You have already been accepted to the language school, or you successfully passed all job interviews. Congratulations! It would seem that you have already overcome all obstacles and are ready to start your new life in Japan. However, there are still some details to be resolved, including finding an apartment in Japan.
I know what you’re thinking: Moving to Tokyo might be too stressful. There is always the language barrier, the fact of not knowing where in the city to live, the innumerable articles that condition you to think that it will be a headache …
It is true that looking for an apartment in Japan is not always a straightforward process. Some things can be frustrating and others surprisingly easier than you might think. It just takes a little time and inside information, instead of trying to read mountains and mountains of information. In fact it is not as difficult as one thinks.
To end the myth that moving to Japan is always a bureaucratic hell, I share some recommendations. I hope that at the end of the article you have a good idea of how to settle in Japan.
Overview of an apartment in Japan
Looking for an apartment in Japan doesn’t have to be stressful.
First of all, if you move to cities like Tokyo, the first thing you have to know is that they are massive. It is both exciting and challenging trying to settle in these cities. The multitude of municipalities that make up these megalopolises present a problem of which corner to choose as your home.
The best way to discover the city’s neighborhoods is by exploring. Many properties are advertised on the train lines, so hop on a train and get off at different stops, walk around and try to imagine what your daily life would be like: Is it close to a shounemosi (Mall)? Is it close to restaurants? Looking for something more residential?
You also have to take into account the price. The website Suumo Journal, run by the Recruit recruitment agency, says that the cheapest rents in order of proximity to a subway station in the case of Tokyo are Nishi Takashimadaira (Itabashi district), Kasai Rinkai (Edogawa district) and Kita Ayasi (district Adachi). Note that none of these are within the Yamanote line, the part of the city that is considered to have the most expensive rents in Tokyo. According to real estate information site Lifull, the average rent for a 1K (room + kitchen) or 1DK (the above + dining room) in Minato, Chiyoda, Chuo, Shibuya, Meguro and Shinjuku districts is ¥ 100,000. The cheapest districts are Katsushika, Adachi and Edogawa. The same strategy of looking for the cheapest districts applies to other cities.
For those who do not have enough savings to secure an apartment in Japan, share houses or live in UR housing (Urban renaisscance) run by the government is a good choice. Sharing homes is easy and helps share the burden of costs, but be sure to read the reviews: You run the risk of not knowing who you will share your home with.
Finally, it never hurts to mention that there are real estate agents. You can find an agent or company that works like hoshounin (guarantor), which is a great responsibility.
Find an apartment in Japan
It turns out that getting an apartment in Japan is not that difficult. It’s surprising to know that you don’t need a hanko (stamp), an employment contract, not even a local phone.
The best thing you can do is find a fudousan-ya (real estate agent), and the process will be relatively stress-free. Real estate agents are in all kinds of departments, including small offices above a store, or offices that advertise with great fanfare. Locate real estate agents in the area you would like to live in, and if you prefer, ask if they have English-speaking staff.
One recommendation is that you evaluate the agency as a restaurant: If there are a lot of local people, it is probably fine. So if you go to the office and see that there are a lot of people, it is probably worth the wait.
You probably need more savings. Most landlords ask for a reikin, which equates to one to three months of deposit, as well as proof of constant income.
Something that many do not know is that real estate agents will close on some business days and open on the weekend to take advantage of clients’ free time. This can help if you are looking for a quick spot. Fortunately, properties are usually vacant and agents and landlords want money, so you could move sooner than you think. The process can take only 5 days.
Make 1K your home
If this is the first time you rent an apartment in Japan, you will start from scratch.
After securing an apartment in Japan, the next challenge is that you may not even have a place to drop dead. Many properties don’t come with the furniture, and you might even be lucky to have lighting. If you have played Animal Crossing, maybe it will remind you how you started with an empty house. Perhaps the first thing you want to buy is a bed, unless you enjoy the softness and coolness of the floor. Ikea and Seiyu They sell roll-up and vacuum-packed beds that you can buy and take that same day: You don’t have to wait for shipment.
And after bed? Everything else. You probably want to cook, or you will burn your wallet by the end of your first month. You may want to make yourself a cup of coffee once in a while. For this, go to the nearest 100 yen store to buy the most basic products: plates, glasses, cups, cutlery, toothpicks, coffee filters, etc. Ikea, Nitori and Rakuten they are also good options, but not as cheap or convenient. Pass by your konbini (convenience store) closest to buy what you need for food and drink during the first days. Stores like Seven Eleven or Family Mart have cheap and quality food.
Sayonara Sale is a group of members who sell everything from plants to armchairs. Some people even sell everything together, which is easier than getting things separately. By last, Mottainai Japan It is a group that follows the philosophy of the same name and that offers free second-hand products.
Craigslist It is useful to find cheap furniture sales in your area. The Japanese site Jimoty It is similar, but superior, with more options. Still, Facebook groups are still a good option.
Visit local markets around Tokyo to search for bargains. Radios, books, ceramics, works of art … you can discover everything in these places. Tokyo City Flea Market at Oi Racecourse it opens every Sunday from 8:30. Shinagawa Intercity Flea Market It is ideal if there are days with rain, because it is totally covered, and the Ajinomoto Stadium Flea Market It is huge, but you will have to enter between 8 AM and 10 AM, which is when you will see the best deals.
If you’re on a short budget after you’ve paid the deposit, then don’t stress yourself out trying to buy everything at once.
Japan is seen as a futuristic Wonderland, but connecting is not easy. Before you think of connecting with your newly purchased tablet, you need a phone. But you will need internet to get a phone. What a contradiction! There are many internet cafes that can get you out of trouble.
There are many phone companies that will help you get a number and data without a contract, and at reasonable prices. Apply online, pay the cost in one konbini and you will receive the SIM card the next day. JP Smart SIM and Sakura mobile They are good options if you are looking to switch to a long-term plan later.
Since you have a phone, you can call the internet company. Discuss with your landlord which lines are connected to your building. Large companies like NTT have English services to help you see options and installation.
You will also need a phone to request gas, electricity and water services. Don’t worry, they also have service in English.
Japan is yours
To get to know the city, there is nothing like walking. Image: Christozavic from Pixabay
If you have a home, you have decorated it to your liking and you have internet. Now is the time to live your new life in Japan. Walk around. Discover all the places to eat and cafes, stop by the bakery for bread, check out the music stores and bookstores. If possible, try to walk instead of taking the train. Discovering the world between seasons is worth it, as you will have a better idea of where you are compared to everything else in the city. Most of the time we live in the school / office or apartment, and we transport ourselves underground.
There are many networks of friends that you can get involved in, like Hands on Tokyo, Second Harvest Japan and TELL Japan. To make friends, Japanese or foreign, the best way is by finding groups with common interests. Outdoors Club Japan (a hiking group) can be ideal if you like nature.
Moving to a new city is not easy. Things will not always be ideal. Sometimes the best thing you can do is be kind to yourself. Even if that means filling up on snacks from the convenience store.
Short term stays when you first arrive
You can settle in a new city with greater peace of mind if you find a place to go and stay for the first few days or weeks. You will have an address to register, you can open a bank account, find a job (if you are looking) and get a SIM card. In addition, you will have internet.
If you go to Japan for studies, work or even a relationship, it is very likely that you need a place to stay when you first arrive. In addition, you will have time to reflect if you want to take the big leap and decide whether an apartment in Japan is ideal or not.
Hotels have the advantage of being in the center, but they can be expensive and will drain your budget quickly. Hostels are cheaper and more social, but they have no privacy and can be uncomfortable in the long run. The same happens with couch surfing and shared houses. Airbnb is usually the best option, and the cheapest, although it has been struggling lately in Japan.