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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hokkaido town auctions elementary schools on Net


Staff writer

Now that almost everything is available on the Internet, ranging from hard-to-buy tickets to popular rock concerts to one-night stands on murky Web sites for adult users, it takes something special to grab the attention of jaded Internet users.

But that is just what the town of Niikappu, southern Hokkaido, managed to do when it put four items up for sale recently on Yahoo! Japan's online auction site.

The items in question are four elementary school buildings ranging in price from ¥21.8 million to ¥67.4 million.

Three of the four buildings come with residential properties formerly used by teachers, and three even sport swimming pools.

"Why don't you use the whole of the elementary schools?" reads the sales pitch posted on Japan's largest online auction site.

"We've heard this is the first time such items have been put up for auction on Yahoo! Japan," said Hidenori Tsutsumi, an official at Niikappu's municipal government.

The town closed seven of its nine elementary schools last April due to the shrinking population of children. Since it still cannot find buyers for four of the buildings, the municipality decided to go online.

The town decided to put the buildings up for auction online to advertise them to potential buyers nationwide, Tsutsumi said.

"You don't even need to come to Hokkaido to place a bid," he said over the phone Wednesday.

"We had few inquiries in the past three years as we were looking for buyers through local real estate agencies.

"But now we have received many responses," he added.

But simply logging on to the site and making an offer will not be sufficient to win the bidding, as the town's main purpose is not just to raise revenue, but to help promote the local economy by attracting more people to the area, Tsutsumi said.

The town is therefore asking bidders to submit a utilization plan for the buildings and all applications will be screened, Tsutsumi said.

Applications will be accepted until May 12, and the bids will take place from May 26 through June 2 after the screening process.

The municipal government plans to provide financial assistance to the winning bidder, including subsidies to repair school buildings, town officials said.



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