wikiHow to Find an Apartment in Japan

Three Parts:Searching for Potential LodgingsGoing Through With a DealSettling Into Your New Apartment

If you're moving to Japan, it can be a major challenge to find proper lodgings. Japan is a relatively small country, and because it's so densely populated, the housing market is competitive. This can be especially tricky if you are new to the country and aren't sure where to start. Fortunately, there are many options available to someone in search of an apartment, whether for you're in Japan for a short or long-term stay.

Part 1
Searching for Potential Lodgings

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    Use an online search engine.[1] There are search engines online specifically for the sake of looking up vacant apartments and lodgings in Japan. Sites like Tokyo Roomfinder and Japan Homefinder are there to give you insight into what is available in the area you want to stay in.
    • There are foreigner-friendly rental agencies specifically to help people new to Japan find accommodations. Foreigners typically find difficulty finding housing in the traditional housing market.[2]
    • Apartment finders and real estate sites will have plenty of listings of potential places you should look into.[3]
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    Understand terminology.[4] Many Japanese housing sites will use shorthand lingo to describe types of places. Here are some key terms to know:
    • 1K is a one room apartment with a kitchen.
    • 1DK is a one room apartment with dining room and kitchen.
    • 2LDK is a two room apartment with a living room, dining room and kitchen.
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    Find a real estate agent.[5] As in other developed cultures, a real estate agent specializes in linking prospective tenants to open housing. There are real-estate services that will have the connections to set you on the right course. If you're not yet fluent in speaking Japanese, it helps to bring a Japanese friend along with you to interpret what's being said.[6]
    • Only apartments that are currently vacant will be viewable by new prospective tentants.[7]
    • Real estates tend to focus their efforts on specific neighbourhoods. Because of this, you should figure out what neighbourhood you would prefer to live in before linking up with an agent.
    • Able is a well-known real estate service.[8]
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    Compare apartment rates. Even if there's a specific area you're planning on living in, you should still have a fair degree of options available to you. Because Japan's urban layout is so dense, you may find multiple potential places that are all within walking distance of one another.
    • Apartment rates will vary wildly depending on the closeness to a city centre you're renting in. In a city centre, rates will vary from 100000-200000 ¥ per month. Outside of a city centre, rates tend to vary from 50000-150000 ¥ per month, depending on the size and amount of rooms in the apartment. This roughly equals to 1000-2000 USD and 500-1000 USD respectively.
    • If you're budget savvy, you may try getting a room at a jiko bukken. These properties are seen as tainted because a tenant died there from unnatural causes. Because a potentially "haunted" house is more difficult to sell, you may get a deal on it.[9]
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    Consider short-term housing.[10] If you're visiting Japan from abroad and won't be there for the full two years most apartment leases expect of you, look into short-term "weekly mansions." Companies such as Leopalace21 and UR acknowledge the difficulties of finding lodging in Japan, and offer short-term accommodations that can be renewed on a weekly basis.
    • Leopalace21 hires staff with experience in English, making it a perfect choice for people coming from abroad.[11]

Part 2
Going Through With a Deal

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    Have ID documents ready.[12] The Japanese housing market requires you to have several pieces of ID in order to apply for housing. Here are the important documents you will need:
    • A copy of your passport (if you're a foreigner.)
    • A copy of your residence card.
    • Recent pay slips or bank statement, to prove that you have the money to pay.[13]
    • A domestic emergency contact, to call in case there's a problem and someone needs to get involved. This should be a Japanese person that can otherwise vouch for you.
    • Verification of employment. Many agencies will only hire you if you can prove that you will make at least 300% of what your rent will cost.[14]
    • A character reference. As in Western cultures, a character reference is a quick letter from someone indicating that they're dependable. This will give the landlord some bonus assurance that you're reliable when it comes to keeping the apartment responsibly.
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    Find a guarantor. A guarantor is required in order to sign any tenancy agreement. This refers to an individual that will vouch for you and pay up the slack for you if you fail to meet the terms of the agreement. A guarantor needs to be a Japanese national. If you cannot find a guarantor of your own, there are agencies that will act as guarantor for you for a nominal fee.[15]
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    Account for a number of fees.[16] The Japanese housing market is notorious for its fees. If you're looking for a place, you may need as much as six months rent just to get started with a place. Here are some of the fees you should look out for:
    • A real estate agent's fee called “Chukai Tesuryo". This is non-refundable and is typically one month’s rent.
    • A security deposit called shikikin. This is typically two or three months' rent.[17]
    • You are also expected to provide a gift to the landlord. This is referred to as a reikin. Unlike the security deposit, this is non-refundable. It is typically between 1-2 months rent.
    • A reservation fee called tetsukeikin. It’s refunded as soon as you sign contracts. This is the agency's way of making sure you’re serious about the deal.
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    Look professional when you meet the landlord. Above all, the Japanese respect politeness, punctuality and civility. You should take great lengths to coming across as a consummate professional when you meet a landlord to discuss contract agreements. This includes being to the meeting on time (or early, if possible), and dressing as you would to a job interview.
    • Some landlords won't rent to foreigners or non-Japanese races based on the perceived friction it may create. If you're new to the country, this may make it more difficult for you.[18] Unfortunately, discrimination cases don't usually go through in Japan currently. However, you should still file a complaint nonetheless if you feel you're being discriminated against based on your race.[19]
    • If you are having trouble finding a landlord who will take foreigners, you may want to go through a foreigner-friendly real estate agent.
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    Sign a tenancy agreement. Once you have found a place you want and the landlord has accepted you, it's time to sign a contact. Take extra time to read through the contact, and get a Japanese friend to interpret the writing for you if you aren't yet fluent.
    • Make sure to have all of the money needed to pay your fees in advance of signing the agreement.

Part 3
Settling Into Your New Apartment

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    Prepare for differences between Japanese and Western lodgings.[20] If you are a Westerner new to living in Japan, there are things you'll need to adjust to. Above all, Japanese apartments tend to be much smaller than their Western equivalents. The walls are thinner. This makes it so that sound carries between apartments easier. In addition, most older Japanese buildings do not have Western toilets. Instead, they have "squatter" toilets. If you're new to living in Japan, this may take some getting used to.
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    Acquire furnishings.[21] Many Japanese apartments won't come with any sort of furniture. Much like the West, outlets like IKEA and even Craigslist are perfect for finding furniture at a relative discount. In addition, because there are many foreigners staying in Japan for a fixed amount of time, some rental agencies will rent you the furniture for a given amount of time. This way, you won't have to buy the furniture new.
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    Learn the rules and regulations for your new apartment. Regulations and discipline are highly regarded in Japanese culture. Each apartment contract should have its regulations listed. Talk to your landlord if you're unsure.
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    Limit noise and sound. Japanese society values its peace and quiet. There is an understanding that you won't play music or be loud during the day or night. If you need to let loose, you may do so in a public area. Residences should be seen as places of rest rather than recreation.
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    Be courteous to other tenants. Above all, a successful stay in a Japanese apartment will be defined by how well you get along with fellow tenants in the building. Go out of your way to treat others with respect, and do what you can to accommodate them. Chances are the other tenants will offer you the same respect in turn.
    • If you are a Westerner planning on coming to Japan to stay, be aware of some of the negative stereotypes the Japanese people may have. Some Japanese see foreigners as unnecessarily crude and loud. If you show them how polite you can be, you'll force them to rethink this position.


  • Apartments are typically rented for at least two years.[22]
  • It will help your efforts if you're fluent in speaking the Japanese language.


  • Very few Japanese apartments allow renter to bring pets along with them. If you're intent on taking a pet, this will make your job of finding lodgings quite a bit harder.[23]

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Categories: Japan | Lodging