Japanese Apartments

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.
dannychoo_apartment_l.jpg Been living in Japan for about 10 years now and love it. I'm surrounded by culture that I've been passionate about since a wee lad and despite the recession that we're supposed to be in, business for my start up is booming - couldn't ask for more. Apart from the smoking, there used to (but not anymore) be something that used to get on my nut - the fun and games of looking for an apartment. Upfront costs The upfront costs of renting an apartment is honestly not amusing at all. First up there exists something called "gratuity fee" or Reikin. Since the dark ages, citizens have been paying the landlord a gratuity fee for letting them live in the landlords apartment. This gratuity fee can be up to 2.5 times the monthly rent and to make the situation even more amusing - you don't get this money back - none of it, Sweet FA, absolute squat. Then there is key money known as Shikikin. Key money can be up to 3 times the monthly rent and is used as a deposit which the landlord uses to clean up the place when you leave. S/he usually tries to use as much of it as possible so when you move out so its like "thanks for staying with us for the years, here is a slap in the face and get out of here you stinking rat." Apart from the gratuity fee and key money, one has to not only pay the landlord an average of 2 months rent upfront, one also has to pay the estate agent up to a months rent for introducing the place too. So an average case recap on the costs presuming that the monthly rent for a cozy apartment is 200,000 yen or roughly 2000 USD. Gratuity fee: 4000 USD Key money: 4000 USD Upfront rent: 4000 USD Estate agent fee: 2000 USD Initial cost: 14,000 USD No foreigners or pets (more after the jump)
To make looking for apartments more fun, some foreigners in Japan (not all) go through the fun of the estate agent calling up the landlord in front of you - the conversation in my previous experiences have been...
Hi, My name is Taro from Eiburu Estate agents. We have a foreigner interested in your apartments, do you allow foreigners?
I've been turned down a few times this way and its a horrible feeling - especially just after arriving in Japan. After my first few experiences, I learned to ask the estate agent to call the landlord *before* we wasted time looking on and deciding on a place. Chintai Coopration is a site for folks seeking apartments online. The area that I highlighted in red in this screenshot is the "take note of" column and mostly contains "No foreigners or pets allowed." Also note that the page was last updated "2009/2/16." But I have heard views from the landlords point of view too. Many landlords are elderly folk who cant speak English and find it difficult to communicate by gestures alone. Some other landlords have had nightmares where foreigners run a mock and are not able to follow simple rules such as separating out their garbage into combustible/non-combustible which is a requirement. dannychoo_apartment_l.jpg Photo above taken at an estate agent which says "Foreigners Welcome!" Guarantor The final slap in the face is the fact that one (including Japanese folks) needs whats known as a Guarantor or "Hoshonin." A guarantor has to sign something saying that s/he will take full responsibility in the event that you run a mock or burn down your apartment - and in most cases that person has to be Japanese... Buy a house I mentioned at the beginning that I don't go through this grief anymore because I bought my own house (and on Amazon associate earnings alone may I add ;-). I will probably start to go through the fun and games again when we look for offices later this year though. Resources Got a few resources for folks looking to live in Japan. -Got some useful terms one needs to know when looking for apartments in my Japanese Housing article. -Some photos of all the apartments that I've lived in Tokyo in my Tokyo Apartments article. Includes some vids of other apartments too. -And for folks looking to buy a house you can check out the Tokyo Property Purchase article which contains lingo on the restrictions in housing shape and size. -And for folks who like the thought of paying for a house from blogging then I got some tips (which I need to update more often) in my Userbility, Blogging and Affiliate Tips category. And a load of other living in Japan tips in the Japan category.


  1. When I went to Tokyo, I got an apartment though Sakura House. Quite a range of options in terms of location & price. They rent exclusively to foreigners, so there’s no key money or the like (there is a deposit but it’s very reasonable).

    Wasn’t perfect, but was far better for a short stay than trying to negotiate the normal channels.

  2. that’s “amok”. Trust me.

    All Danny mentions is true – if you are a totally “cold-calling” foreigner. That means you and you alone are making the relationship with the landlord. If you want a different ride, find a connection, a sponsor, someone inside. A government job? Ideal, the actual government vouches for you. A university, a technical school, a Buddhist group, a reputable private school (that doesn’t include English conversation schools), a family, a martial arts group, something, anything. Do your homework BEFORE you get to Japan. Have your arrangements somewhat in place. The bald fact is that most foreigners in Japan cannot help being total douches at the beginning. There is too much to learn quickly to fit into the social machine. Some foreigners never get any better and every one of these gets noticed – by everybody. It’s a two-way street. Those who work their connections (and make the effort to make them) fare better than people who sit limp legged and wait to be carried. And yes, Japan is institutionally racist, like every where else I’ve ever been.

  3. @GRUBEN You have to step back and realize that all the hoops are normal to someone born and raised in Japan, and that Japanese living in the US are often shocked by the way things are done here in the US.

    I had some Japanese factory managers and trainers as neighbours in Battle Creek, Michigan, and it took them a while to realize we Americans weren’t going to rob or kill them. It didn’t help that a Japanese machinery trainer/operator was found dead after being missing for two months nearby.

  4. Yeah, you should do a TON of research before even thinking about going to Japan.

    …and please, please learn as much Japanese as possible before you go – even if you speak it poorly people will typically treat you better because you tried to speak their language, rather than shouting English at them expecting some sort of understanding.

  5. Dont forget about the mandatory renters insurance that many apartments insist that you get (and it is of course their own insurance policy).. That was the deal breaker for me in moving into quite a few apartments. I already had renters insurance through a private company, but I was told that it was unacceptable. I was literally shown the door at two agencies after refusing to buy into their insurance plan which cost an additional 2000USD per year.

  6. The whole rental process is the biggest rip off. It’s astonishing.

    And you forgot to add that, as a consequence of all this, the landlord will in fact raise your rent each time your contract expires because they know how expensive it is to move to another apartment. They really push their luck there, and they have a lot of luck to push.

    Landlords have every advantage here. They really bend you over a barrel.

    Not everyone is like this. Lots of people have had good experiences. But many have not.

    The end result is that people live with their parents until marriage, which means late 20s or so here, and often afterwards as well. University students will sometimes commute two hours EACH WAY in jam packed sweaty trains every single day rather than find someplace closer to their school.

  7. For an Australian, renting an apartment in a small US town (population about 25,000) was difficult too. Not as hard as Japan sounds, but I got turned away from many places with a direct “sorry, we don’t rent to foreigners” and from others with excuses that amounted to the same thing: “you need an American credit history”, “we need to see local utilities bills”, etc. It was easier when I moved into my second apartment. I didn’t get my bond back when I left though because they decided they could get away without paying it as I was leaving the country.

    I had similar problems with auto insurance – there was only one company in town willing to insure a foreigner on a temporary visa, and only then because the agent had a connection with my employer.

  8. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries for the landlords however:

    Tenants with no respect for property.

    Tenants with no basic cleanliness skills.

    Tenants with false identities that skip town when the landlord gets tired of the excuses.

    Having to go to court regarding back rent and set up payment schedules that are simply ignored by the tenant anyway.

    The constant struggle to improve properties in between tenants.

    etc. etc.

  9. The one thing that made me most depressed when I lived in Japan was all the whining foreigners. There’s something in the air there that just drives some folks insane with all this rage, yet, they never think of going home. I’ve never heard a good explanation for why this is.

    But yes, looking for an apartment sucked. I just forked out the extra money and stayed in a guest house specifically targeting foreigners, yet funnily enough I was the only foreigner staying there. Had a great time and the landlord was great – still catch up for a beer with him when I go back to Tokyo.

  10. 55 times I was turned down when looking. And thats 55 times that I was told to my face that they wouldn’t accept me because I was a foreigner, there were also plenty of times where I was turned down for unspecified reasons. This despite the fact that I am fluent in Japanese, had references from several professors at a highly prestigious university and a secure income.

  11. MichaelC that has nothing whatsoever with you being foreign. Every American faces exactly the same thing. No credit report no apartment. They don’t care if you are from mars. Seriously they don’t. They would love to rent to you but, no credit report or nothing on it and you are out of luck.

    I am one of those abominations that has never had a credit card or bought a house. There is nothing on mine but, some strange random sampling of where I’ve lived in the past. I have been turned down for apartments many many times because of it.

    They now often require credit reports to apply for jobs. No credit report no job.

    I would blame the corporations but, it’s partially our own fault too. We have a large segment of the US that are credit junkies. They would walk around with their fico score tattooed to their forehead if they could.

  12. Is rent control common in Japan? Granted, real estate is a rare commodity in Japan but a high proportion of the population lives in an urban setting. But things like key charages are commonly associated with rent control.

    I misuse the word ironic too often. Is it ironic that a country with no natural wealth, a country absolutely dependent on foreigners, hates us so much?

  13. Who do you mean by “us”? If you mean caucasian Americans, most Japanese love us as long as we don’t overstay our welcome.

    Mostly the foreigners that Japanese people dislike are swarthier.

  14. I understand the need for need for a security deposit but my goodness. I didn’t know you could be put over a barrel and raked over the coals at the same time.

  15. JTEGNELL, I meant non-Japanese but if you’ve got an insight into race, rent and the Japanese I’m all ears. Are Japanese landlords particularly not fanatic about non-white tenants? What did you mean by swarthy?

  16. oh yeah, they LOVE foreigners! Buttonhole the next one you see on the street and tell him you got money and are looking for a place.

  17. LEAKNOIL @14, I think you’re touching upon something that I was clumsily trying to illustrate. I think most of the real estate agents did not feel personally confronted by my status as a foreigner. A few certainly seemed to take offense though, given the way they delivered the “we don’t rent to foreigners” line.

    Most agents were probably just following the rules in the way they thought was required for their job. The rules didn’t necessarily make sense because I had a very good credit history and enough funds to cover the entire term of the lease, and there’s no reason not to trust a Australian credit history – but they are the rules and risk averse people won’t bend them. This is what I was trying to illustrate by my own little example: that the Japanese special treatment of foreigners in this case isn’t necessarily a personal issue, it is the way business is done.

    There’s an interesting question raised by this, though. Does the definition of xenophobia or racism require a personal opinion? If we have no negative feelings about an outsider we are dealing with but treat them differently to comply with codified rules that we must for follow for social reasons or to keep our job, is that acceptable?

  18. Hmm. I had that experience once here (Tokyo) – of being rejected as a renter because I was a foreigner. Older landlady opened the door, saw my husband (at the time still boyfriend) first, smiled, opened door wider, saw me ….SLAM! Not one word from her. It was a shock. But you know? I wouldn’t have wanted to live in her property anyway.

    Then there was the time, a very long time ago, when trying to appreciative of the apartment, I MEANT to say, how nice and big the *closet* is (oshi-ire) but instead blurted out *oshiri* (butt! Oh [your] butt is sooooo big!) Unfortunately, the landlady was a rather lumpy middle aged woman…

  19. $2000 a month in rent? Remind me never to move to Tokyo.

    Honestly, having lived for years in rural/suburban Japan, far from Tokyo…I barely identify with ANY of these posts. A lot of them, to me, just perpetuate the idea that Japan=Tokyo, end of story, when there’s so much more out there than these things that Westerners are already used to identifying with Japan. A lot of depictions of America have the same problem, only with New York.

    They’ve been *very* interesting posts, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been like reading about an entirely different world than the one I live in.

  20. I lived in Tokyo for two years, and I can assuredly say, that renting a place to live in Japan will lead to you discovering a scam. A f**king scam. All this money, and they couldn’t care less about your quality of life. They say, “Go f**k yourselves, people of the rental scheme.” You’ve won…yet…f**king…again.

    As much as I love the country, it needs a slap in the face from the citizens EVERYWHERE who let it get portrayed as a manga-lovin’, tempura-frying’, average-Joe-gets-reamed-up-the-ass-hole praising place to live.


  21. sirkowski- February 22, 2009 12:07 AM
    It’s pretty sad how some commenters and the OP are trying to excuse racism.

    AMEN! If this was a post from a foreign visitor to America about facing similar challenges many commenters would scream racism. It never ceases to amaze me how the American left claims to believe in equality but tends to hold their fellow Americans to a much higher standard. Excusing behavior in others that you deplore in yourself and your peers is racism. In our ‘bigoted’ country we have many laws in place to provide for fair housing. I love japanese history and culture but after five years in Hawai’i I realized that I could never live there. Many of the japanese I encountered there were wonderful people but there were always those that let you know just how inferior they found you.

  22. Excusing racism? I don’t see where. What he’s saying is that this is how things are done; so when you get hit with those initial rental charges, it doesn’t mean you’re being singled out — they do that to everyone.

    Landlords who don’t want to rent to foreigners are everywhere. I was once turned down to my face for an apartment in Staten Island because I didn’t speak Italian. And having recently shared a duplex rental unit with fairly tidy and benevolent foreigners (that is, people from suburban Connecticut), I can see the point about them initially not understanding stuff like the arcane garbage disposal regulations.

  23. having lived in tokyo for about 6 years myself and experienced all the same stuff as danny did, racism & all, there is one major point that he didn’t mention.

    That is, it is almost impossible to evict a tenant under japanese law, which is heavily weighted towards the rights of the occupier of any house. This is one of the major reasons there are so many hurdles to renting a place, because once you get it, it is almost impossible to get evicted.

    This doesnt excuse the craziness of shikikin, reikin, agents fees etc, just gives a bit more insight as to why the landlords are so paranoid.

  24. Teresa: that doesn’t make it not racism if you don’t rent to foreigners on the basis of being a foreigner. What about Cedar’s post above? She has a Japanese husband after all. I imaging he can explain to her the garbage rules.

    That said, I didn’t experience any racism in renting my apartment. My wife is Japanese, her father cosigned the lease, and my employer is the local public school, so I’m not really a representative case.

    But I DID get bent over a barrel in the same way everyone here does, foreigner and Japanese alike. They do screw everyone equally here as you say.

    The sad thing here is that this scam is tolerated. It’s no surprise that this system would arise considering that most Japanese people live in very very very densely populated areas. The land is worth far far more than the house built on it in many places. Japanese seem to have accepted the reality of being screwed so royally in this area — that, or they are unaware that it could be regulated otherwise. Or maybe there are powerful forces maintaining the status quo.

    Sure, as The Other Matt says, landlords are skittish, but the main reason they do this is they can. The high demand allows them the winning hand. If you don’t like it, good luck finding an alternative. And as far as kicking you out — they can wait for your lease to expire and then jack up the rent. They’ll probably do this anyway though.

    As an interesting aside, let me add that apartments here come with nothing. No fridge, no AC, no heater (there is no central heat except in Hokkaido), no stove or oven. There aren’t even any light fixtures, just bare plugs on the ceiling. So, if you’re moving into your first apartment, you have to add those costs as well.

  25. so how come no one mentions worker unions, tenant unions, free legal counseling, etc? are they “japanese only”, too?

  26. Apologies for being pedantic, but…

    “Reikin” is the key money / gratuity.
    “Shikikin” is the security deposit.

    It’s becoming more common to find properties without key money (in the Tokyo area).

    Guarantor companies can be used in place of a guarantor for a fee, however, after the failure of a large guarantor company last year, landlords may insist on having a Japanese person as your guarantor.

    One more cost: the first month’s rent has to be paid upfront.

  27. @#28, Redsquid

    If this was a post from a foreign visitor to America about facing similar challenges many commenters would scream racism.


    You may have missed the comments in this thread where they said just that.

    how the American left


    Such generalisations should generally be avoided, particularly when accusing others of bigotry.

    claims to believe in equality but tends to hold their fellow Americans to a much higher standard. Excusing behavior in others that you deplore in yourself and your peers is racism.


    You should probably look up a word before you argue about it: what you describe is the antithesis of racism. It’s a little something we call “tolerance”.

    Now, my mom’s an angel: she holds herself to a very high standard.

    She holds her family to fairly high standards, too, but does not demand that we observe every nicety that she herself does.

    Guests in our home get considerable leeway, but if they go too far, they may not be asked back, or in extreme cases may be asked to leave.

    When she is a guest in someone else’s home, she judges them by their own rules, and abides as best she can by them, while not losing sight of her own values: this applies whether they are different on basis of culture, religion, wealth, eating habits, whatever.

    This is clearly not her being bigoted.

    She follows the same pattern, in a looser sense, when you replace “family members” with “countrymen”, “guests” with “foreigners in her own country”, and “people she’s visiting” with “foreigners in their own countries”.

    It is not bigotry to judge people by their own rules: it is bigotry to judge them by your own.

    I love japanese history and culture but after five years in Hawai’i I realized that I could never live there. Many of the japanese I encountered there were wonderful people but there were always those that let you know just how inferior they found you.


    Replace “Japanese” with “American” and “Hawai’i” with any place outside the US, to get a view of the US from the outside. Then repeat for other countries in the world. Ass-hats can be found in every country, and tourists tend to have a particularly high proportion of them.

  28. Whenever I went apartment hunting in Tokyo, I would make a point of carrying a copy of the Nikkei Shimbun (equivalent to our Wall Street Journal), to signal that I was competent in the language.

    The one time I was turned away at the door was the day I had forgotten my newspaper….

  29. “There aren’t even any light fixtures, just bare plugs on the ceiling”

    The previous tennents take them with them!? What an ass-backwards way of doing things.

  30. There are significant problems with the Japanese setup for renting.

    The first is discrimination against foreigners, which many people have mentioned, and other people have excused. The excuses given have primarily fallen into two categories, financial and cultural. The financial excuses consist of risk for landlords that tenants will not be clean, abide by community rules, or will default on rent payments. The cleanliness argument follows a long tradition of racist argument, that X racial or religious group is unclean. See Nazi propaganda, slurs against Mexicans in American as dirty, Indians being “smelly,” etc. The argument could be made that there are different cultural standards of cleanliness among different groups, but such an argument mistakes the individual for the group, and is racist.

    The defaulting on payments financial argument is a more legitimate financial risk as credit history is difficult to establish in a new country. Never the less it’s an invidious form of discrimination as the net effect of may landlord’s choices to avoid that financial risk have the result that people not born in Japan can’t live there easily. Any result where people are restricted from something by an accident of birth or have fewer rights due to same is what most would agree is unacceptable discrimination. Arguments which favor this sort of discrimination must consider that no examination is made of the financial risk of any one foreigner tenant by most of these landlords as they have blanket policies excluding foreigners.

    As an analogy let’s say I run a business where I have high risk of non-payment even after I’ve made an investment of my time/resources, like interior design. A large part of that industry operates by doing planning for free but selling the cabinetry or fixtures which the design specifies. For whatever reason, let’s say some ethnic group has a record by aggregate of being more likely to take my plans and get the goods elsewhere. It would be in my financial interest to avoid working with that group, and let’s imagine that this is know across the interior design industry. The result is that now that ethnic group can’t get interior design services. Like cabs not stopping for black people, this is a shitty way to run a society. Just because a distinction can be made based on factors outside of the control of the individual which result in higher profit for the discriminator doesn’t mean it should be done or allowed legally. In the US we have the imperfect equal opportunity housing laws, but they’re aimed in the right direction. Japan should take similar steps to protect minority rights.

    The other issue with Japan’s rental situation is the high cost to the tenant for move-in. There are high costs for move in pretty much everywhere in the world, and the degree of Japan’s situation doesn’t make it of a class, only a clear example. It’s exploitative and only persists because of the rent-seeking behavior of the wealthy land owners. That the land owners have correctly decided it’s in their benefit to charge such rates is a result of society allowing survival by ownership, AKA capitalism. I don’t disagree that markets create efficiencies which result in more for everyone, even the poor, but I do doubt that the inheritance of wealth or land is better for any other segment of society other than those who are born into it. What makes all of the above more heinous is that housing is a basic human need, and to not allow it for some due to the accident of their birth is bigoted in the worst way.

    Obviously none of these problems are exclusive to Japan, an I hope none take my arguments as such.

  31. #8 posted by Saskplanner: The Nazis invented the rocket engine. The Iroquois had a relatively egalitarian matrilineal inheritance system. I don’t know that there’s ever been a strong correlation between technological advancement and social justice.

  32. @1, 6, 8:

    My girlfriend was teaching English in Japan when she was falsely accused of shoplifting in a department store. She hadn’t left the store, but had an arm load of things with her. She was taken directly to jail, and interrogated for two days. All suspects in Japan are presumed guilty by the police. They have absolutely no incentive to help a wrongly accused person prove their innocents. After ten days in jail, she was told by a consulate worker to admit to the crime, as Japan has a 99% conviction rate, and Japanese prison is not fun. The police dictated a letter to her, which she wrote out in her own handwriting, and signed.

    After she was let out, JET fired her. The woman who made the false claim about her later had an attack of guilt and wrote a letter to her boss explaining that she was under pressure of a quota to catch shop-lifters, but my gf’s boss would never hire her back simply because that would be very embarrassing.

    She ended up working for a better English school, staying for another year, and falling in love with Japan. I respect her more for that, since just listening to her story has soured my taste for Japan.

  33. to give you lot more CONTEXT:

    the new law enacted as part of koizumi reform makes it a lot easier to evict tenants. japanese tenants are also pushed out onto the street to join netcafes etc. tenants whose initial contract had been signed under the old law were still impossible to evict legally. that’s where agents come in, hired by owners to harass them out. once the tenants are evicted, the already highly-indebted landowners sell the land to pay off their debt. small holdings are merged to create opportunities for larger investment. this is how state and underpower come hand in hand to implement reform that favor capitalists, in a scheme to resolve bad credits.

    analysis, anyone, to compare this with the subprime shock?

  34. dude, again, your article sounds out of time. what year is it for you in Japan right now? it’s 2009 for me, and I have never had a problem renting an apartment in Japan. neither have my friends. and we have lived all over Japan, upwards of a fifth of the country.

    Leo Palaces (http://www.eg.leopalace21.com/index.html) and many corporate-owned apartments are clean, nice, have cable/internet hookups, are located just about every where, and are extremely foreigner friendly, even in the smallest of cities. shikin/reikin went out the door in the late-90s when these places went up.

    yes, there are still a few holdouts, but why would you want to go through the trouble of renting from people like that in the first place?

  35. As many others have mentioned if you do your research then you can often find places (even through the traditional means) which dont require a reikin or shikikin… or in some cases you will only have to pay a percentage of the reikin. If you walk past a real estate agent and look at the sign the reikin and shikikin is often listed on the sign for each apartment.

    For people who are arriving for the first time a guesthouse is ideal. This is because there are usually not large, non-refundable deposits. These places also usually include the costs of utilities & internet as part of the rent (there is an ethernet port in most of the rooms).

    This will make becoming accustomed to Japanese life much easier & save you a lot of stress – trying to figure out and hook up anything in Japan without a good understanding of Japanese is a mission…. Remember: you are in a different country – so the contract will be in Japanese, the bills will be in Japanese & the service guys/customer service will have no english support (apart from mobile phones – they connect you through a 3rd party translator if needed). Living at first in a guesthouse is ideal because you are not locked-in for a long time & you can use this time to determine which area of Tokyo you really want to live in – for a homogenised city there is an amazing diversity of nuance to suburbs merely kilometers apart.

    The other killer, as mentioned, is the need of a Guarantor. This sucks the big one cause basically this person is vouching for you… and if you skip town then this person is legally responsible for paying the money owed. For this reason the person must be a Japanese citizen, or company & the guarantor must be able to show that they have the means to cover the cost if you run (so no buddies with a part time, or low paying full time job will do). It doesnt matter how much cash or assets your foreign friend has – he/she can not be your guarantor. This is a big thing to ask someone to do, so dont be offended if your friend refuses. There are companies wich you can pay to represent you as a guarantor but, again, this is going to mean extra expense.

    In the end it is basically like this: Guest houses are the most expensive option (over a long period of time) but they are the easiest, most convinient and quickest accommodation to secure.

    A foreigner-friendly rental agency can rent you an apartment without most of the usual frustrating taxes & fees – they will help you hook up your utilities & if you have any problems with the apartment they can usually deal with it in english (our toilet was blocked once…… im glad i could tell her over the phone in english… I imagine if I tried in Japanese it would have come out pretty ridiculous). This option will usually have less up-front costs, but this is offset by generally higher monthly rent prices. A good option if you intent to stay there for at least a year & have no Japanese skills, or no close Japanese friends to help you if you get in a pickle.

    Finally, a normal real estate agent will generally have the highest up-front costs (especially if you need to pay for a guarantor service), but the monthly rental prices are the most reasonable and you will have ultimate choice in terms of location & size (obviously real estate agencies designed for Japanese people have the largest market share & hence most options). If you dont have a guarantor or someone to help you this is going to be the most hellish course of action, but will usually end up the cheapest over a long time-span (18months+). As I said at the start, be sure to search for a place with a low, or no reikin & shikikin. Be prepared for disappointment, though because even after you find that perfect apartment the agent will have to call the property owner and ask if it is OK for a foreigner to live there.

    At first I was highly offended by this – until someone explained it to me using logic, not indignant accusations of racism (though you will find plenty of valid cases of these throughout your stay in Japan)….. basically foreigners, for the most part, are not going to stay in Japan for a long time (at least not as long as a Japanese person) As there is a cultural tradition of paying the landlord a “thankyou-fee” after every 2 years lived in rented premises, if the landlord rents to a foreigner then he/she is less likely to receive this “thankyou-fee” – meaning that the potential income for a rental property drops by 4-5% per annum.

    Japan – efficient & unbelievable yet frustrating and bureaucratic. How can one place have so many opposing facets? I dont know, but until you’ve lived there – everything you know about Japan is wrong.

  36. Okay, I want to clear up things

    a) 2000 USD is quite high, and that means you live more inside of Tokyo. Normally you live more outside were rent is cheaper (but still high). It also depends on the building. If you live in a newer, more earthquake proof, than you pay more as compare to a cheap bamboo/earth/wood building.

    b) There was always key-money, but this is going away. Key money ranged from 1.5 to 3 times.

    c) shinkin is always there, and also depends from 1 to 3 times the rent

    d) you normally pay 1 rent ahead

    so you pay max 3+3+1

    I have never ever seen a payment to the estate agent up front. That is something that comes in later.

    Most of the contracts run for about 2 years, to extend id you have to pay 1/3 or 1/2 of the rent to extend it. And this is what makes it expensive.

    On the other hand as a landlord you have very limited chance to expel someone from an apartment. So you have to bring a lot guarantee papers.

    And yes it is true about the foreigners. They called upfront if the landlord was okay with a foreigner, even though I moved in with my gf back at the time. On the other hand, when it came to write over the whole contract to me, they were very helpful and nice.

    The more you speak japanese, the easier it is. Basic rule.

  37. Damn, man, where’re you living? You make it sound like all apartments in Japan are like the ones in central Tokyo.

    If you’re willing to go 30 minutes away from Tokyo (say, Funabashi or Kawagoe), you can get a decent place for like 800 USD a month and they’ll often waive or lower all those fees.

    Or, you could move outside the Tokyo metropolitan area entirely and live in a Leopalace place for like 400 dollars USD a month without any fees except for the security deposit. In Toyama, they’re even offering the first two months’ rent free.

  38. $2000 USD is high? Not if you compare it to major US cities. It’s the cost of a 1 bedroom in central Manhattan, where the actual buildings are older and less well maintained.

  39. Don’t forget the possibility of share housing too. I have been sharing for 2 years in central Tokyo (10 mins walk from shibuya) and there is no reikin shikikin, no need for buying light fixtures… Again Japanese ability is key though. There may be some places available where the tennant wants to live with a foreigner to practice english at home..

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