Find an apartment in Japan as a foreigner. It’s been 5 years since I live in Japan. I never hunt for an apartment. Because when I was a student, I used to live in my university’s dormitory. Then after getting placed in a company I used to live in an apartment provided by my company. But finding an apartment in japan could be a big deal, I never knew. I realized it when I wanted to move from my company’s apartment to get my own – a bigger one. It’s not like my company’s apartment was not spacious. Yes, it was spacious but I had more stuff to put and a separate room for my work etc. I will share my experience and give you some important information and tips that I learned from my experience while I was looking for an apartment in Japan. I hope it will be helpful.
What is the difference between a Mansion (マンション)and an apartment(アパート) ?
If you are new to Japan, you must be aware of this quirky terminology. Mansion is pronounced as “Manshon” in Japan. By Mansion, a lot of people misunderstood and think that it’s a huge, fancy building where a celebrity or a rich person lives. Even I used to think like that and at first, I totally ignored them while hunting an apartment. In Japan, Mansion is just a multi-dwelling building made of steel, reinforced concrete or both (usually three or more floors).
An Apartment, pronounced as “Apaato” in Japan is usually a two or three floor building made of wood. While selecting an apartment, be sure, if that apartment is not too old. Because of the practical challenges on the wooden structure in Japan due to climate conditions. Humidity and rain are the factors that can affect the building if they are not maintained by the owner over the years.
Ways to find an apartment in Japan
There are basically two ways to search an apartment. One way is to reach the 不動産屋 (Fudosan) which is a real estate company. You can see the posters, flyers or advertisement on the notice board in Japan while you are walking around in the city. 不動産(fudosan) is the word that you need to look for. You can search these real estate companies online too. Then all you do is visit these real estate companies and tell them your requirements andthey will find the property for you or help you in the procedures. The other method is searching the apartment by websites. There are number of websites for searching an apartment but most of them are in Japanese. There are foreigner friendly websites too that are made in English and other languages. I will recommend you some foreigner friendly websites in this article.
Tip: These foreigner friendly websites are limited to popular places only. For Example, Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka and so on. So, if you are living in a place which is less populated or less popular. Then you will have to search by websites made in Japanese.
If your Japanese is not good and searching an apartment in Japan via. Website which is completely written in Japanese is kind of difficult right?
But don’t worry there are some tips.
- The one way is to make a Japanese friend. Most of the Japanese are very kind to foreigners, they will help you in your hunt although you need to request them for their time as they are always busy too.
- The other way is to learn some Japanese terms (with kanji) related to real estate. I will tell you some Japanese terms that are used in every Japanese real estate website. Also, I will explain how to see the design or floor plan of the apartment later in this article.
Useful Japanese terms related to Real estate
- yachin (家賃): monthly rent
- reikin (礼金): gift/key money
- keiyaku (契約): contract
- shikikin (敷金): damage deposit
- tetsukekin (手付金): down payment
- chukaiasenryo (仲介斡旋料): realtor’s fee
- kenrikin (権利金) : maintenance fee
- fudosanya (不動産屋): real estate agency
- manshon (マンション): apartment block
- shujin (主人): landlord
- koshinryo (更新料) : renewal fee
Initial Prices and fees for an apartment in Japan
You must consider the following charges or costs of renting an apartment in Japan.
This money is taken in advance to cover any damage in an apartment or any unpaid rent. This amount is refunded completely at the end of your contract if there is no damage to the property. But sometimes they charge a cleaning fee at the end. This amount is generally equal to 1 or 2 months ‘ rent.
This Money is non-refundable. This money is to the landlord to show gratitude. It’s a custom in Japan that started after the post-war war when there was a shortage of housing in urban areas. This amount is generally about two to three month’s rent.
This amount is taken by the agent and by Japanese law, it can’t be charged more than a month’s rent excluding tax.
Maintenance fee is for the maintenance of common area like elevators, stairs, hallways, etc. of your building. This amount is generally 3 to 5 thousand Japanese yen.
First Month’s rent
You need to pay your rent in advance. For Example, if you move in during middle of September, you need to pay rent of October before the end of September.
Documents needed at the time of renting apartment in Japan
There is a lot of document work in Japan. Either you are a student or an employee. Generally, following documents are required:
- Passport and Residence card
This document is required to check your identity. If you are applying from your home country then you will have to submit only scanned passport photograph. And may be residence card copy after your arrival in Japan. Because they also want to confirm your period of stay.
COE or Employment Letter
If you are a Student, then COE (certificate of eligibility) is needed. And if you are coming Japan as an employee, then you will have to send them your employment letter. The reason for the requirement of this document is that they want to confirm your purpose of stay in Japan.
Proof of income documents or savings
Sometimes tenants are not able to pay their rent. Landlords confirm in advance if you will be able to pay the rent in future without any difficulty or not. If you are a student, you can submit the saving details of your parents or your supporter who will be financing you.
your phone number (Japan) and an emergency contact
Real estate agencies ask for your phone number to get in touch with you. They don’t call overseas. So, a Japanese phone number will be asked. You can provide the phone number later. In addition, an emergency contact will be asked. That’s too someone from Japan. For example, contact of your friend, co-worker or manager. It’s recommended that the person should be a Japanese speaker because most of them are not comfortable in English.
A Japanese Bank Account
A bank account is needed for your rent payment. You will have to fill a form and amount of rent will be deducted automatically every month from your bank account.
Problems occur while renting an apartment in Japan
While looking for an apartment in Japan, there are some problems that you need to consider at that time.
- First problem is the huge amount you pay before you even step in to your new apartment. This huge amount include, gratitude money (礼金), security Deposit, Annual maintenance fee, property insurance, real estate company’s commission and of course your monthly rent.
2. Generally, when you enter your new apartment, you will find it completely empty. No Washing machine, stove, curtains, furniture, bed, etc. But yes they provide enough space to place it.
3.In addition, Apartments in Japan come with no utilities or services like electricity, water, gas, internet, etc. so, you need to contact to each company for the corresponding service and make the contract.
Tip: Not even toilet papers are provided, until your water service starts, enter the apartment with some preparation.
- The other problem happens if you are a foreigner. Many property owners or agencies refuse to rent their apartments to foreigners. It is said that, they make problems, delay in payment of apartment rent or sometimes they don’t pay. Sometimes, they allow but ask for a guarantee from someone who is your known person and having Japanese nationality. In such cases, real estate companies help you but they raise their prices because they know that this is the right time to take an advantage.
Useful tips for rent an apartment in Japan
- When you move in to new apartment you must need several things for daily use. That can be anything like fridge, microwave oven or anything. And buying each and everything new can be very expensive when you don’t plan to live in Japan for a long term. Also, transport fee of items and disposal at the time you leave the country is quite expensive. I recommend you a solution for that. On Facebook, there is a page called “Mottainai japan” where people give away things they don’t need. Reason may be it’s the time they want to buy a new one.
- Or they are returning to their home country and they want to get rid of them because it is asked by the owner to empty the apartment. You can get items for free. You will post on the group, the person who comment first will be given priority, then you will have to send them a personal message to claim for the item. When the deal is final they will tell you the address and you have to pick that up. This group is the largest one, but there must be other similar groups too, you can search for it.
- In most of the real estate agencies, there is rule that you can not apply or reserve an apartment until a month before your arrival. For example, I have a plan to arrive in Japan in September. So, I can’t do the application to reserve the apartment in July or earlier. I can only apply in august or September. If you are applying in august, then you will have to pay reservation fee which is refundable. This reservation fee is just to ensure the agent that you don’t change your plan.
- If you are a pet lover and going to keep a pet in future. You need to discuss about this in the beginning. Because pets are not allowed generally.
- The areas near to convenient metro lines, places near stations are expensive. Chose a place which is at a reasonable distance from the station because that will be cheaper. If you are going to use the train to go your school, workplace, etc. You can buy a second hand bicycle to reach station. That will be the best option.
- Chose the apartment as near as possible to your school or workplace such that you can reach there by walk within one hour. That will be cheaper and an alternative in case something happens.
Useful Japanese terms related to apartment floor plan
When you search an apartment by online websites, there are always floor plan photos uploaded along with the inside view of the apartment. Or if you go to a real estate agency. They will also show you floor plans. If its your first time to see floorplan, then there is a possibility that you will be unaware of some abbreviation they use. They are as follows:
- Jo[帖]: Jo means “ Tatami” (Japanese traditional floor mat). Size of the room in Japan is generally measured in Jo[帖]. Size of Tatami mat in centimeters are as follows:
1帖 = 180 x 90 cm (roughly)
4.5帖 = 261 x 261 cm (102 x 102 inches approximately)
6帖 = 261 x 352 cm (102 x 137 inches approximately)
8帖 = 352 x 352 cm (137 x 137 inches approximately)
- Washitsu (和室) : Washitsu is the term used for Japanese style room having floor mats.
- Yoshitsu (洋室) : Yoshitsu is the term used for western style rooms with wooden flooring.
- Genkan (玄関) : Entrance of apartment
- Oshiire (押入) : Japanese style closet
- Shuuno(収納): Storage or closet
- Yokushitsu (浴室) : Bathroom, But sometimes it is written in Katakana basu(バス). Also, another term used for bathroom is ofuro (お風呂).
- Toire(トイレ) : Toilet
- Ima(居間) : Living room
- Senmen (洗面): Washbasin
- Barukony (バルコニー) : Balcony
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