Ultimate Guide to Finding Long-Term Apartments in Tokyo

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Leaving your hometown to a new city and adventure is often difficult and daunting. Be it whether you are looking to rent short-stay apartments, long-term apartments in Japan or looking to purchase a property in Tokyo, the whole process can be tricky and time-consuming.

In this guide, you will be able to learn more about what you need when renting an apartment in Japan as well as real estate agencies that you visit. We have also prepared cheat sheets for Japanese Vocabulary for apartment hunting if you need help with conversing in Japanese when hunting for an apartment.

What you need to know for finding long-term apartments in Japan

Japan is one of the countries that is known for its high living costs. Most apartments in Japan do not come with pre-furnished appliances or furniture. Renting a one room apartment in central Tokyo can likely set you back about ¥100,000 to ¥120,000 a month.

There are namely 2 different ways which you can go about apartment hunting. The first method is visiting a real estate company and have them find a property that meets your requirements. The second method is to look for the property online by yourself. Nonetheless, whichever method would still require you to to pay a security deposit or key money, as well as cosign your contract with a guarantor.

More often than not, a tenant screening will likely also take place before signing the leasing contract.

It is important that you decide at the start how much you would like spend on rent so that you do not over exceed your budget. Keep in mind that rental prices in Japan are determined by the location and distance to a train station. This means that the closer the housing is to the train station, the higher the rental you would have to pay. Other factors include the age of your apartment, facility and even nationality.

Why it’s harder to get a long-term apartment in Japan for foreigners

Deliberate or not, you will have a harder time renting a long-term apartment in Japan if you are a foreigner. Some of the problems include:

  • Prejudice and blatant discrimination. A lot of apartment owners and agencies have bad experiences when it comes to allowing foreigners to rent one of their rooms. It could be that they left the country without notice, or it could also be that they got multiple complaints from other tenants. Painting all gaijin with the same brush, don’t be surprised to find housing agents denying you their service.
  • Limited options. Because a lot of owners and companies do not allow foreigners into their properties, you will find more limited options. In fact, some agencies will only show you a portion of their available apartments. It’s also not uncommon to have the rent price levered up.
  • Language barrier. If you go agency-hopping, you’ll begin to notice that some are “testing” your Japanese. This is because Japanese language ability may be a key decider. The process of getting your apartment is long and confusing — contract signing and all — so if they found out that you’re not fluent enough, they might be more hesitant to show you their apartments.
  • Tedious process and screening. Contract signing last as long as one to two weeks. Going back and forth with your agent, preparing the materials and assigning a guarantor are no easy feat.

What do you need to rent an apartment in Japan

In order to rent an apartment, there are a few things you would require. You would need to have either a working or student visa to be able to apply for an apartment in Japan. Make sure that you check through the required documents you would need in finding long-term apartments in Japan. This is to make this process much smoother and less confusing for you. Below are the more common documents that you would require in renting an apartment.

1. Passport & Resdience Card

To apply for an apartment in Japan you need to provide two forms of official identification documents: passport and residence card. You will be asked to provide printed colored documents of both when applying for an apartment.

2. Employment Letter or Certificate of eligibility

Second, you would need either your employment letter or certificate of eligibility that documents your purpose of staying in Japan. The certificate of eligibility is a document issued by the immigration authority certifying that your desired activities meets the qualifications for residency in Japan

3. Certificate of income

You have to provide proof of income to prove that you can pay the rent. The agent will usually ask for the payment slips from the last 3 months of your employment or your yearly income slip or a copy of your latest bank statement.

4. A Guarantor

All foreigners looking to rent an apartment in Japan you will require a guarantor, 保証人 (hoshonin). This guarantor will be responsible for the rent if you can’t make the payments. A guarantor company, 保証人会社 (hoshonin-gaisha) is often the safest and easiest options for individuals moving to Japan without any families or relatives who are Japanese Nationals. The guarantor would need to provide you with:

  • Guarantor’s signature and their seal =  連帯保証人のサインと印鑑 (Rentai hoshōnin no sain to inkan)
  • Certificate of the guarantor’s seal = 連帯保証人の印鑑証明 (Rentai hoshōnin no inkan shōmei) 

Upon leasing an apartment, you would need to submit a tenant application to a real estate agency which will be sent to the property’s management company. You will be asked to provide documents that proof your bank and residence status as well as a Japanese phone number. You will also need an emergency contact person and provide a copy of both sides of your residence card.

Likely cost of renting an apartment in Japan

Once all these have been approved by the property’s management company, you will likely receive a quotation (見積, mitsumori) of the initial cost which will include the fees explained below.

In Japan, in addition to the paying the monthly rental price of the apartment, you have would have to make a few upfront initial payments. These initial payments will come up to around four to six month’s worth of your rental price. For example, if your rent is ¥100,000, then initial costs will be around ¥400,000 to ¥600,000.

  • Security Deposit 敷金 (shikikin)
    • Typically 1 month’s rent.
  • Key money 礼金 (reikin)
    • Upfront fee you pay to the landlord to sign the contract
    • Non refundable.
    • Typically between 1-2 month’s rent.
  • Guarantor fees 保証人費用 (hoshonin hiyo)
    • A fee you pay to a guarantor company to act as your guarantor.
    • Typically around 50%-100% of a month’s rent.
  • Rental agency fees 仲介料 (chūkairyō)
    • Payable to the real estate company by the renter
    • Generally equal to one month’s rent + 10% consumption tax.
  • Contract renewal fees 更新料 (kōshinryō)
    • Payable to landlord two years after the start of a contract at the time of contract renewal that cannot be refunded.
    • Typically 1 month worth rent.

The rental price for an average one-room apartment is between ¥50,000 and ¥70,000 (not including utilities fee). The average cost for utilities for one person is about ¥10,000 a month: ¥4,000 for electricity, ¥3,000 for gas and ¥2,000 for water.

The pricing of rental in Japan of course differs from area to area. For example, prices in Central Tokyo such as Shibuya and Shinjuku are more likely to be higher compared to prices of apartments in the outskirts of Tokyo.

You might want to check these areas out for budget-friendly apartments for lease in the outskirts of Tokyo :

Foreign-friendly real estate services in Japan

Before visiting these sites or property estate agents, it would be good to create a checklist of your requirements for the apartment you are looking for. Here is some basic things you can check for when apartment hunting:

  • Is the apartment pet-friendly?
  • What is the proximity to the train station?
  • Where is the nearest supermarket?
  • What is the room layout?
  • What is the size of the apartment?
  • How old is the building?
  • What amenities are there at the apartment?
  • What is the proximity to the city center?

There are many real estate agencies, or fudosan-ya (不動産屋) all over Japan. These agencies acts as an intermediary between you and the property owner. Thankfully, in Tokyo, there are plenty foreign-friendly real estate companies, with English-speaking staff ready on call.

Simply walk out of the train station and within 100m, you will likely spot estate agent. However, if you are looking to rent in Tokyo while still being overseas, here are some online sites that you can use to look for an apartment in Japan.

Nonetheless, do remember that since you are overseas, you might not get the chance to view the actual place that you are renting till you actually get to Japan. Hence, it would be good to clarify any doubts you have with the agents to best help you decide.

1. GaijinPot Housing Service

Specifically for foreigners looking to rent apartments in Tokyo, Gaijinpot is a real estate service that specializes in this. They offer you the opportunity to apply to lease a house from overseas with no need for a guarantor. Inclusive of a bilingual support system, Gaijinpot has over 1,200 properties listed on their site for your choosing.

2. Real Estate Japan

Real Estate Japan offer their its service in seven different language and is specially catered to foreigners. Their top six locations for rent are Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. You are able to view, apply, and sign the contract online from anywhere in the world!

3. Tokyo Apartments

Tokyo Apartments offer a wide selection of apartment choices accompanied with alternative furniture rental as well for those interested in rental instead of purchasing new furniture.

4. Suumo

Suumo is one of the largest apartments hunting sites in Japan with its only downturn being in fully Japanese. This means you would need to be fluent in Japanese to be able to navigate the site. Their prices are more competitive that at agencies that serve clients in English since they communicate directly in Japanese.

5. Housing Japan

Housing Japan is the leading property market in Japan. With over 20 years in service, Housing Japan provides information in all kinds of housing for both sale and rent options.

Typical apartment sizes in Japan

If you are expecting large size apartments even for a 1 room studio, then be prepared to pay a premium. Even so, you will not be able to get the same size apartments as you would get in Europe or America for a similar amount. Apartments in Japan typically run small and are costly.

When you look at the floor plan for a Japanese apartment, there are some common terms that you would usually see. For example, it is very to common to see  “1DK” or “2LDK”.  “1DK” refers to an area that has one bedroom, a kitchen and dining room.

  • L — Living room
  • D — Dining room
  • K — Kitchen
  • S — Storage
  • R — Room

The average size of apartments in Tokyo varies based on the number of rooms and also type of apartment. Common apartment sizes are 60 sqm for a 2-bedroom and 80 sqm for a 3-bedroom for public housing in Japan. Private housing in Japan are larger between 100-200 sqm for a 3-4 bedroom property.

Other long-term options In Japan for foreigners

Jiko Bukken

Jiko bukken  (事故物件), is property which the former occupant of the property had died of unnatural cause. This can be suicide, murder or fire. Jiko bukken properties have cheaper prices as compared to other apartments in Japan. You would usually be able to get a discount of about 20% to 30%.

Should you be interested, you can simple tell the property agent that you are specifically looking to rent a ‘jiko bukken’. When you are looking for an apartment, the real estate agent has the legal obligation to inform you of any known unnatural deaths that occurred in the property. The details of the accident will also be explained in the “Important Details and Particulars” document that is signed at the time of contract.

However, do ensure that you comfortable with the idea of ‘jiko bukken’ before you looking into renting or purchasing the property. Do also ensure that these properties would have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before its listing on property sites.

You check out real estate companies like Jobutsu Estate that specialize in the sale and rental of jiko bukken, if you interested in looking for a cheaper and more affordable place of living in Japan.

Share House

Share houses offer convenience, affordability and flexibility. They allow different types of people to share one big apartment or living space. This is where you rent your own room and share common areas such as bathrooms, toilets, lounge and kitchen. This gives you the opportunity to have a private living area in your own room while still having a chance to interact with different people. There are different types of shared houses available in Japan.

  1. Single room.
  2. Shared room. Usually rented out to two or more tenants in one room.
  3. Semi-private room. Shared by multiple people where each bed is separated by a curtain or a divider.
  4. Dormitory. Bunk beds that can accommodate several people.

The pricing of each room greatly depends on factors such as location, proximity to a train station, available amenities and household services. The market for shared houses have been constantly growing with more and more foreigners in Japan due its convenience and affordability.

Check out Tokyo Share House for popular shared houses for rent in Tokyo.

Guest Houses

Known as “gaijin houses”, guest house in Japan is an inexpensive accommodation option for foreigners. It’s suitable for foreigners looking to stay in Japan long term but do not intent to purchase furnishing or spent too much on rental. Guesthouses are convenient because they do not require a guarantor to rent nor pay as many initial fees as renting a convectional apartment. There are guesthouses that offer weekly contract as well.

Guesthouses often come as either shared or private apartments with a Japanese or Western styled room. Monthly rent for a shared apartment in Tokyo ranges between ¥40,000 and ¥100,000 per person and month while a private apartment is priced around ¥100,000.

The largest and most popular gaijin house in Tokyo is Sakura House. They have all over central Tokyo and offer services in 10 different languages for foreigners.

Useful words and phrases for finding long-term apartments in Japan

シェアハウスsheahausuShared House
不動産会社fudousangaishaReal Estate Company
不動産屋fudousanyaReal Estate Agent
大家さんooya sanLandlord
和室washitsuJapanese-Styled Room
洋室youshitsuWestern-Styled Room
リビングribinguLiving Room
アパートを探していますApaato wo sagashite imasuI am looking for an apartment
渋谷駅の近くで月八万円から十万円までのアパートを探しています…Shibuya eki no chikaku de tsuki hachi man-en kara juu man-en made no apaato wo sagashite imasuI am looking for an apartment near Shibuya Station from 80,000 yen to 100,000 yen per month
ペットを飼ってもいいですか?Petto wo katte mo ii desu ka?Are pets allowed?
家賃はいくらですか?Yachin wa Ikura desu kaHow much is the rent?
いつから入居可能ですか?Itsu kara nyūkyo kanō desu ka? When can I move in?
礼金、敷金はいくらですか?Reikin, shikikin wa ikura desu ka?How much is the deposits?
収納スペースは、どれくらいありますか?Shūnō supēsu wa, dore kurai arimasu ka?How much storage space is available?
駅からどのくらいかかりますか。Eki kara donokurai kakarimasukaHow far from the station is it?
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