One of the first major challenges that many foreigners face when moving to Japan is finding a place to live. Renting an apartment in Tokyo is a complicated process filled with all sorts of regulations and procedures, strange acronyms, and more fees than you can possibly imagine.
To help us understand this process we are joined by Adam German from Real Estate Japan, who is going to guide us through the necessary steps of securing your new home in Japan.
How Much Does It Cost To Live In Tokyo?
One of the first things that Adam recommends is setting a realistic budget. Many real estate agents will set your rental payment at no more than 30% of your monthly income.
For example, if you want an apartment that is listed at ¥100,000/month then you have to prove you make at least ¥300,000/month.
An important note for anyone who earns their income from outside of Japan, many rental agencies will only consider the income you earn from within Japan.
Another cost to consider when renting an apartment in Tokyo is the large number of fees that you will be required to pay. This amount varies between agents but you should allot up to 6 months of monthly rent for various administrative fees.
Get All Your Paperwork Ready
Japan is a country that loves paperwork, the continued use of the fax machine is evidence of that. As we discussed in the podcast, the better you are prepared with your paperwork the faster the application process will go.
Some of the documents that you will need are:
- Copies of your passport
- Copies of your residence card (住民票 – Juminhyo)
- Letter of employment with salary information (在籍証明書 – zaisekishomeisho)
- Your Japanese tax documents (源泉徴収表 – gensenchoshuhyo)
Do You Have A Guarantor?
Having a guarantor is a very important part of Japanese culture and be prepared to hear this question A LOT, even if you’ve only been in Japan for a few days and do not know anyone. Most Japanese who need a guarantor will turn to their parents as the guarantor must be Japanese and living in Japan.
If you do not have a guarantor then you can use a guarantor company. A guarantor company is a third party insurance company that agrees to act as a guarantor. Most likely the property manager of the apartment you wish to apply for will be able to introduce their preferred guarantor company.
If you do happen to have a Japanese guarantor, they will have to prepare the following documents:
Proof of residence (住民票 – jyuminhyo)
Income statement (源泉徴収表 – gensenchuhyo)
Name stamp (印鑑証明書 – inkanshomeisho)
Be certain to give your guarantor plenty of time to get these documents ready as they will have to go to their local government office to obtain them.
Please note that your guarantor will be evaluated the same way you will be. They must show that the rent of the apartment you want to rent does not exceed 30% of their monthly income.
Learn The Lingo
So now that you have your budget and guarantor sorted out, it’s time to decide what kind of apartment do you want.
LDK is a common abbreviation used to describe the size of the apartment. It stands for Living, Dining and Kitchen, and is preceded by the number of rooms. Some examples are:
1K = one room apartment with kitchen
1DK = one room apartment with dining and kitchen area
2LDK = two room apartment with a living, dining and kitchen area
It is important to note that what some would consider as a living or dining room is not the same in Japan. Typically the living, dining, kitchen area is one big room. So a 1DK is just a smaller room compared to a 1LDK.
It is no secret that many apartments in Tokyo are small. Certainly if you have the budget there are any number of sizes that you can rent but for most people new to Tokyo, be prepared to downsize dramatically.
If you are used to measuring a room in inches or centimetres, you will need to learn another unit of measurement called jo (畳). Jo is a unit of measurement based on how many tatami mats can fit in a single room.
For example, a “roku-jo” room is one that has 6 tatami mats in it. The exact size of a single tatami mat (ichi-jo) can vary from city to city so it’s best to ask your real estate agent for the exact size.
Fees, Fees And More Fees!
The large number of fees associated with moving into your new apartment can be a big sticker shock for first time renters.
Some of the more common fees are:
Deposit: 2 x rent
Key Money: 1 ~ 2 x rent
Agent Fee: 1 x rent
Guarantor Fee: 1 x rent
Contract Renewal Fee: 1 x rent
Miscellaneous: ¥50,000 (insurance, cleaning, lock change, etc.)
On average you should budget to spend approximately six months equivalent rent in fees when you sign the rental agreement.
The No Fee UR Apartments
UR Housing, or ‘Urban Renaissance’ is a public company that offers rental housing in Tokyo without many of the usual fees associated with a traditional Japanese real estate firm.
UR housing charges no key money, agent fee, renewal fee and doesn’t require a guarantor. Additionally, they will rent out their apartments to anyone regardless of nationality.
As you can see the UR apartments offer a substantial saving compared to a regular Japanese real estate company. There are a number of real estate companies that specialize in UR apartments. Their main website can be found here.
Serviced & Monthly Apartments with MetroResidences
An alternative option that’s particularly suited to short-term renters could be a serviced apartment — a cross between a hotel room with all of the services that you would normally expect (like cleaning, linen change, maintenance and a concierge) and your own private pad. MetroResidences offer plenty of furnished listings in central locations across the city. You can also opt for a non-serviced rental of the same apartment (i.e. without the weekly housekeeping) which are more affordable.
Contracts are from 1 to 12 months and only require a passport and 1 month’s deposit fee (returned within 14 days) — you won’t need a guarantor. All other fees are included within the rent. MetroResidence’s multilingual support also takes away any head-scratching over those pesky Japanese apartment terms.
Jiko Bukken. Ghosts stay free!
For those of you who are not superstitious then a ‘jiko bukken’ property might be perfect for you. A jiko bukken is a property where the former occupant died of unnatural causes, such as suicide, murder, fire or neglect.
By law all real estate agents must tell you that you are viewing a jiko bukken property.
Due to the superstitious nature of many Japanese people, jiko bukken properties can usually be rented at a substantial discount. As long as you don’t mind the occasional strange noise in the night, a jiko bukken might be a great way to save some money on the rent.
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Wanderlust is a travel website with a manga twist. Author Alex Mamo writes and illustrates her daily life and travels in Japan.