One of the first major challenges that many foreigners face when moving to Japan is finding a place to live. Renting an apartment in Japan is a complicated process filled with all sorts of regulations and procedures, strange acronyms, and more fees than you can possibly imagine.
To help you understand this process, here is a guide for everything you need to know to find your new home in Japan.
How Much Does It Cost?
The first thing that you should do is set a realistic budget.
Most estate agents will set your rental payment at no more than 30% of your monthly income. For example, if you want an apartment listed at ¥100,000/month, you have to prove you make at least ¥300,000/month.
And for anyone who earns their income from outside the country, many rental agencies will only consider the income you earn from within Japan.
Another cost to consider when renting an apartment in Japan is the large number of fees that you will be required to pay when you move in. This amount varies between agents, but you should have up to six months of monthly rent prepared for the total cost of move-in fees.
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.)
Get All Your Paperwork Ready
Japan is a country that loves paperwork. The continued use of the fax machine is evidence of that. So 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 one of the biggest hurdles you’ll have during your apartment search, but it’s an essential part of renting in Japan. 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. The property manager of the apartment you wish to apply for will most likely be able to introduce their preferred guarantor company.
If you do not have a guarantor, then you can use a 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 sure 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 also show that the apartment you want to rent does not exceed 30% of their monthly income.
Learn The Lingo
Now that you have your budget and guarantor sorted out, it’s time to decide what kind of apartment 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.
Other examples include:
- 1K = a one-room apartment with a kitchen
- 1DK = a one-room apartment with a dining and kitchen area
- 2LDK = two-room apartment with a living, dining and kitchen area
It is also important to note that a living or dining room in Japan might not be the same thing it is back home. Typically, the living, dining and kitchen area is one big room. Thus, a 1DK is just a smaller room compared to a 1LDK.
For most people living in the city, be prepared to downsize dramatically.
Apartments in Japan are also notoriously small. Indeed, if you have the budget, you can rent any number of sizes, but for most people living in the city, be prepared to downsize dramatically.
If you are used to measuring a room in inches or centimeters, 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 six 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.
The No Fee UR Apartments
UR Housing, or ‘Urban Renaissance’ is a public company that offers affordable rental housing in Japan 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. The downside is these apartments tend to be older buildings and sometimes located in inconvenient areas.
However, UR apartments offer a substantial saving compared to a regular Japanese real estate company and it’s a great option for anyone on a budget. There are a number of real estate companies that specialize in UR apartments. Their official website can be found here.
An alternative option that’s particularly suited to short-term renters could be a share house.
It’s sort of like a hotel room. they are typically very affordable and even conveniently located. Agents also offer furnished listings in locations all over Japan. However, you are typically only renting a single room in a building with many other people. You will have to share the kitchen and living space, showers and even toilets.
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 many Japanese people’s superstitious nature, jiko bukken properties can usually be rented at a substantial discount. As long as you don’t get easily spooked, a jiko bukken might be a great way to save some money on the rent.
If you or someone you know is on the hunt for an apartment in Japan, be sure to visit GaijinPot Apartments!