Accommodation in Tokyo

housing in Tokyo
Updated 2019-04-01 11:25

Tokyo is without any doubt one of the world's most attractive cities for expatriates. The capital city is beautiful, and the different wards have multiplied their efforts to meet the needs of the inhabitants. Even though the price of rents remains higher in Tokyo than in other areas of Japan, there are other alternatives.

The special wards of Tokyo

Tokyo and its 23 special wards represent the most populated urban area in Japan. Choosing the right borough to live is essential as rent prices vary from simple to triple.

Below is the list of the 23 special wards of Tokyo:

  • Shinjuku-ku
  • Shibuya-ku
  • Nakano-Ku
  • Toshima-Ku
  • Bunkyo-Ku
  • Chiyoda-ku
  • Chuo-ku
  • Minato-ku
  • Koto-Ku
  • Sumida-Ku
  • Taito-Ku
  • Arakawa-Ku
  • Kita-Ku
  • Itabashi-Kku
  • Nerima-Ku
  • Suginami-Ku
  • Setagaya-Ku
  • Meguro-Ku
  • Shinagawa-Ku
  • Ota-Ku
  • Adachi-Ku
  • Katsushika-Kku
  • Edogawa-Ku

Shinjuku, Shibuya, Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato are the most expensive boroughs in Tokyo since they are situated in the heart of Tokyo and more precisely in the business district. These areas are also known for their entertainment options and big shopping facilities. Settling down in these places is a strategic choice: you are at the heart of the economic market. Nevertheless, housing costs remain a significant barrier.

It's best to look at the nearby available and accessible boroughs. Many Japanese people opt for that option for the benefit of a better lifestyle. Researches done in 2018 show that Setagaya is the most populated borough with over 850, 000 residents followed by Nerima ( around 700,000 inhabitants) and Ota (over 650,000 inhabitants), mainly due to their proximity with the core neighbourhoods. Setagaya adjoins Shibuya. Ota situated in the south of Setagaya is close to Minato and Shibuya, and Nerima is not far from Shinjuku.

Another area to consider is that of Toshima (found in the east of Nerima and the area north of Shinjuku). Toshima is known for hosting Ikebukuro which is a well-known region for its trade area. The large Ikebukuro station, one of the busiest in Japan, can boast of the Yamanote - the circular train that covers all of Tokyo's major districts.

In the south-east area of Toshima, Bunkyo is another interesting option to consider. It doesn't have the Yamanote but is close to Shinjuku, Chiyoda and Chuo. Bunkyo is famous for its parks (the famous Kôrakuen park), museums, an amusement park, and a trade area( The Tokyo Dome). Municipal authorities display good communication standards for visitors. For example, their official website has been translated into English to make it more accessible to expatriates.

Another feature to take into account is the transport services. Together with housing, it is an expense not to be overlooked. While many companies cover all or part of the transport costs of their employees, it is better to analyse the costs/benefits before settling down. Living far from the centre is economical, but transport expenditure will be higher.

In Tokyo, you will pay according to the distance travelled and the transport services used. Thus, switching from the train to the metro involves additional costs. Shifting from one transport company to another also generates extra costs.

For example: coming from Saitama via the Tobu train line, stopping at Ikebukuro and taking the Yamanote, getting off at Shinjuku and taking the subway. For this one-way trip, you have used three different companies, The Tobu railways, The East Japan Railway Company (Yamanote), and the Tokyo metro.

In a single day, one can easily spend 1,000 yen (about 8â¬) or more, just for transport services! Cycling can then be an interesting substitute. Tokyo has invested in appropriate infrastructure to make it more accessible to the two-wheelers.

Types of accommodation available in Tokyo

Tokyo has an extensive real estate portfolio, dedicated to both short and long-term rentals.

There are many hotels available in the capital for short stays. In June 2018, regarding Airbnb, the Japanese government had to tighten the rules following complaints from hotels, to rebalance the situation i.e being more restrictive on registration procedures, with more administrative steps to be taken. It is now prohibited to rent more than 180 nights per year cumulatively. Local authorities have been granted permission to further restrict the new legal framework.

In Shinjuku, for example, accommodation can no longer be offered in some geographical regions.

The government's objective is to review and clarify a situation that has been allowing almost everything in the rental business. Some hosts took advantage of the unclear legal situation and offered both short term and long term rentals, thus competing directly with hotels, with fewer administrative constraints. Hygiene and nuisances were also becoming problematic: noise, failure to sort garbage, unsanitary housing, etc. On the eve of the 2020 Olympic Games, the government is showing its determination to sort out these problems.

Another type of accommodation is the guesthouse/sharehouse concept. Tokyo offers a wide range of hostels, for short or long stays. These units can provide private or shared rooms, with common areas like the kitchen and the bathroom.

The choices of apartments are also substantial. You can choose between Japanese or Western-style apartments, studios and houses. Sizes vary between 1R (1 bedroom) to 4LDK (4 bedrooms comprising of living room/dining room/kitchen), etc. Some apartments may be rented furnished, but in most cases, you should be prepared to buy appliances and furniture.

Procedures and the price of housing are the difficulties that expatriates have to put to up with. The following is what awaits you if you choose to go through real estate agency.

Expenses to be paid before acquiring an apartment

Reikin (礼é)

"Rei" means "politeness". "Kin" means "money". The reikin is the amount of money you pay to your landlord. Basically, the reikin was considered as a facilitator to speed up procedures, meaning that you pay the proprietor hoping that the latter will quickly rent his property to you. The reikin can reach a substantial sum of money, two to three months' rent which is not refundable.

Shikin/ Key money (è³é)

The shikin is the deposit that you pay when you move in. It will be given back to you when you leave the accommodation, provided you have kept it in good condition.

Shikikin /Hoshôkin (æ·é/ä¿è¨¼é)

It is the warranty fee, and it is not mandatory.

If you are asked for a guarantor, this person may be a natural or a juridical one. In general, the expatriate's guarantors can be the company where he works for or a specialised agency. Your real estate agency can itself act as a guarantor for you. You will have to pay around one month's rent, for one year's warranty.

Chûkai tesûryô (仲ä»ææ°æ)

Chûkai tesûryô are the agency fees that you pay to the real estate company in charge of your dossier. It usually amounts to one month's rent.

Kôshinryô (æ´æ°æ)

"Kô" means "again, more". The kôshinryô is the amount you pay to renew your lease. Usually, you will get a two-year contract for your apartment in Tokyo. Feel free to negotiate to reduce costs, if you know you will stay for more than two years.

Kasai hoken (ç«ç½ä¿éº)

"Kasai" is the fire. "Hoken", insurance. "Kasai hoken" is therefore fire insurance. In practice, you sign this insurance contract at the same time as your rental contract.

Things to know about renting in Tokyo

You may have to pay additional fees (e.g. lock fees...). Read carefully the real estate agency's advert before calling them.

Real estate agencies now offer homes without reikin, guarantee fees, agency fees, or even fire insurance.

Traditional agencies may still have some assets to rent to foreigners. On the other hand, other agencies have adapted to market demands thus easing the rental process for the expatriates.

In many cases, you will have to pay your expenses (water, electricity, gas...) in addition to your rent.

Good to know:

Agencies managing the sharehouses also offer apartments, which available for both short and long term. Prices are competitive, procedures made easy, and in many cases, you will not have to pay the fees detailed above.

Rent prices in Tokyo

Rental prices in Tokyo depend mainly on their geographical location, the size of the accommodation, the number of rooms available and the length of the stay.

The closer you are to the centre (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Minato, Chiyoda, Chuo), the higher the prices. An average monthly rental fee will be around 270,000¥. There are disparities within the same district meaning you can find an apartment of about 100,000¥ in Shinjuku where the average price lies around 270,000¥.

Comparatively, rent prices for apartments in Nakano (near Shinjuku), start as from 80,000¥/month, with only one room. Agencies have now started offering low-cost accommodation. This entails attractive prices, where rentals are less than 70,000¥/month, excluding charges for small apartments (about 11m², or less) which are suitable for people living alone.

You are advised to call upon a real estate agent, especially in the case of a purchase, or a very long-term rental. With the wide range of accommodation available in Tokyo, the agent will be able to find the most suitable rental that meets your needs and requirements.

Useful links:

Tokyo Best Realtors
Century 21
Hikari Homes
Gaijin pot Apartments

Sharehouses & apartments

Tokyo Sharehouse
OAK house
Tokyo stay

Hotel Rooms



Air BnB

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