You’ve probably heard that things in Japan are small. Cars, clothes, roads, houses, and apartments. I wouldn’t call Japanese apartments small, but I would say they’re cozy. Do you really need a huge place to live anyway? As long as it has what you need and you spend your free time out on the town or cuddling with a hot chick (or whoever) to watch a movie. Now there’s a lot to renting an apartment but I’ll talk more about that sometime For now I’ll give you a few pros and cons of Japanese apartments as well as some youtube vids so you can tour a few places. Here are some things I’ve discovered in the last two weeks.
- Sliding doors are cool
- You usually get a balcony
- Washing machines fit nicely in the bathroom area
- Shower room is huge
- You don’t need a car where I live, so you save money on the car, gas, parking, and you get free exercise.
- If your apartment is capable, you can get hooked up with fiber optic internet.
- Mirrors in the bathroom area have an anti fog button. That is totally kick ass.
- The “tankless water heater” is great for showers. You turn it on when you need it and you never run out of hot water.
- If you’re getting no help from your job or friends in Japan you’ll need about $5,000 USD to rent an apartment. You’ll be paying the landlord some stupid fees you won’t get back + first months rent + some other things to furnish your apartment. If you factor the landlord fees into your average monthly rent then it becomes affordable I guess. If your monthly rent is $800 USD you can expect to have a down payment around $4,000 for rent + fees. Then you’ll need to furnish your place and it can cost $1,000+. That part is lame when you compare it to the US.
- You can easily hear your neighbors
- Small closets + small rooms = not enough place for your clothes
- Small bathroom area + washing machine = not enough space for bathroom stuff.
- No hot water unless you turn on the hot water heater and then waste water waiting for it to become warm. This means washing your face in cold water because you’ll get lazy.
- If you have a car, parking space can be expensive depending on where you live. I’ve seen it range from 0 to 20,000 yen per month.
- If you mark the wall or dent a door you’re going to lose your ass when you move out. You’ll be charged 500-1,000 Yen per pin tack hole you put in the wall.
- They don’t come with a refrigerator, washing machine, oven range, or light fixtures (that’s something new to me)
This is my first apartment in Japan and it’s pretty cool. My apartment in Fukuoka is a 2LDK (this means 2 = 2 rooms. and LDK = Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen). I have a bedroom with sliding doors connected to the living room with sliding doors and then a kitchen where I can put a small dining table. There’s a small hallway between the kitchen and the bathroom area. The bathroom area consists of three tiny rooms… 1 is the sink + washing machine (decent), one is the toilet (small), and one is the shower room + bath tub (huge). Also in the living room and bedroom both have sliding doors leading to the balcony where I have a view of some shops and other apartments. The bedroom does not have tatami, but instead hard wood floors. My place is a square layout, or you can say L-Shaped if you don’t include the bathroom area. It’s pretty cool. Instead of giving you a video tour of my place I decided to just show you ones that already exits. All in all they’re about the same. Walls, floors, and location is what differs. You can get new and modern or old and busted depending on your budget.
Here area few pictures from some apartments I found on Flickr and Danny Choo’s site. This should give you an idea on what the interior looks like.
Renting for foreigners in Tokyo is not that difficult and really depends on the property and its landlord/management company.
For expats: Lease is signed under the expat’s employer (so no real problem since they are mostly multinational firms)
For “local hires”: Lease is usually signed under the name of the foreigner who usually needs to get a Japanese national (or his/her company) to stand as a joint guarantor. Not an easy task as most people do not want to be joint guarantors (basically same level of risk as the main lessee). There are several companies that specialize in providing guaranteeing services for about a half to one month’s rent as compensation. They usually accept anyone with a valid work permit and can prove a stable income stream. If you have no work permit, it will be almost impossible to go this route.
Essentially, if you are self-employed or a student in Japan looking for an apartment, you’ll need a co-signer or guarantor, then most landlords will be willing to rent the property. I’m not too sure about the caveats for Cultural Visas but if you are allowed to stay and work legally and can prove stable income, these guaranteeing companies may make an exception.
Another option would be to stay at guest/share houses (these are usually furnished or semi-furnished) which have more lenient conditions for foreigners on such visas and/or have difficulty proving “stable” income.
The last option are serviced apartments (similar to long term hotel stays but with a kitchen), but these can be quite costly as they are usually furnished/semi-furnished.
Area-wise, even in central in Tokyo (i.e. Shibuya, Shinjuku, Minato, Meguro wards), you can get a decent studio or small one bedroom type apartment (25 to 35 sqm) for around JPY100,000 to 120,000. It all depends on where you want to commute to and size/age of the property.
Leases are typically for 2 years and the properties are unfurnished. Usually in America you have to buy some light bulbs but in Japan you have to buy the entire light fixture. Up front deposits range from 1 to 3 months’ worth of rent and some properties require “key money” (a one-time non-refundable payment) to the landlord of 1 to 2 months’ rent. There is also 1 month’s rent in brokerage fees payable to the real estate agent, if you use one.
Here’s are some video tours:
If you want to see more videos you can do a search over at Youtube for Japanese Apartments.
For more views of what a Japanese apartment might look like, you can do a search on Flickr and check out Danny Choo’s blog. Here’s an interesting link talking about neighbors and here’s another one about renting and real estate.