GROWING numbers of Japanese investors are off-loading their portfolios of Hong Kong investment property with no indication that they will return to the market as significant buyers in the future. Although the trend of Japanese investors divesting their Hong Kong property holdings was at least two years old, disposals had increased since the commercial market peaked in April this year, agents said. Nomura recently sold the top four floors in the Far East Finance Tower in Admiralty, Yaohan two floors in the Convention and Exhibition Centre and Kawake the Somerset residential block in Discovery Bay. ''Particularly as sellers of strata-title floors, Japanese investors have taken profit as the market came off the peak. And you can't call them fools for doing that,'' said Chris Marriott, a partner at Brooke Hillier Parker. Since the collapse of property and share values in their home country, Japanese investors have been forced to repatriate capital to their domestic market to cover losses. That trend remained the primary reason for Japanese investors liquidating their Hong Kong investments, said Kinko McCaffery of Vigers. ''The only business we are doing with Japanese investors involves them selling their portfolios. I think the days of the Japanese investor in Hong Kong are long gone,'' she said. The rental market was no different. ''Very often we show properties to Japanese clients thinking of setting up in Hong Kong but more and more they just consider it too expensive and choose to go somewhere else.'' Typically, investors were selling office floors and in many cases entire residential blocks, she said. Tony Darwell, head of research at Jones Lang Wootton, estimated that transactions by Japanese sellers had if anything been slightly less during the first half of 1994 than the corresponding period in 1993. But he said the overall level of market activity had been far lower this year, making a trend difficult to detect. It was important to realise the difference between pure investment capital and corporations selling their buildings for operational reasons, said Hiroko Burn of Colliers Jardine. Some of the most recent transactions were the consequence of corporate decisions to move office rather than investment capital being cashed in, she said. While financing troubles back in Japan continued to dictate investment decisions in Hong Kong, political risk was a factor influencing the decisions of Japanese investors in the run-up to the 1997 handover, she said. ''There is huge uncertainty in the remaining years before 1997 and only after the handover will Japanese investors be prepared to take a second look. Some people say the Japanese will be back but I don't think that is so,'' she said. Many Japanese investors had bought in Hong Kong during a time when easy bank financing allowed them to make large overseas purchases using as little as five per cent equity, said Ms McCaffery. Japanese investors' appetite for property investment had not disappeared and there was an increasing trend of money being directed into China. The most popular destinations were Shanghai and Dalian, with the most speculative regions, such as Guangdong province, being avoided, she said.