Japanese Language Blog

Renting an apartment in Japan Posted by on Feb 28, 2022 in Culture

In the post-COVID-19 time, you may have a chance to go to Japan, and you need to find a place to live. If you are an expatriate (駐在員 chuuzaiin), your company can hopefully handle all these headaches (頭痛 zutsuu) of finding a home and dealing with the Japanese real estate (不動産 fudousan) practice. If you are a Study Abroad student, your hosting university hopefully has dorms (寮  ryou).  If you are neither a student nor an expatriate, you need to find a place of your own.

The most common way is to visit a neighborhood real estate office where you would like to live. Unlike the US, the closer the property is to a train station, the more expensive the rent is.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • Almost all Japanese rentals (賃貸 chintai) come unfurnished– no refrigerator (冷蔵庫 reizouko), no washer (洗濯機 sentakuki pronounced as sentakki), no microwave or (電子レンジ denshi renji). You will need to buy them.
  • Japanese homes do not have a clothes dryer (乾燥機 kansoki) or dishwasher (食器洗い機  shokki araiki), so there are no places to put them. If you read a flyer, it always says whether it has a sunny terrace to dry your laundry (洗濯物sentakumono). During the rainy season call “tsuyu” (梅雨), your apartment may get full of washed clothes hanging from the ceiling! Nowadays, you can purchase a front-loading washer/drier combo.


Japanese apartment layout is different from that of the US. In the US, you describe an apartment as, for example, 2 bedrooms with 2 ½ baths. In Japan, it is described differently.  LDK means a living, dining, and kitchen are all in one room. DK type means a dining and kitchen are in the same space with a separated living room.  If you see 1LDK, it means 1 room (possibly a bedroom) and one room which is a combination of living, dining, and kitchen. It looks like a one-bedroom apartment in the US. Japanese toilet is independent of a bathroom, but many budget rentals in Tokyo may come with a unit bath (ユニットバス yunitto basu), which means the bathtub, toilet, and sink are all in one room. There may not be a space or wiring for a washing machine, and you may have to place it outside. AND a very important thing – you cannot put a pin (画鋲 gabyou) or nail (釘 kugi) into the wall!  You pay for your rent, but it is not yours, I guess.

Here is an apartment that this student lived in for 4 years in Tokyo. The monthly rent (家賃 yachin) is ¥40,000.

Here is a high-end 1LDK rental in Tokyo.  Monthly rent ¥120,000, 43.83m² = 472FT².


Now you decided on a rental apartment. Then the confusion time will follow.  You are asked to pay fees such as reikin, shikikin, chukai tesuuryou, which are collectively called the initial costs. The initial costs have been a source of problems between an owner and an international renter.

  • Shikikin (敷金): it is like a security deposit and is usually one-month worth of your rent. You will get it back after subtracting costs to make the apartment to its original condition before rent.
  • Reikin (礼金): gratitude money, one-month’s worth, to an owner. This one, particularly, has been a source of problems for international renters. Some owners do not require 礼金.
  • Mae-yachin (前家賃): a prepayment of the first month’s rent
  • Commission (仲介料 chukairyou): payment to a real estate agent
  • Songai hoken (損害保険): similar to renter’s insurance

There may be more items, and it is important for you to know them before you sign the contract. Initial costs can be worth the value of five-month’s rent!

Many apartment rooms are rather boring box-type. There are, however, many interesting apartments now available in Japan – some look ridiculous, while others are wonderful. Yukkuri Fudosan is one of my favorite YouTube channels which shows some interesting apartments in Japan. Small apartments do not need to be old and depressing. And there are apartments for those who share some hobbies (趣味 shumi). Here are some interesting ones. They are not for everyone, and I am sure that some apartments will not be approved for occupancy in other countries. By accident, I chose three apartments that require a washer/dryer combo.  In the last video, you will see a space for a laundry pole (物干し竿 monohoshizao) on the veranda. Because you need to have your own washing machine, microwave, and refrigerator, it is important to purchase them in standard size in case you plan to move in the future.

Apartment houses for those who love motorcycles and cars.

Old company dorm (社宅 shataku) for a single employee converted to apartments with shared bathroom, kitchen, and other amenities.

Japanese residential qualities, except for traditional old houses, have been anything but attractive. But when you look, I am sure you will find something that fits your needs. May COVID-19 and the aggressions in the world disappear soon and we can move around the world freely to learn and understand from each other.

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  1. David:

    Thank you very much for showing the apartment video. My wife, who is Japanese, from Tokyo is taking me, an up-state New York person to Japan to live. I hope I can get used to living in a “doll house” of an apartment. Could you post something on how I can get used to the hot and humid summer ? The high humidity really bothers me…….Thank you !

    • eriko1:

      @David Thank you, David, for taking your time to comment.I hate humidity!!! I lived in NY for a long long time. I only knew West Coast before then, and visiting the west coast during the summer from Tokyo was my survival method. To me NY was too humid! Of course, it is no comparison to Japan. It is so hot in Tokyo during the summer, and the Japanese keep the temperature of public places at 28C (=82.4F) to save energy (省エネ), so there is no relief until you get back to your home. I am afraid there is no special way to get used to the humidity. If you are not going to work in the metropolitan area, would you consider rural areas in the mountains?