If you’re going to be living in Japan long-term, and living in a sharehouse just isn’t your style, don’t fret. There are still plenty of options available to you — though, it might actually be a good idea to stay in a sharehouse while you get settled during your first month(s) in Japan. If you really want to move into your own apartment, this will let you see the options in person and not worry about having a place to live while you do so. In any case, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for an apartment in Japan:
One of the most difficult (and honestly rather unfortunate) things about finding housing in Japan is the lack of availability for foreign residents of the country. Much more can and should be done about this issue, but for the time being, there are thankfully a growing number of real estate agencies that are able to help! A couple of examples are:
(Please note that these are third-party websites. SJIP is not responsible for nor affiliated with the information on these sites.)
When finding an apartment in Japan, don’t be surprised by the deposits and key money that often must be paid upon signing a contract. These typically amount to 1 month of rent each, so in many cases, you may be paying 3x the first month of rent. Only the deposit will be returned, and usually only in part. That said, many agencies (such as those mentioned above) actually allow you to filter out options based on whether they require these up-front charges, showing only the vacancies with low up-front costs.
In order to protect themselves from a tenant’s inability to pay rent, some landlords require the use of a guarantor; essentially a backup that they can rely on to pay your rent in case you aren’t able to. Many agencies have relationships with guarantor companies with which you may register. (Alternatively, if you have a parent or close relative in Japan earning more than 300% of your expected rent per month, you can use them instead.) Guarantor companies usually charge 50%+ of rent up-front, plus a ¥10,000 per year fee. Again, depending on the landlord, you may be required to purchase the equivalent of renter’s insurance in addition to this.
On top of all the above fees, you’ll usually have to also pay a monthly fee for regular upkeep and maintenance of the building. These, along with all the other fees, are typically included in the postings for each vacancy, to keep the upfront costs as transparent as possible.
Of course, don’t forget your electricity, gas, water, and other utility bills! Your agent will help you find which particular company you will need to contact to set up your address.
When looking through postings online, you’ll see combinations of numbers and letters, such as 1K, 3LDK, 2DK, etc., used to describe each particular unit. These combinations refer to:
- The number of bedrooms
- Living room (separate)
- Dining room (separate)
- Kitchen (separate)
Additionally, apartment sizes will be listed in either meters squared (straightforward enough), or 帖 (the size of one tatami mat). 1 帖 is roughly 1.62 m², so a room 5 帖 in size would be approximately 8.1 m².
As you’ve figured out by now, renting an apartment in Japan can be expensive. However, by being prepared with the right information, using the right tools to find the better-priced options, and by having some savings ready, you should hopefully be able to find a housing situation that will work for you!