foreigner moving to new apartment in Japan

Welcome to Japan! One of the first feats as a foreigner moving to Japan is to find a place to live. You might have a neighborhood or price range in mind, but it can still be a challenge to narrow down hundreds of options, especially in Japanese! What’s the difference between an apartment (アパート or “Apāto”) and a mansion (マンション or “manshon”)? Are No-Foreigner rentals legal? Allow us to walk you through the basics of apartment hunting in Japan!

After you’ve decided on your limitations (area, price, size, etc). We recommend taking your search online to streamline the process of looking for open rentals without having to go through the entire process with a realtor, many of whom do not provide English support. Some of the most popular sites for apartment rentals are SUUMO, ホームズ (Homes) and CHINTAI or GaijinPot. These sites allow you to narrow down your search with specific filters from closest station (最寄駅 or “Moyori-eki”), building age (築年 or ”Chikunen”) to whether you can play piano inside (being a noisy neighbor is highly frowned upon in Japan, and late-night jam session will surely result in a noise complaint!). Keep in mind that some rentals are not available to foreigners on a visa – this is unfortunately legal to do. Other things to look out for include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Distance from the nearest train station
  • アパート or マンション (The word “mansion” is different from our English understanding of the term. Apartments are generally one to three stories high and made of wood. Mansions usually have more stories and are made of reinforced concrete (stronger build).
  • 礼金 (“Reikin” or key money) and 敷金 (“Shikikin” or security deposit) in addition to rent
  • 保証金 (“Hoshōkin” or Insurance)
  • ペット(Pets) OK or NG (not allowed)

After you’ve selected a few places that interest you, the next step will be to get in touch with the realtors (不動産/”Fudōsan”) to view the rental. Contact for the realtor is usually located near the bottom of the listing page. From there, they will take you through the process getting ready to move in. If your Japanese skills are limited, it might be best to bring a friend or other Japanese-speaker along with you. Alternatively, there are plenty of English-speaking and foreigner-friendly realtors across Tokyo and Kanagawa. However, rentals may be limited. Happy hunting!

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