Several studies link development to institutions transplanted by European colonizers and here we extend this line of research to Asia. Japan imposed its system of well-defined property rights on some of its Asian colonies. In 1939, Japan began to register private land in its island colonies, an effort that was completed in Palau but interrupted elsewhere by World War II. Within Micronesia, robust economic development followed only in Palau where individual property rights were well defined. We show that well-defined property rights in Korea and Taiwan secured land taxation and enabled farmers to obtain bank loans for irrigation systems. Considering Japanese colonies, we use the presence or absence of a land survey as an instrument to identify the causal impact of new institutions. Our estimates show that property-defining institutions were important for economic development, results that are confirmed when using a similar approach with British Colonies in Asia.