GPod 12: How To Rent An Apartment In Tokyo

One of the first major challenges that many foreigners face when moving to Japan is renting an apartment. 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.

By 6 min read

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.

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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.

  • Shirokuma says:

    Many of the UR apartments now allow friends to rent together, making it possible, for example, for two men to rent without having to document a relationship.

  • Thibault B. says:

    Hello Mister Gaijin 😉

    I’m looking for foreigner-friendly apartment rental in Tokyo, and here is a company that i know through Facebook : Oak House:

    I heard lots of good feedbacks about their tokyo apartments for foreigners but did someone try it before?


  • Ayako says:

    I work in real estate in Tokyo.
    Just in case there are any other LGBT people interested in this information; Anthony is absolutely right on this one. To add further explanation, if you are married/in a civil partnership overseas and you can prove it, you shouldn’t have any problems. (If you do, I strongly suggest you look elsewhere) However, if you don’t have any documentation on your relationship, it might be difficult to convince the landlord to let you share an apartment, regardless of whether you are a hetero or homosexual couple.

    This is why foreign gay couples can find an apartment while Japanese couples cannot; we have no means of proving our relationship, at least outside of Shibuya and Setagaya-ku…

  • ParticularIndividual says:

    Useful information. As a 15-year resident though, I think it would be more accurate to call the 6-months-rent in fees the high end, not the average. Guarantor is usually only half month, and key money is often only one month and sometumes zero. I think three or four months is a more accurate average, and you can go as low as 1 or 2 months. 6 months happens not infrequently, but its not average.

  • Ricki says:

    Hi Anthony, What about for gay people living in Tokyo and renting an apartment ?

    • Anthony Joh says:

      Sorry I have no idea about this. My guess is it shouldn’t be a huge problem. I think landlords are more concerned that you’re a foreigner than if you’re gay or not.

  • BeastmanAIDS says:

    Another thing i’ve noticed: If you are shifting apartments then be prepared to pay quite a bit of rent overlap. Agencies generally require one month notice of vacating a property while new landlords will often want you to move in within 2 weeks of application or earlier.
    This means you may have to hand in your notice without having secured a new apartment – otherwise you may end up stuck paying 2 weeks rent on two apartments at once.

  • Calcifer says:

    How about some rental agencies? I only know Able エイブル and Mini Mini…

    • BeastmanAIDS says:

      I’ve dealt with TokyoRent and AghartA in Tokyo – both have gaijin friendly services.
      Agharta also has access to the apartment database that all companies use however be prepared for 70% of landlords to deny your application if you aren’t Japanese. 90% if you’re also in an unmarried relationship.

  • Literally No-One says:

    As far as the costs go, if you speak some Japanese and depending on the area you’re looking at (Nakano and Sugamo for ex.) it doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. I’ve been living in Nakano-ku for over 3 years and only payed 3 months rent up front (current, 1 deposit and 1 for the realtor company), plus my place is pretty big in Tokyo standards and also considered cheap. AND I was a picky customer with specific room sizes and building age in mind that I wouldn’t budge from.

  • karize says:

    about the proof of employment , cant it be just sponsorship?

  • Sam says:

    Hi Anthony – Thanks for sharing this information. I am coming to Tokyo for a month spanning across New Years to work in a restaurant, roughly 12/20-1/20. Do you have any tips as to how to find a place to rent? Many thanks!

    • Gracey-oh says:

      If it’s going to be a month’s stay, you might want to stay in one of the share houses. The popular ones are the Sakura House and OakHouse(I haven’t tried living here though). The Sakura House seems pretty decent. Their rates are inclusive of rent, utilities, internet and cleaning service.

      • expathousingShanghai says:

        Stayed in a Share house in Sakura a few years ago on an ill fated bid to take over Tokyo was great and met the nicest people, oh the Tokyo memories and salarymen 😀

  • PH says:

    I have a couple of questions about bringing things to Tokyo. Seeing how I am likely to get a 250-300 sq ft apartment, is there any point in bringing my guitar and snowboard there? I figure the noise of an acoustic guitar and me singing my heart out won’t please the neighbours. Also, for the snowboard, it will likely take up a precious 2% of my apartment square footage. And on that note, what’s the average price to rent the gear at a nearby hill? Is there a nearby hill to Tokyo? I have pretty much answered my own questions here but it would help to get the word from boots on the ground.

  • Gerald says:

    Loving the podcast Anthony! Thank you.
    Was wondering what your opinion is with Sakura House? They offer private apartments and require no guarantor, key money or agent fees. Sounds like a easier alternative to me. Or is there a catch? Thanks!

    • Anthony Joh says:

      I like Sakura House. If this is your first time living in Japan they are a great resource for help and information. Also you will save a lot not having to pay all the fees that other real estate companies require.

      I know they have some big renovation plans for this year which we plan to highlight so stay tuned to GaijinPot for that.

  • Jonny says:

    Thanks for all the advice in the podcast! I found a site off of Adams site called ABhousing Osaka. Like Barry I have a WHV so I will have no proof of a salary so I’m going to email these guys and see if they can accept a foreign bank account initially.

    • Anthony Joh says:

      I asked Adam about this and he suggested a shared house which offers short term accommodation. Then once you have a job you can look at renting your own apartment.

  • Barry says:

    So is it impossible to rent an apartment without proving that you have a salary? I’m planning on coming over on a working holiday visa and living off my savings while I find a job, but if anyone asks what my salary is, all I have to show for myself is a large pile of money.

    • Anthony Joh says:

      Hi Barry I was in the same situation as you when I first came here. I was surprised at how many real estate agencies wouldn’t rent to me because I didn’t have a job, even though I had enough in savings.

      The real estate agencies are very by-the-book type of businesses and so any deviation from their regular procedures is looked at as a huge risk.

      I did find a one real estate company that was willing to show me properties after I showed them copies of my bank statements. Even then they grumbled that my money wasn’t in a Japanese bank. I had been in Japan a whole 3 days at that point.

      In the end I ended up renting from a company called Tokyo Rent. They are a foreigner friendly agency that doesn’t require as much paperwork as the typical Japanese real estate company.

      You may also want to consider a short term rental until you can get yourself set up here. Check out the sponsor of this week’s show, Ichii corp. They are pretty good with being flexible when working with foreigners.

      Good luck!



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