A Quick Guide to Housing in Japan [UPDATED 2022]

Tokyo High-rise Buildings / Getty Images

Japan is home to some of the most densely populated cities in the world, making the process of home hunting difficult and daunting. From language barriers to steep pre-deposits and high living costs, Japan’s housing system presents many barriers to entry for foreigners. However, being well informed and prepared ahead of time can streamline and make the process as stress-free as possible.

The Renting Process for Foreigners

In recent years, barriers to entry for foreign tenants to enter Japanese rental markets have fallen. Foreigners on working/employment visas in Japan should expect to see similar processes for renting as Japanese citizens. However, foreigners may be expected to pay steeper pre-deposits when renting.

Foreigners will be expected to submit a passport and residency card, employment contract or official offer letter and a certificate of income to qualify for renting. 

Foreign renters will also be required to have a guarantor (保証). Guarantors can be a person or company that is required to cover rental or damage costs if tenants do not pay. 

Working visa residents will typically ask employers to act as their guarantors and tenants on student visas can ask educational institutions to be their guarantor. In the case of the JET program or overseas transfers, employers may set up apartments for foreign employees and form a lease on their behalf – automatically becoming cosigners. Some universities and educational institutions may also provide guarantor services. 

Foreigners without guarantors in place, can seek guarantor companies (保証人会社). These companies will typically charge clients 50-100% of a month’s rent as a commission fee. 

Some landlords may also charge ‘key money’ (礼金)when contracting a rental agreement. This consists of a deposit of 1-2 months worth of rent that typically cannot be refunded. 

In Japan, there are multiple options for the types of properties available to tenants. Continue below to read on the best options for you.

Mansion (マンション)

Luxury Japanese Mansion / Plaza Homes

Withdraw the westernised impression of a mansion – by definition, an at least 8000 square feet dwelling, often associated with luxury and occupied by the wealthy. The Japanese mansion instead more accurately refers to a condominium. Japanese mansions are typically a 3 or more floor home, constructed with steel-reinforced concrete. 

For those who are willing to pay a higher rental price, mansions are the most popular option for tenants.  According to Tokyo Kantei data, the monthly mansion price in Tokyo is an average of 99,180 yen.

Mansions have the advantage of being quiet. Due to its dense infrastructure, mansions insulate out noise and also offer insulated temperature in the home and stronger resistance to earthquakes. Mansions also provide increased security with security cameras and autolocks installed to the building. 

Foreigners in Japan on temporary stays are highly recommended to dwell in mansions due to lower contract hurdles. Short-term stays in mansions often do not require a guarantor and can be contracted using an overseas address and phone number. 

Apartment(アパート)

Tokyo Apartment / Plaza Homes

Foreigners should expect that Japanese city apartments may typically be smaller than apartments in their homeland. In Tokyo, the average apartment size sits at 65.9 square metres, starting at approximately 100,000 yen a month, exclusive of bills. Other popular neighbourhoods will follow similarly in price and sizing, however moving away from city areas will see bigger properties and at more affordable prices.  The nationwide average monthly rental price for apartments stands between 50,000 to 70,000 yen. 

Apartments typically come at a lower price, compared to mansions and in a smaller space. This is well suited for students and singles, who want to enjoy the low cost benefits of an apartment, such as lower rent and parking fees. 

Sharehousing

Whilst mansions and apartments remain the most popular forms of housing, sharehousing also remains an attractive option for foreigners. 

Japanese Sharehouse / Borderless House

Typical sharehousing in Japan, will involve a house split into bedrooms shared between multiple tenants. Sharing a house will mean kitchens, bathrooms and other shared spaces are often communal. 

By sharing the property amongst other tenants, sharehousing offers the lowest price amongst rental properties and offers the least commitment due to its avoidance of guarantors. This makes it the best option for those wanting a short term stay in Japan and is popular amongst foreign students and English language teachers. Share housing also offers the added benefit of providing an opportunity to meet new people and socialise.

Sharehousing offers a large range of rental pricing, depending on its location, facilities and room size and sits between 50,000 to 90,000 yen a month. 

Stigmatised Property (事故物件

Stigmatised property refers to any property averted by buyers or tenants on reasons unrelated to its physical conditions or features. Most often, these dwellings are avoided due to a previous murder, suicide or death occuring on the property. According to Japanese mythology, properties where lonely deaths or murders have occured will harbour angry spirits who haunt where they lived their final moments. Superstitution in Japan sees these properties being avoided. To rectify the lack of demand, real estate agents and landowners will offer cheaper prices for the property. 

For those who are indifferent to superstition or a house’s history, renting or buying a stigmatised property should be taken into consideration. Tenants can rent a higher quality property at a lower price due to its stigmatation. 

Stigmatised condominiums in Japan are said to sell for so low that it has little opportunity to devalue. These properties will usually sell for at least half the price of its original value, from 1-2 years after the incident occurred. 

Real estate agents are legally required to inform potential buyers and renters of any unnatural deaths that have occured in the house. However, in Japan, if a person has lived in the property after the incident occured, landowners do not need to outline the incident in the lease. This is because of superstition that angry spirits will have already haunted the previous tenant. 

Expat Neighbourhoods

Kagurazaka and Iidabashi in Shinjuku-ku / Plaza Homes

Foreigners on long-term stays in Japan, may consider living in expat neighbourhoods. A higher proportion of foreign residents reside in expat neighbourhoods and so, international schools and properties targetted at expats occupy the area. 

The majority of foreign employees from large Japanese companies and foreign diplomats reside in Central Tokyo—mostly in the neighborhoods around Minato-ku and Shibuya-ku. These areas are safe and convenient for foreigners due to its familiarity with foreigners and English speaking nature. Expat neighbourhoods will often occupy major Japanese cities. 

Finding Housing

Exploring online is often the best way to research properties in Japan, especially for those overseas who are yet to enter Japan. Websites online will offer both English and Japanese language options. 

Below are a list of websites collated for finding properties in Japan, specifically for foreigners: 

Best Estate Japan is a real estate website specifically marketed for foreigners. The site caters for overseas clients with zoom meetings available for inspecting properties. 

Real Estate Japan offers housing for a range of stay terms. From buying hotel properties to short term stays, the site helps clients access a range of properties across Japan. 

Asumirai offers properties that are easily accessible to foreigners, with options of no guarantor and 0 zero key money properties. Asumirai also helps clients with contractual procedures, such as opening a bank account. 

Tokyo Sharehouse offers browsers detailed online viewings of share houses in Tokyo. Listings provide information on amenities, share house rules and pricing for specific rooms. 

Oakhouse offers apartments and share houses managed by the Oakhouse company. Oakhouse offers student discounts and hosts social events to provide tenants with ‘social housing’. 

Plaza Homes provides luxury housing options for foreigners. Plaza Home caters for expats, offering advice for buying and renting processes for foreigners as well as offering properties in expat neighbourhoods. 

Moving to Japan

For those relocating to Japan, getting familiar with a foreign housing system is at the forefront of daunting transition issues. By planning in advance and being aware of the process, moving to Japan can be a stress-free start to your worthwhile journey in Japan! 

Interested in discovering your working options in Japan? Check out these Asia Option articles for informed advice:

Our Top Tips on Finding an Internship in Japan!

Job Hunting in Japan: How to Ace Your Job Interview

Job Hunting in Japan: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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Carmen Chung

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