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Housing in Japan: Apartment or Share House?

LIfe of the party or partyf or one?

By 4 min read 6

It’s almost that time of the year. Although we still have two months of winter left, spring will be here before you know it. The end of the public school and fiscal years in Japan. A time of transition, new jobs, and for many new apartments.

I am currently on the look out for new work opportunities away from my current location, while simultaneously searching for possible places to live. Yet I still haven’t decided if I want to live in a share house (also known as a guest house) or an apartment. I’ve been in both types of living situations in Japan, and enjoyed the experiences.

Some of my friends swear by the affordability and convenience of share houses; others say an apartment is the best way to go. Maybe writing this article might help me—and those of you also searching for housing—decide on what’s best.

Pros of Share House Living


Moving in Japan is particularly difficult because of all the upfront fees. For my current apartment, I paid the equivalent of three months rent to acquire the space before even moving in. For most share houses, all that’s required is a down payment to the first months rent, and I could very well move in the next day.

In addition to cheap upfront costs, rent for share houses is all around cheaper than rent for apartments in the same neighborhood. Utilities are also often included with the rent (as in the rent doesn’t fluctuate with utility use). To put things in perspective, I pay about the same for my nice apartment in the southern Ibaraki countryside as I paid for my share house when I lived in Tokyo a few years ago. And I’m not talking about the western area far away from the city’s center.


Most share houses are fully furnished with a bed, desk, and a closet or drawer for clothing. The kitchen, showers, and living area are usually shared. With all of these things readily available, moving in is as simple as opening the door to your room.

Cons of Share House Living

Less Privacy

If you like to sing in the shower like me, you might end up becoming the house annoyance. In a communal living space you have to be more aware that you share the space with others. Likewise, you can’t choose your housemates. Everyone has their own lifestyles; everyone is on different schedules. Clashing is possible.

Less Space

Space is already at premium in Japan. Share house rooms are generally smaller than one room or 1K apartments. This is probably because the kitchen and shower are in separate areas though. Still this is something to consider if you are moving with a lot of things (e.g. musicians).

Pros of Apartment Living

Wide Selection

Apartments are literally everywhere. While riding on various train lines in Tokyo, one can see high rises scattered in the distance. So if you are set on living in a particular area, it’ll be much easier to find an apartment than a share house.

Also, since there is such a wide selection, provided you search hard enough, you could find something affordable in a not so affordable area. You got to be persistent, but I know friends who have done it.


This in my opinion is the biggest benefit of having your own space. You can wake up and not have to worry about someone already using the stove to make breakfast. You can wash clothes on your time, not when your housemates decide to take their clothes out of the washer. And you can sing in the shower; free of embarrassment.

Cons of Apartment Living

Upfront Costs

Although this is slightly changing in the real estate scene for foreigners, there are some fees that need to be paid prior to moving into an apartment. Paying these fees—like key money, first months rent, cleaning fee, etc.—may seem to be a bit exorbitant for a foreigner renting in Japan for the first time, but it’s just how things are over here.


I say this for most apartments. You can find apartments some well furnished apartments, but the rent is often higher for these places. I put this on the list because I’m sure it is probably on the minds of short-term residents. No point in dropping a couple man in Ikea if you won’t be in Japan for a few years or more, right?

These are the pros and cons of the two most common living situations for expats in Japan. Of course there are always a few outliers and exceptions in the bunch. So if you’re looking for something very specific, keep looking. You might just find it.

To start your search head over to GaijinPot Apartments for a wide selection of affordable apartments and guest houses. If you’re worried about the langauge barrier check out the Bilingual Brokerage Assistance service.

Happy Hunting!


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  • Patrick Harnett says:

    Note that some of the sharehouse companies also have apartments. The upfront costs are minimal and move-in very easy. Plus my apartment also has utilities included and semi-furnished so I have bed/sofa/washing machine/fridge and most important, AIR CONDITIONING.

  • Mark James Hill says:

    If your older than 35 youll wont find the best share houses. Not sure why they practice ageism i japan and why it is acceptable in the housing market. I get what they are trying to do but really?

  • Paranut Nut says:

    Like the article. Thank you. Share-house was new for me when i first came to Japan and of course as a non-Japanese speaker. I am now living in a sharehouse as well , the second one actually. I currently living in an all women sharehouse run by Tulip Real Estate and I am very happy with the house and service. I totally agree that living in share house is very helpful when you first move in and do not speak the language. It makes it easier for both living in Japan and being away from home. Not only the English speaking support but also its the best way to learn the culture by living with the local. If you choose the right house and right company. Like I said this is my second sharehouse the first one was ended up a lesson. It was a share house run by a company only for paper sake, in truth its run by a guy who rent the floor and turned it into a share house and manged it very poorly. I got it via airbnb and there was also ads on craiglist but the real place and the pictures on the web was much different. He kept changing the rule and charges for more insensible things. Most of the resident got in there via Airbnb and we were shocked when we saw what we paid for but nothing we can do but accepted it as we did not have time to look for the new place as well as money. The washing machine was at first free then 200 JPY/time then 300 JPY/time in 1 month span. People recommended us to sue and get the money back but who would ? It would not worth all the time to be waste and the fee for lawyer and such especially when you cant even speak the language. My recommendation is not to go for the price only. Please check out if they at least have website and how many houses they run.

    If you dont have budget, I recommend to choose a reasonable dorm or cheap private room that run by reliable company. Normally they have wide rage of prices depend on the location and how old the house is. The one I stay is 28000 JPY/month rent dorm, cheapest among the rooms and houses the company runs (ranged from 28000 to 85,000 JPY) but you receive the standardized support and management from the same company and management staff.

    • Tiar Salah Eddine says:

      Your comment helped me a lot, thank you.
      Now I can have a clearer idea about how to search for an apato or mansion, some practices are being done here in Algeria as well.

  • Flipflop says:

    Personally I really recommend staying in a share house when you first arrive in Tokyo. Easy to meet new people, don’t have to worry about electricity bills etc, and these days you can live in some really spectacular share houses for a relatively affordable price. Companies like Oakhouse have huge hotel-like share houses with indoor Japanese baths, music rooms and all kinds of things. I stayed in one of those houses for about half a year and then moved on to my own apartment and I can really recommend it!

  • David Joiny says:

    Interestgi article that takes me back a long time to my first year in Japan. Thankfully I recognized the perils of living with other big ego foreigners very quickly! (Finger in my direction too)

    Now I’m lucky to live in a beautiful big modern apartment, with an efficient rack-style carpark. Never going back… Great article thanks.

    Oh and some advice, if you are genuinely happy at home, in nice surroundings, it’s not a waste of money to pay 100 000 for rent. You go out less, party less cos you just wanna relax at home..It saves you money to have a living space you are happy in.



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