine upset some neighbors when they bulldozed a swath of old Kyoto forest to build an apartment complex with units selling for more than $2 million apiece. “They should call it the Shimogamo Corporation,” says one angry parishioner, Akira Hitomi.

Skepticism of religion is common enough in Japan that there’s a saying, “If you want to get rich, become

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