Accommodation in Japan

Updated 2020-04-14 08:35

Many preconceptions about Japan can serve to intimidate expatriates – for example, that accommodation is rare, expensive and difficult to secure, that there is an obligation to have a guarantor, to pay costs not covered by the contract etc. The reality is actually quite different. This handy article will help you on the way to unpacking your bags in your new home in Japan.

Requirements when finding accommodation in Japan

To rent a home in Japan in the long term (more than three months), you must have a valid residence permit. 

The old system - and the most restrictive - is a procedure which requires at almost every step the payment of fees. A real-estate agency can ask a lot of you: 

  • the reikin: the amount paid to the owner as a thank you. Originally thought of as a procedural accelerator, the reikin has instead become an additional constraint. It can reach two to three months of rent and is not reimbursed.
  • the shikin: the deposit. 
  • the shikikin or hoshôkin: the guarantee. This is not obligatory. Note that your guarantor may be a legal or ordinary person, so your company or even a real-estate agency can be a guarantor for you. A one-year warranty costs, on average, a month's rent.
  • chûkai tesûryô: agency fees. These correspond to about a month's rent. 
  • Koshinryo: fees paid to renew your lease. Know that on average, you will get a two-year lease for your apartment in Tokyo. Do not hesitate to negotiate to reduce costs, if you know that you'll be staying for more than two years.
  • Kasai hoken: fire insurance. In practice, you sign this insurance contract at the same time as your lease.

Many of these costs are no longer required by real estate agencies, which have adapted to the changing market and the arrival of foreigners. Agencies also promote their open-mindedness to new and international tenants (they are "gaijin friendly"). Some have English-speaking agents or those who speak other languages. Others happily rent to both Japanese and foreigners. We're talking here about those looking to rent in the long-term, or even the very long-term (several years). Agencies have developed contracts encouraging very long-term rental (with a bonus system and other discounts).

The real estate agency may ask you to provide proof of income: a contract of employment, etc. to ensure your ability to pay your rent.

As noted above, leases generally last two years. There are, however, shorter contracts. Companies renting to foreigners have developed several types of offers to better adapt to demand. For example, it is possible to rent an apartment for as short a time as one month.

Types of accommodation in Japan

In Japan, the most common types of rental are varied: studios, western-style, and Japanese-style apartments. Thanks to the density of its population, especially in big cities like Tokyo, you will find a lot of small housing in Japan. 

In Japan, acronyms are used to describe housing:

  • 1 = 1 room
  • R = room
  • L = living room
  • D = dining room 
  • K = kitchen (Kitchen). 

Consequently, there are apartments of 1R, 3LDK, 4LDK, etc. Prices increase depending on the size and number of rooms.

Traditional Japanese flats are usually composed of at least one room whose floor is entirely made of tatami mats (a traditional Japanese matting used for flooring). Due to the traditional use of tatami in all apartments, the size of the apartment is measured in Jo. Jo is the size of a tatami mat: 1Jo equals about 1.62 m. For example, a room of 7 Jo = 11.34 m.

Property prices in Japan

Prices depend strongly on the area in which you live, the type of accommodation (an old or modern building), and the number of rooms. The more modern and spacious the accommodation, and the closer to the heart of Tokyo, the more expensive it will be. The most expensive districts of the capital are Shinjuku, Shibuya, Minato, Chiyoda and Chuo, with rents exceeding ¥ 270,000 per month (2,280 euros). It is, of course, possible to find cheaper housing, even in these districts. 

The more popular areas, such as Nakano (near Shinjuku) or Iriya (in Taito, near Ueno) offer more competitive rates. In Nakano, one can find an 11m² from 80 000 ¥ per month (about 675 euros), with charges included. Even more competitive, Iriya offers 24m ² from ¥ 100,000 per month (about 840 euros) 

House hunting in Japan

The internet is always the first option when searching for accommodation in Japan. There are a number of websites that will help you search for accommodation. If you speak Japanese, you can simply type "fudousan" (= real estate agency) into your search engine.

 Useful links:

Fontana Tokyo city apartments 
Tokyo stay
Sakura House
Gaijinpot Apartment Listings
Tokyo apartments 
OAK house
Housing Japan
Kansai Housing

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.