Living in Japan

Japanese Apartments – Pictures and Videos

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.

The Good:
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  • 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.

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The bad:
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  • 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)

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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.

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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.

Photo credits: japan-apartment-206482700_9161de7239_b.jpg by durian http://www.flickr.com/photos/durian/206482700/ || japan-apartment-10976231_8e03f2fbdc_o.jpg by dannyman http://www.flickr.com/photos/dannyman/10976231/ || japan-apartment-301794304_651573916b_o.jpg by quasarsglow http://www.flickr.com/photos/quasarsglow/301794304/ || japan-apartment-219865767_2f7d820afd_o.jpg by sleepytako http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepytako/219865767/

25 thoughts on “Japanese Apartments – Pictures and Videos”

  1. Dude, nice wrap but it comes across very negative about Japan. Dude, I assume you teach English so thats why you can only afford about $800 a month and in Fukuoka at that! what it UP wit dat? dude, spend some cash on a nice apartment, in a great city, in a nice area and maybe the posts will turn a bit more positive! just my 2 cents. step it UP, live it UP

  2. I don’t think I’m being negative. I’m just posting about my experience and some random things I’ve found or read about Japan. Fukuoka is a great city and my apartment is pretty modern and I like it. I’ve added some more pictures today and linked directly for youtube.

  3. Hey what’s up DayJobNuker. I do Internet marketing consulting. I’ve written about Nova so much because a lot of foreigners here teach English, Nova is a huge company, it’s been all over the news, and I can’t imagine what they are going through.

  4. I do internet marketing for a company in Houston, Texas and am Japanese American, but spend a lot of time in Japan. That is one of the smaller apartments in Japan but is of a typical quality and size for young people with their first job.

    While I am leaving this comment, I will ask if you think there is any cross promotional opportunities with our sites.

  5. Thanks alot! I found this very useful and helpful for any future move to Japan! Do you know any good websites which offer a variety of apartments to rent or purchase in japan?!

  6. Thanks for all the great information on the site. I have found it to be extremely useful in my research. If you have any more sites for research let me know.

  7. Here’s what I’d add about apartments in Japan….

    GOOD:

    *Mine has keyless entry, just beep a card over a sensor like a SUICA card
    *Solid cement walls, I’ve never heard a neighbor in 3 years (new buildings only)
    *washlets (the single greatest thing about Japan)

    BAD:

    *very few electrical outlets
    *no counter space, so always balancing things on endges
    *no garbage disposals

  8. man, i wanted lo live in japan for a few years now, but i had allways been worried about what the apartments would look like. after seing this, i CAN’T WAIT to go. THANK YOU!

  9. Jason – I wonder how new the apartment has to be for solid walls. I can hear my neighbors walking and even sneezing. And it’s surprising to see no garbage disposal, dishwasher, or even light fixtures, or heat or central air.

    Dan – I’m glad this post helped. When you make it to Japan, good luck and have fun!

  10. @Steve

    I would estimate that most new “mansions” (apartment buildings) built within the past 5 years will have the solid walls.

    I lived in a Leo Palace branded apartment building my first three months in Japan, and the walls felt like I could punch through them. There was no privacy in them.

    Wow, all those things you mentioned I’ve forgotten about, like light fixtures and central heating and air!

    There is just no space for a dishwasher. There are some countertop dishwashers, but they seem to be useless to me. If you want to air condition a room, you have to install a whole air conditioning unit for it.

    The lack of central heat means that actual houses are arctic in the winter. This was the same in Korea. I was in shock coming from living in Florida for most of my life to my first Korean winter. The bathroom was the most ludicrous, totally unheated. Pee-ing in the middle of the night was harsh.

  11. Man, that’s an early photo of my old apartment. It looked much better by the time I moved out. I now live in a house. Much better, but I miss that apartment.

    Hints:
    Look for steel buildings. Even if they are older they will be quieter. I never had noise problems.

    If you go for Leoplace or something like that be wary that the building will have paper thin walls. They don’t build those things to last. They are easy to rent, move in, live in however. I rented one for my Mom for a month. No problem.

  12. Jason – I love downtown so I took the best choice, but the next place I move to I’m going to make sure it’s a brand new building to keep the noise level down.

    David – Steel buildings! Got it. And yeah I see things aren’t built to last here. Buildings are being taken down and new ones put up quite frequently.

  13. hey, nice post…ive watched a few videos about japanese apartments but theres a few things that many people dont talk about…
    1)im curious about internet, from what ive heard most places dont have internet so how do you get internet if you want it
    2)what about house phones, how do you call home
    3)how about a cell phone, do you need one
    4)plug sockets??? what type, how many
    and finally
    5)how much are utility bills, are thye expensive

    cheers Paul

    1. 1) Most places don’t have internet. You need to get this installed yourself. You’ll most likely get a phone line through NTT and then talk to somebody like YahooBB (or Softbank?) to get the internet setup.
      2) You can get a house phone, but it’s cheaper to call home using Skype or another VOIP.
      3) You don’t need one I guess, but it’s pretty handy. I know a guy that doesn’t have one and he’s fine.
      4) “The voltage in Japan is 100 Volt, which is different from North America (110V), Central Europe (220V) and most other regions of the world. Japanese electrical plugs have two, non-polarized pins, as shown above. They fit into North American outlets.” http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2225.html
      5) This is a tough one. Expensive, but the units are small so it’s not as much money as you would think.

  14. I have always found Japan fascinating and it is great to know what to expect there. I would love to move to Japan after University to teach singing and harp but I’m not sure if singing (mostly classical, jazz and Celtic) and celtic music is popular over there. I was thinking that maybe I could start a trend in whichever area I choose to live in and make singing and celtic music popular. Also here in Australia I would charge around $50 (australian) for harp lessons and $25 for voice lessons, but I have no idea what a fair price would be over there.

    What’s your insight on this?

  15. I might be transferring for work to Tokyo at some point in the near future and I’ve been trying to do some independent research before any green lights are given. I was hoping for a townhouse (I’ve got a dog to bring with me, the only stipulation my wife made) somewhere near-ish to Tokyo. My office would be right next to Shinjuku Station, so I could take the train (packed!) or bus, but I’m would need to know what I could find that would be within a reasonable commute.

    I’m really interested in seeing Paul’s questions answered as well. Any tips on where to start looking online for neighborhoods in proximity of a given city? Or am I stuck doing the realtor route when I arrive?

    Finally is buying completely impossible? (please don’t laugh!) I’ve read of others who switched from renting to buying and they started out as English teachers as well. I expect my company would compensate me to at least the equivalent standard of living, which might mean renting, but if buying is an option I want to know before I cough up $5000 for a key to a place that I’ll end up staying at for only 6 months. (before discovering I can buy!)

    Awesome blog Steve. Keep it up!

  16. hi my names fenton im a senior in high school next year im going to college next year for English teaching and i want to teach English to Japanese students. I want to know if i will make enough money to have a god apartment and is there anything else i would need to know for teaching in japan

  17. Japan is my favorite country. Japanese housing is tiny compared to American housing. Japanese housing is always unfurnished. Japanese closets are small. Most Japanese bathrooms have a door and a wall between the toilet and the rest of the bathroom. Japanese shower rooms have the sink, the tub, and the shower with a drain hole on the floor. People shower, then sit in the tub. Bathroom sinks do not come with mirrors. Most kitchen sinks have one side. Japanese housing does not come with appliances that are not built-in. Japanese doorbells and security systems are wireless. Japanese light fixtures, ceiling fans, and bathroom fans are held in place by brackets and plug into wall outlets but very few of them are built-in and wired into the wiring. Japanese refrigerators are small with a freezer. Japanese cooking ranges have a two-burner stove and a small grille oven. American-type stoves and ovens are rare in Japan. Range hoods are either fan and light or manual louver but both types vent outside. Very few kitchen sinks have a garbage disposer. Privately owned trash compactors are rare in Japan. Not all kitchens have a dishwasher. Japanese dishwashers are the size of microwave ovens. Most Japanese dishwashers only wash dishes. Very few Japanese dishwashers can dry dishes. Built-in dishwashers are rare in Japan. Washing machines do not have a single agitator. Washing machine tubs have blades on the tub walls to move the laundry. A washing machine spin dries the laundry to whip the water out of it. When the washing machine shuts off, put the laundry on a clothesline or on a drying rack. Some bathroom fans have a heater to heat the bathroom and dry the laundry. Tumble dryers are rare in Japan. Water heaters are tankless electric. They heat the water to the temperature setting. Water heaters that have a tank are rare in Japan. Some toilets have a butt spray, a seat heater, and a sink at the top. Heating and cooling are a wall furnace to heat and a room air conditioner to cool. Some people have small fans and portable heaters. Central heating and central air conditioning are rare in Japan. The decks, patios, and balconies of housing in Japan are too small for furniture and barbacue grills but they have room for a clothesline or a drying rack. Some apartments and condominiums do not have room for cars. Most home TV cables are in living rooms. Most home phone jacks are in bedrooms. Appliance outlets have a ground screw to hold the appliance ground wire in place. All wires are 120 volts. Wiring is protected by either screw-type fuses or circuit breakers. I live in the US but I can get used to Japanese technology instantly.

  18. Great article
    I impress to read it.
    I’m just posting about my experience and some random things I’ve found or read about Japan, The bathroom was the most ludicrous, I want to know if i will make enough money to have a god apartment and is there anything else i would need to know for teaching in japan

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