Whether you are moving to Japan for study or work, you need to be aware that renting an apartment in Japan is a very expensive and time consuming process. In Japan, there are five types of payments you have to make in order to rent an apartment.
Chukai Tesuryo, 仲介手数料 (Agency processing fees):
If you found a place through a real estate agency, you will have to pay the agent processing fee, which is usually equal to one months rent. In America this type of fee is usually paid by the landlord but here in Japan it is paid by the renter.
The value of this fee will depend on the amount of work the realtor actually does for you. If you don’t speak any Japanese, never have rented in Japan before and generally have no clue where to start, this agency fee can be well worth it.
Shikikin, 敷金 (Security deposit):
Similar to what I have to pay in America, the security deposit is usually equal to one or two months rent. You should get most of this back when you move out, depending on how clean you kept the apartment and how picky your landlord is. I’ve heard of some landlords keeping large amounts of the deposit just to “repair” a pin hole in the wall.
One thing to also remember is that you probably won’t get your damage deposit back right away. Usually in Japan the landlord has up to 60 days before they have to send you your deposit.
Reikin, 礼金 (Service fees to the landlord):
This is nothing more than a bribe to the landlord. A carry over from the days when housing was scarce in Japan. Japanese consumers are typically not the type to voice any discontent so this archaic tradition carries on.
Expect to pay one to two months of rent as “gratitude money” to the honorable landlord for allowing you to rent his apartment.
Koshinryo, 更新料 (Contract renewal fee):
This is another archaic fee that continues to linger around. This fee, which is usually equivalent to one months rent is another “gift” to be paid to the landlord at the end of your contract for allowing you the privilege of renewing your contract. Do you feel lucky?
Tetsukekin, 手付け金 (Reservation Fees):
Finally you have to pay the tetsukekin in order to hold the place. The fees would be refunded when you actually sign the lease and move in. This is equivalent to one month’s rent.
As you can see, it is nearly impossible for college students to rent a place without their parents’ help. Renting an apartment isn’t cheap and you need to pay approximately six months worth of rent all up front in order to rent a small studio (one-room) apartment in Tokyo.
My friend in Japan was laid off in her hometown so she moved to Tokyo for more career opportunities. The first thing she needed to do was to find a place. She realized that she couldn’t afford those fees so she looked into renting a room in a guest house.
Guest Houses come in a wide verity of styles and price ranges from private rooms to dorm style housing and since you can also rent this place on a weekly basis so it is very convenient. Japanese rental market is notoriously unfriendly to foreigners but many guest houses encourage foreign tenants to help create an international living space.
Guest Houses come in a wide verity of styles and price ranges from private rooms to dorm style housing. The obvious advantage of living in a “share house” is to meet new people and possibly make friends. The drawback is lack of privacy because you have to share a kitchen and a bathroom with your “house mates”.
Another benefit of living in a guest house is that you don’t have to pay all the same fees that you pay when renting an apartment. This along can save you thousands of dollars. Many will also come with basic furnishing so you don’t have to buy furniture.
Renting in Japan the traditional way is expensive and time consuming. If you’d rather avoid all the hassles and don’t mind shared living conditions, check out the many guest houses on GaijinPot.