Japan: Land of the Rising Yen

Land of the Rising Yen

If a list of history's most successful land speculators were ever drawn up, first place would probably go to the Dutch settlers who bought Manhattan Island for $24 in trinkets. Second place might go to the Australian government, which paid about $280,000 for almost 1 1/2 acres, including a mansion and gardens, in central Tokyo in 1952.

Last week Australia, which uses the complex for its embassy, sold part of the garden and a smaller, nearby strip to a Japanese-led consortium. The price: $450 million in cash, or about $19,000 a sq. ft. The buyers agreed to build, free of charge,...

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