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Ultimate Guide to Finding Housing in Japan for Foreigners

Updated: Jun 17

Ultimate Guide to Finding Housing in Japan for Foreigners

Finding a place to live is an essential part of starting work in Japan. Even if you've secured a job through Jelper Club, struggling with house hunting can be a real setback. To help you avoid such difficulties, this guide to finding housing in Japan for foreigner provides an overview of the Japanese housing market, explains how to rent a home in Japan as a foreigner, and highlights the unique challenges foreigners might face. We also offer practical tips to make your house-hunting experience smoother.




Overview of the Japanese Housing Market


A. Market Characteristics

The Japanese housing market is very unique and can be confusing for foreigners looking for a home for the first time. Let's start by highlighting some of the distinctive features of the Japanese housing market.

  1. Residential Sizing and Design

    1. In Japan's urban areas, housing is typically very compact, with the majority of one-room apartments and 1DK (one room plus dining room and kitchen) type condominiums, especially for single people. This is mainly due to the severe land constraints in urban areas. To maximize the limited space, furniture and storage solutions are often ingeniously designed. In recent years, there has been an increase in properties that, despite their compact size, focus on functionality and design. On the other hand, suburban areas offer relatively more spacious single-family homes and family-friendly apartments.

  2. Structure of Initial Costs

    1. The initial rental costs in Japan typically include a security deposit (shikikin), a non-refundable key money (reikin), and a brokerage fee. These can significantly increase the overall initial expenses.

      1. Security Deposit (Shikikin): An amount equivalent to 1-2 months' rent is required as a security deposit. This is held by the landlord to cover any damages caused by the tenant. If there are no issues upon moving out, the full deposit is refunded.

      2. Key money (Reikin): An amount equivalent to one month's rent is required as a gratuity fee. This is a non-refundable payment made to the landlord as a thank you. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in properties that do not require this fee.

      3. Brokerage fee: An amount equivalent to 1 to 1.5 months rent is paid to the real estate agency as a brokerage fee. This covers the services provided by the agency in finding the property and handling the contract procedures.

  3. Residential Access and Public Transportation

    1. In major Japanese metropolitan areas like Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, public transportation networks, including trains, buses, and subways, are highly developed. Many homes are conveniently located within walking distance of a station, making it easy to live comfortably without owning a car. Recently, the development of dedicated bicycle lanes has also made cycling a popular mode of transportation. On the other hand, in rural towns and villages, public transportation may be limited, and owning a car can often be necessary.

  4. Long-term Contracts

    1. Rental contracts in Japan typically last for two years. After the contract period ends, you can renew it through a renewal process. Often, a renewal fee is charged, which is usually equivalent to one month's rent.

  5. Earthquakes and other disasters

    1. In Japan, you should be prepared for natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. These events can cause building damage or collapse, infrastructure destruction, and general chaos.

    2. Earthquake and Disaster Preparedness for House Hunting

      1. Check hazard maps: Some local governments provide hazard maps that outline risks such as floods, landslides, and tsunamis. Reviewing these maps helps you understand the disaster risks in your potential living area.

      2. Check infrastructure: Ensure easy access to essential services such as hospitals, schools, fire stations, police stations, supermarkets, and convenience stores. These can be crucial for evacuation and maintaining lifelines during a disaster.

      3. Check the building's structure: It is important to choose a building that is earthquake and fire resistant.

      4. Obtain fire and earthquake insurance: In case of a disaster, having fire and earthquake insurance can help cover damages.



B. Tokyo Housing Market
  1. Market Overview

    1. Tokyo is one of the world's largest cities, with a metropolitan population of about 14 million. Its housing market is one of the most vibrant globally, driven by the high population, concentrated economic activity, and limited land area. As a result, housing demand is always high, and prices are on the rise. In recent years, post-pandemic, the increase in foreign residents and the trend of moving back to the city center have further impacted Tokyo's housing market, driving demand even higher.

  2. Popular Areas and Their Characteristics

    1. According to the Tokyo rent market information on “Homes,” a real estate portal site, the rent prices for studio, 1K (1 room + kitchen), and 1DK (1 room + dining room and kitchen) apartments in the 23 wards of Tokyo as of May 10, 2024 are as follows*1.

    2. Area for young people

      1. Shibuya: Known as the cutting edge of fashion, music, art, and various other cultural trends, Shibuya is an overwhelmingly popular area among young people. Shibuya Station is also a major transportation hub with access to major train lines, providing easy access to other downtown areas such as Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, as well as office areas such as Tokyo, Shinagawa, and Roppongi. In recent years, many companies, especially startups, have also set up offices in Shibuya.

        1. Ref: Rental rent in Shibuya station area by Suumo

      2. Shinjuku: Shinjuku is a huge area that combines a business district with skyscrapers and a downtown area. Lined with department stores, electronics retailers, and restaurants, Shinjuku is popular as a town where everything is available. In addition, Shinjuku Station is a terminal station with the largest number of train lines in the world, providing easy access to all parts of Japan.

        1. Ref: Rental rent in Shinjuku station area by Suumo

    3. Areas for Families

      1. Futakotamagawa: With its lush parks and terrace cafes along the Tama River, Futakotamagawa is a popular area for families. With a shopping mall directly connected to the station and large supermarkets, the area offers a convenient environment for households raising children. The area is also popular as a safe and secure place to live, with a good educational environment.

        1. Ref: Rental rent in Futakotamagawa station area by Suumo

      2. Setagaya Ward: Known as an upscale residential area, Setagaya Ward is an area where quiet residential areas and lush green parks are in harmony. There are several large parks in the ward, including Kinuta Park and Komazawa Olympic Park, providing an environment where children can enjoy raising their children in nature. There are also many private schools, providing a good educational environment.

        1. Ref: Rental rent in Setagaya-ward by Suumo

      3. Waterfront areas: In recent years, waterfront areas such as Odaiba and Toyosu have been undergoing redevelopment and are lined with high-rise condominiums and commercial facilities. These areas are becoming increasingly popular because of their easy access to the city center and views of the ocean.

        1. Ref: Rental rent in Odaiba Kaihin Koen Station area by Suumo

        2. Ref: Rental rent in Toyosu Station area by Suumo

    4. Areas for Foreigners

      1. Minato Ward: Known for its upscale residential areas such as Roppongi, Aoyama, and Azabu, Minato-ward is also home to many foreign residents. With many embassies and international organizations located in the area, it is popular for its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Also, its central location provides easy access to offices. Another important factor for foreigners is the large number of resources for finding English-speaking real estate agents in Japan.

        1. Ref: Rental rent in Minato-ward by Suumo

    5. Housing Type and Price Range

      1. Condominiums (マンション, Manshon) : This is the main form of housing in Tokyo, with properties ranging in size from studio rooms to family apartments. Prices vary greatly depending on location, age, facilities, etc. It is recommended that you search on a real estate portal site by entering your desired conditions.

      2. Apartments (アパート, Apaato): Rents are cheaper than condominiums  (マンション, Manshon) and are often used by students and singles. However, many of them are older and may not be well-equipped.

      3. Single-family homes (一戸建て, Ikkodate): There are few single-family homes in central Tokyo, and many are found in suburban areas. Prices vary greatly depending on the size of the land and the scale of the building, but in suburban areas away from the city center, some properties can be purchased for as little as 30 million yen.


Table 1: Tokyo 23 Wards Average Rent Prices for One-Room, 1K, and 1DK Apartments

Ward Name

Rental Rate

Setagaya

94,900 yen

Chiyoda

138,800 yen

Shibuya

125,600 yen

Chuo

121,300 yen

Nakano

90,700 yen

Minato

131,400 yen

Suginami

86,500 yen

Shinjuku

113,100 yen

Toshima

102,400 yen

Bunkyo

106,700 yen

Kita

88,000 yen

Taito

111,900 yen

Arakawa

84,800 yen

Sumida

100,300 yen

Itabashi

82,800 yen

Koto

104,600 yen

Nerima

77,200 yen

Shinagawa

101,100 yen

Adachi

72,900 yen

Meguro

118,400 yen

Katsushika

70,300 yen

Ota

87,000 yen

Edogawa

73,200 yen


Rental Contract Process

Understanding how to navigate rental agreements in Japan is crucial for foreigners.


  1. Resident Card Issuance

    1. We’ll publish an article explaining visas and residence permits at a later date.

  2. Arrangement of short-term accommodation and resident registration

    1. When you first arrive in Japan, you cannot immediately sign a rental contract. You need to have a temporary place to stay where you can register as a resident.

      1. e.g., monthly apartments, shared houses, houses of relatives or acquaintances

      2. You cannot register as a resident at a hotel.

    2. By renting a monthly apartment, you can use its address to register your residence. Monthly apartment contracts usually have more lenient screening criteria, but keep in mind they typically have a maximum stay of less than one year.

    3. Examples of websites that introduce monthly apartments where you can register your address:

      1. レオパレス21

      2. グッドマンスリー

    4. Obtain a resident registration within 14 days of establishing an address with a passport and resident card.

    5. Registration of residence makes it possible to create a regisitered seal (実印).

      1. A registered seal can be created online or at a store.

        1. Example of a site for making a registered seal:ハンコマン

      2. A registered seal is often required when signing a rental contract.

  3. Opening a bank account

    1. A company-issued certificate of company enrollment may be required.A company-issued certificate of company enrollment may be required.

    2. We’ll publish a guide to the process of opening a bank account at a later date.

  4. Cell phone contract

    1. Obtain a phone number that can be used in Japan.

    2. Required as a contact number for tenants when signing a rental contract.

  5. Property Search

    1. It is common to search for properties through real estate portal sites or local real estate agents. While there are many options in large cities, competition can be fierce, so it's important to be clear about your requirements. For specific portal sites, see the "Platforms and Resources for Finding Housing" section below.

    2. Criteria: rent, layout, location, facilities, age, security, renovation, (parking, storage, pets, sunlight, view, etc.)

  6. Preliminary Viewing

    1. Once you have found a property you wish to view, contact the real estate agent who handles the property. Many real estate agencies and portals allow you to schedule a viewing online. You can select the property you wish to view from a list of properties and request a viewing through the "Reserve a Viewing" or "Contact Us" links. If you need a quicker response, consider calling the real estate company directly to make a viewing appointment.

    2. Visit the property in person to check its condition and surroundings. During the viewing, Pay attention to factors that affect daily life, such as natural light, noise levels, and the state of the amenities.

  7. Application

    1. Once you have decided on a property, submit an application form. The following items are generally required at the application stage:

      1. Passport

      2. Resident card

      3. Copy of residence card

      4. Certificate of employment or employee ID

      5. Emergency contact (someone who lives in Japan and speaks Japanese)

      6. Guarantor, Guarantee company

      7. Personal seal (inkan)

      8. Japanese bank account, credit card

  8. Confirmation of Contract Terms

    1. The contract includes terms and conditions for rent, deposit (shikikin), key money (reikin), management fee, and renewal fee. Also check the requirements for a guarantor and the conditions for using a guarantee company.

  9. Initial payment

    1. Initial costs are often high in the Japanese rental market, and typically include a deposit (1-2 months' rent), key money (0-2 months' rent), agency fee (1 month's rent), advance rent, and a guarantee company fee.

  10. Signature and seal on contract

    1. Rental contracts in Japan are written in Japanese, so you will need a translation to fully understand the content. To officially sign the contract, you will use a stamp (inkan) or a signature.

      1. For the application process of move-in, you will need a personal seal (mitome-in). If you want to set up automatic rent payments, a bank seal (ginko-in) is necessary. A registered seal (jitsu-in) is generally required to sign a contract. However, if the real estate company does not specify the use of a registered seal, a personal seal (mitome-in) is sometimes sufficient for signing a rental agreement.

        1. Mitome-in (unregistered seal, or personal seal): This seal is used to show approval or acknowledgment of document contents, such as “I have confirmed” or “I understand.” It doesn't have strong legal binding power, so it's not suitable for important documents.

        2. Bank Seal (Ginko-in): This seal is registered with financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, and building societies. It verifies the identity of the account holder when withdrawing money.

        3. Registered Seal (Jitsu-in): This is a seal registered with the local government office where you reside, with your legal name engraved. It has strong legal significance and is often required for important documents. 

        4. You can use the same seal for both registered and bank purposes.

    2. See the "Platforms and Resources for Finding Housing" section below for real estate agents who offer English-language assistance.

  11. Receiving the key

    1. Upon completion of the contract and payment of the initial fee, you will receive the keys to the property. At this point, you are officially a resident of the property.

  12. Opening of electricity, gas, and water service

    1. You need to follow the procedures for electricity, gas, and water use. It is recommended to start the procedures about a week before moving in.

    2. Electricity: You are free to choose and contract with the electric power company you wish to use. In the Kanto area, there is an English-language service provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

    3. Gas: The contractor and resident must be present when the gas valve is opened. Tokyo Gas offers services in English, Chinese, and Korean.。

    4. Water: Procedures are handled by the waterworks bureaus in each prefecture.

    5. When moving out, it is necessary to stop the use of electricity, gas, and water in the room.



Unique Challenges Faced by Non-Japanese Individuals


  1. Language Barrier

    1. In the Japanese real estate market, most information is provided in Japanese. The same is applied to contracts and legal documents, and these are often difficult to understand. Even if you have a daily conversational level of Japanese, it is often time-consuming to review contract documents, so it’s important to use interpreter services or seek help from a Japanese-speaking friend. Alternatively, consider using a real estate agent who can assist in foreign languages.For more information, see the "Platforms and Resources for Finding Housing" section below.

  2. Guarantor System

    1. Many rental contracts require a Japanese co-signer, but finding a guarantor can be extremely difficult for foreigners who are not based in Japan. To solve this problem, many real estate agencies and online platforms offer services through guarantee companies, increasing options for renting in Japan without a guarantor. The following are examples of rental guarantee companies for foreign tenants:

      1. 株式会社オリコフォレントインシュア

        1. Support for 21 languages

      2. 日本セーフティー株式会社

        1. Support for 8 languages

      3. 株式会社エポスカード

        1. Support for 21 languages

      4. ジェイリース株式会社

        1. Support for 21 languages

      5. 株式会社Casa

        1. Support for 11 languages

      6. 株式会社いえらぶパートナーズ

        1. Support for 11 languages

    2. In recent years, there has been an increase in rental properties that do not require a guarantor. Many real estate portal sites now allow you to filter your search to include only properties that do not need a guarantor. This can be a good option to consider.

  3. Move-in Restrictions

    1. Some rental properties may restrict foreign tenants. Unfortunately, this is due to the perception that foreign tenants may pose higher risks than Japanese tenants in areas such as communication, cultural and lifestyle differences, and rent payment reliability. However, you can alleviate these concerns by assuring landlords that you have a reliable guarantor, are using a guarantor company that supports foreign tenants, and have knowledge of the Japanese language and customs. Additionally, choosing a real estate agent with experience renting to foreign tenants can help you avoid unnecessary conflicts and confusion.

  4. Cultural Differences

    1. You might encounter some cultural practices unique to Japanese housing that could be confusing. For example, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a home and to separate your trash according to specific recycling rules. It's important to understand and respect these Japanese customs, rules, and manners as much as possible.

  5. Initial Costs

    1. Initial costs in the Japanese rental market involve significant expenses, such as key money, deposit, and brokerage fees. These costs are an important part of the budget planning for house hunting, and it is important to understand the details in advance.

  6. Contract Renewal Fees

    1. In Japan, a renewal fee may be required when renewing a lease contract. To avoid unexpected additional costs, the terms of renewal must be clearly understood at the time of contract signing.



Platforms and Resources for Finding Housing


  1. Real estate portals: These websites offer extensive property information and a search function that makes it easy to find properties that match your criteria.

    1. SUUMO(スーモ)

      1. The largest number of listings, making it easy to find properties that match your preferences.

      2. You can search by layout, helping you find your ideal living space.

    2. Homes(ホームズ)

      1. Widely used, with a wealth of information and active user reviews that can be very helpful.

      2. Offers various perks, such as waiving brokerage fees for listed properties.

    3. At Home(アットホーム)

      1. Over 60,000 real estate companies nationwide are affiliated, offering comprehensive coverage.

      2. They also provide comprehensive support for moving procedures.

  2. Real Estate Agents for Foreign Languages

    1. Suumo Rental inforamation for foreigners

      1. A large number of estate agents with English-speaking staff are listed.

    2. Minimini

    3. YOLO HOME

    4. Mooovin

    5. Wagaya Japan

  3. Online Communities and Bulletin Boards

    1. Information from foreigners in the same situation or those who have lived in Japan for a long time can provide valuable clues in the housing search process. Checking Facebook groups and online bulletin boards is a useful way to do this. However, be cautious, as there can be some fraudulent posts.

    2. Jelper Club is also a good place to start, as there are many non-Japanese members who work in Japan. If you have any questions, you can post them in "Feed", or contact users you have connected with through "Connect" to ask them about their experiences in house hunting. Hopefully you will be introduced to a recommended real estate agent.

  4. Visit the area in person

    1. In addition to gathering information online, it’s also a good idea to visit the area where you want to live and check out local real estate shops. Local agents are familiar with the area and may have information on properties that are not listed online.



Conclusion


This article provides a detailed overview of key features and processes in the Japanese housing market, particularly in Tokyo. It also addresses challenges that foreigners may face when searching for a home in Japan and offers solutions. Successful house hunting in Japan requires careful planning. We hope this comprehensive guide to Japanese housing for foreigners helps you start your new life in Japan smoothly.


At Jelper Club, we're here to support you every step of the way for your career development in Japan. Our platform connects ambitious students from top universities worldwide with exclusive internship and full-time job opportunities in Japan with a variety of Japanese proficiency requirements. We also provide access to practical information, member-only events, and a professional community of like-minded individuals.

 

If you're ready to embark on your own Japanese adventure, visit Jelper Club today and discover how we can help you unlock your potential in Japan.



Sources and Notes


  1. 「東京都の家賃相場情報」(ホームズ):https://www.homes.co.jp/chintai/tokyo/city/price/

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