Feb 7, 2014

Apartment hunting in Japan

So I have started hunting for an apartment the last few weeks. The end of language hell school I will be moving. I currently live where I live because it is close to school, I don't have to pay much for the train.

So I am moving to a nicer place, bigger place, more green and less full of business men in suits place. FINALLY a place with a friggen grocery store.

Note to you:  Living in the center of a business district = you will be eating at either a restaurant or a convince store the whole time. Good luck on your search for a super market.

Anyways. When you look for an apartment in Japan there are two ways. If you don't speak Japanese, I can't help you on that one. I have no idea about searching as a non speaker, I just know usually you will find sites linked to share houses, dorms, crappy, or home stay type often over priced stuff.

If you can speak Japanese you have two options, internet or go to the store. If you chose option internet, you still have to end up going into the store.

What store? You might be asking if you come from a country like Canada.

In Japan, landlords DON'T rent to you directly. They hire agents, called FUDOUSAN (不動産). It is like a real estate agent, but not just for houses, for both renting, buying a house or apartment.

Now I like to search for things on the internet because you can click options. Like the price range, size, if you want more than one toilet, if you don't want a place that is 100 years old etc. You limit your searches and then you can see pictures, a map layout and information all nearly written about this room. So good!

The thing you search for these things on is a KENSAKU SAITO 検索サイト (sometimes, the companies are NOT a fudousan but just a search site)

AT HOME, apamanshoppu, suumo, are common search sites.

So after you found the place you want to look at, you call the number (which leads to a company, not the landlord). They take you to see the house, then usually they take you back to their office and try to show you other houses.

Because you are a gaijin there is 1 big thing you have to be careful of. A fudousan that takes you to SHIT places.

It is a big stereotype that gaijin love to live in share houses or room share or with 1000 people in the same room. Thus sometimes, you might go to look for an apartment, and the company will say        "well maybe the landlord doesn't let gaijin so let me show you gaijin friendly places" 

BAM they whip out the worst places you can imagine,

"here how is this? it is above a Chinese restaurant, 40 years old, cockroaches, it is the size of a closet, you share a bathroom with 10 other people they are all gaijin how is it sound?".........

Note to you:  NEVER live above or near a building that is attached to a restaurant. IT HAS cockroaches.

Anyways, if you run into the problem of the place you went to trying to give you other crappy houses, just leave and go somewhere else. There are plenty of FUDOUSAN in Japan, don't waste your time.

I recently went to look at some nice places, here are some pictures.

This is the first kitchen I looked at. IH cooking heater (induction heat) and a big sink. It was awesome kitchen. I liked it. It was on the 1st floor though. I don't really want to live on the first floor because I don't want people to steal my underwear (not that I care about pervs having my underwear, it is that
I just don't have that many pairs :/)

 This next picture is actually a different place. I only rent IH cooking heaters because I wont use gas. This one was newer. I like how it also had the little oven to cook fish. BTW Japan has no ovens. Oven = easy bake oven, don't expect a normal stove like they have in Canada. Japanese kitchens are for cooking Japanese food. Thus the different items used to cook.
This is me in the background yay! and the OFURO (bath area). This one was the new model. I liked this because the bath was extra big and this type of new model is really easy to clean since it doesn't get moldy fast.

Anyways some things you need to know about Japanese apartments before going. They don't have fridge, lights or blinds. Those you have to buy yourself. Some places don't have stoves, so you also have to buy that yourself. 

They also don't have laundry rooms or laundry machines in them. Laundry in Japan is a very personal issue. People do it in their house, even if they live in apartment. In Canada apartments have laundry rooms, in Japan they don't. There are laundry mats, but those are usually in the long run more expensive than buying your own laundry machine...I don't even know WHO uses them because having a laundry machine is one of the most normal things you need in Japan. I never had one in Canada and I am used to washing clothes by hand, so when I first rented a place I told my friends I will do that and they said WTF! laundry machine is most common, everyone needs this, NEED. Kinda pressured me into buying it lol. They are right I guess.

Anyways. Japanese apartments rental start day is unlike Canada. Anytime is ok. When you look for apartment it is emptied out because the person who lived there before already moved. Unlike Canada where you usually have to track into someones house while they are still there :O You also get the apartment right away when you find it, after you pay usually max 3 days (unless some other real good reason). Which is interesting because in Canada usually people start looking 2 months or at least 1 month before they move, because you have to give 2 months notice that you are moving to landlord.


I missed a few points. When you go to visit a house to take a peek inside to see if you actually like the place, the worker will give you slippers when you enter the house. They carry around slippers for the customers to use when they reach the house.

When you rent an apartment in Japan you don't get the place so easily. You have to have a guarantor who can't just be some friend of yours. It is usually your family. Sometimes a company can sign for you, but sometimes companies are denied because they want your family. Why? Well Japan has a really big shame culture, so if you skipped paying rent or destroyed the place and had to pay, they want to make sure your family takes care of it and so you don't escape so easily (you can run from your boss, but not daddy)

So if your family is retired or passed on, or if there is no one else to help sign for you. There are companies that their soul business is signing as a guarantor for people.

Another thing I missed, when you go to a FUDOUSAN, they will offer you tea in their office. This is Japanese custom. In Japan when you enter someones house and sometimes business as a guest, they treat you with hospitality. So when you are in these types of businesses where you usually have to sit down and fill out papers and spend some time there, you often get tea. (you also may get tea at the hair salon too ^^)

There is something in Japan called 礼金 REIKIN  which is like bribe money (which is illegal to ask for and give in Canada btw)  however perfectly legal in Japan. It is common, especially in the past but slowly there are less and less places that have this. When you use the search website you can see which places have it and which are completely free. This is not a deposit, this is money you don't get back. It is a present for the landlord for letting you in and a thank you for them preparing this house for you. Some people mistake this for a fee for them "cleaning" the place for you before you enter, but this isn't true, and sometimes you have to pay extra for cleaning on top of this.  The average price for this starts between half a months rent up to 2 months rent. More than that is less common but it isn't too strange if they ask for 4 months rent.

Also a warning. Not only do you have to pay to rent the place, last months rent, sometimes reikin but you have to pay the FUDOUSAN! Thats right...wtf right!  I mean, in Canada you directly contact the landlord so you don't pay some kinda company for showing you the place. However in Japan you also have to pay them most of the time (sometimes the landlord pays). The price is often the same as your months worth rent...depends on situation though.

I made a video to help you search in Japanese long ago. The video is a little old, but check it out!


  1. thanks for sharing! i love ur videos about japan. including the ones with sharla in it. :D

    one of these days i hope to live in japan for a few years.

    i really really appreciate everything you do! thanks so much~

  2. Thanks Mira for this extended post about how rent or buy apartments in japan!! Is very useful :) Arigato!!

    I hope one day I can move to japan >3<

  3. Wooou this is awesome and very helpful !!! ^^
    Thank you so much Mira!!!
    I see your videos from the beginning! i'm from latinoamerica Peru! :D
    Hope to see you on the streets when I go to japan!

  4. Are you saying as a gaijin and non Japanese person you are pretty much doomed to terrible apartments? That makes me a little scared. :S

    1. No no. Not at all. If you can't speak Japanese yourself, it is best to get a friend who speaks the language to find a place for you. I mean, it is the same in any country. Those places that cater to people who don't speak Japanese in Japan, are for people who don't usually live here long (thus they don't speak Japanese). Sadly those prices go up. There are all kinds of sharehouses for gaijin, all English websites and stuff, the prices are so expensive (compaired to the price you normaly would pay for the same size on a normal Japanese website).

  5. I was so surprised at the amount of cockroaches in Japan. XD That's one of the things they don't tell you about Japan before you go. I haven't stayed anywhere that didn't have them. ._.
    I don't like using gas, either! I don't trust myself not to explode things. o_o
    Your outfit is so pretty!!!!!! (☆ ▽ ☆)
    And yeah, the few times I stayed in an apartment in Japan I was on the first floor, and everyone was always really nervous about it.

    1. I always wanted firt floor too and everyone was so nervous and shocked at times haha....come on pervs taking your things isn't a huge worry for me haha.

    2. Eeekk! Why didn't anyone even mention about cockroaches before? T_T I hope it's not too bad >.<

  6. That is the nicest bathroom I have ever seen in a rental in Japan! I guess I've only looked at old places though. Usually they have that cream colored textured plastic wall stuff. I don't even know what it is called. Haha.

  7. You can rent from LeoPalace, and you will find English information.

    1. Well if your not speaking Japanese and looking to rent.

  8. Great article. Though I would add that you can also use public housing, which is branded as UR (Urban Residence) in Japan since the late 90s. Public Housing has a stigma in many parts of the world, but in Japan, the offerings run from very humble and very cheap for the poor or seniors to new modern places with rents that would not be considered cheap. The best thing is that because they are government regulated, they have no "key money" and do not discriminate against legal foreign residents. My first UR (called kōdandanchi back in the early 90s was a 20 year old a little run down 2DK in Osaka City for ¥70,000 a month. My last one, in Setagaya in Tokyo, was a 3LDK and brand new with modern amenities for ¥120,000 a month.

    The bad news is because they are government regulated, they are very strict about checking your visa status and finance qualifications.

    You don't need to use a landlord to use UR; it can be done entirely via website (Japanese language only). Units are available via two systems: first-come first-served and lottery. So getting a good new place is a lot like getting something hot on net auction: lots of refreshes, and the fastest typer wins. Once you get it, you have X days to present your paper qualifications (the exact types of tax forms and proof of legal foreign residency etc) that they ask for. Bring the wrong paperwork or not enough or are a minute late from the deadline and you lose your place.

    I own my own home now these days, but if I ever had to rent again, I would use UR. I recommend it.

  9. This article is bullshit. I am a Japanese from Japan.
    Why wouldn't there be ovens in Japan? I have seen some before, you just got to open your eyes, Mira. That's almost the same as saying Japan lacks baked foods, despite it being a 1st world country

    If you're a gaijin in Japan who has no knowledge on Japanese, that does not mean that they are going to take you to shitty apartments so that you're comfortable. Otherwise the people you went to do terrible at their job.

    1. That is funny. I think you should study your English a little more before you get all hot headded and freak out on someone like that. There are no ovens or stoves in Japan. What you use in your language to call a oven or stove is NOT what Canadians or Americans do.


      Do you have this? No. Didn't think so.

      Japan has what we would call "easy bake ovens" as mentioned in the article. It is a small oven, that in Canada is targeted for kids.

      They do, and many people complain about it, you wouldn't know because you are Japanese. You don't know how people are treated when being rented to. I have heard about it plenty of times online and in videos from other people taking them to the worse place possible. Like I said in this article, if it happens to you, leave and go to another place, don't waste your time with their crap.

    2. Their English is better than yours. I've been shocked by how poor your grammar and spelling is - especially when you were bragging about how you'd write papers and "books" 10+ pages more than expected from your teachers.

    3. I am not talking about their grammar or spelling, I am talking about the fact that they are Japanese and complaining about something they don't know about. There are no western stoves in Japan, the word stove means something completely different here than it does in Canada. This is why they are so angry, because they don't know about it. They freak out getting all up and out calling it bullshit, when its not. These blogs are not in Japanese, they are not meant for Japanese people. They are meant for people who speak the same language as me and have the same understanding as me. Thus I mentioned stove without giving a hand me down explanation to those who don't know what I am talking about.

      I don't know why you think I am bragging about writing 10 page books, or I have no idea why you think that has anything to do with my spelling or English ability today. I couldn't write a book if my life depended on it now. My english has gotten shit. My spelling has always been shit, I grew up in the computer boom, my spelling is shit as so are hundereds of thousands of people. Grammar and spelling nazis are fking old news. I am not the only person on the planet that has bad spelling. Many people have bad spelling but they correct it because they care about it, I don't. I don't care about my spelling, which is why I don't correct it. I got better stuff to do in my life than correct my errors for the internet world.

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  11. Hey i heard Japan is really expensive can you detail to me how you can afford to pretty much live there at 23? how do you earn money for a living?

  12. such helpful advice, it always helps to have a good infromation when you want to find the best deals renting. It works from all over from Ottawa to Tokyo, these tips really helped me enjoy my time in Japan more than having to worrying about cash

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  14. I was lucky - I only was looking at one apartment, wanted it, got it! ;D

    The picture of the bathroom look like the one of an new build apartment in my neighboorhood :D (I saw a flyer ^^) It looks so nice!

    How is your search going? Did you find somethingnice? (^.^)

  15. Romania also uses real estate agents for BOTH renting and buying a place. A few websites emerged in the recent years where you can deal directly with the landlord/ owner, but this is usually unadvised unless you know what you're doing ;P
    However renting is cheaper here, in the sense that you pay some months in advance [idk, 2, 3, 4..?], you pay the agent, and done! you only pay the agent when you decide to take the place, after you sign the papers, and... paid at least 1 month of rent in advance. and the agency fee is 50% of the rent for a month. Some agencies ask for a full month's rent, but better go elsewhere, because that's just too much and overdoing it. -both the landlord and the person renting must pay the agency >.>

  16. Wooou this is awesome and very helpful !!! ^^
    Thank you so much Mira!!!
    I see your videos from the beginning! i'm from latinoamerica Peru! :D
    Hope to see you on the streets when I go to japan

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  17. Thank you for this useful information guys really.My and my life was search for apartaments in Canada
    and this is really hard believe me!

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