Renting an apartment in Japan can be stressful — especially if you're a foreigner.
If you're lucky enough to have an offer from an established international company, it might not be too hard. But most companies don't have enough resources to offer much support when it comes to finding a place to live.
For those who have to search on their own, it can be one of the most stressful parts of moving to Japan. Thankfully, you can avoid having a negative experiences by doing some research.
That's why we've collected all the resources we could find to help you find an apartment in Japan. We hope they'll help you find a great place to live and start your journey in Japan off on the right foot!
Here's a list of what we'll cover in this post:
How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Japan?
Japanese apartments have a reputation for being small and expensive... but is that really the case?
Let's compare the average rent for a one bedroom apartment using stats from NUMBEO.
First let's look at San Francisco, a city that's known worldwide for being as expensive as it gets. The average price for a 1-bedroom apartment is ¥343,419 ($3,157). Not cheap!
How about Tokyo? The average is a lot lower: ¥146,666 ($1,348). So going purely on numbers, it seems to be a lot cheaper.
Of course San Francisco is an extreme example, but major cities like New York, London, and Singapore are all higher. The data suggests that you can live in Tokyo for a lot less than you'd pay in these cities.
But having said that... there are some other factors you need to consider here. For one thing, Japan has some extra up-front costs you likely won't need to pay in places like the US:
- Key money
- Guarantor company fees
- Rental agency fees
- Contract renewal fees
These add up, so you should take them into account (scroll down for more details on these fees).
There's one more problem with this simplistic method of comparison: apartment size.
The average size for a "1-bedroom" apartment can vary a ton by location. The average 1-bedroom in New York is 70 square meters. San Francisco's average is 66.5 square meters according to the data for the top 50 US cities.
...whereas Tokyo's is only 40 square meters. So if you look at the price per square foot, the difference in price is a lot smaller. Amenities like ovens and washing machines are also rare in Japan. Plus high ceilings and loft-style apartments are pretty much non-existent.
So it comes down to this: are you willing to live in a smaller apartment?
If so, you can save a ton of money. If you're unwilling to make that sacrifice, you're going to end up paying a premium akin to what you would in New York or San Francisco. And even then you may need to make some compromises.
Living outside the city
Having said that, there are other ways to save money on housing in Japan. The above costs are for Tokyo's 23 wards (essentially within the city limits).
Prices drop fast when you expand your search to the surrounding areas. It's common for people to move out of Tokyo proper once they have kids and need more space. And even young, single people can afford a 1-bedroom apartment that way. No need to live with roommates.
Distance from the nearest train station will also have a major impact on price, as will age of the building.
Here's a list of prices for 1-bedroom apartments around the world: (all data from NUMBEO)
San Francisco, CA, United States
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥343,419 （$3,157.05)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥276,688 （$2,543.59）
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥338,309 ($3,110.08)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥219,826 ($2,020.86)
London, United Kingdom
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥261,350 （$2,402.58)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥194,950 ($1,792.17)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥235,138 ($2,161.62)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥155,147($1,426.27)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥146,666 ($1,348.30)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥77,436 ($711.87)
Yokohama (International harbor city in Kanagawa)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥117,500 ($1,080.18)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥81,875 ($752.68)
Osaka (Japan's most populous city after Tokyo, the largest city in the Kansai region)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥93,375 ($858.40)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥54,444 ($500.51)
Fukuoka (Japan's one of the most innovative cities. Fast growing urban centre wants to become Japan’s Silicon Valley!)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre : ¥64,593 ($593.81)
- Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre : ¥48,500 ($445.86)
Unique Japanese rules for renting
In addition to rent, fees like a security deposit and down payment are typical worldwide, but there are other fees particular to Japan not often seen in other countries.
Key money (礼金)
A fee payed to the landlord at the time of contracting that cannot be refunded. Typically between 1-2 month’s rent.
Renewal fee (更新料)
A fee payed to the landlord two years after the start of a contract at the time of contract renewal that cannot be refunded. Typically between 0-1 month’s rent.
Brokerage fee (仲介手数料)
A fee payed to the real estate company. Generally equal to one month’s rent plus a 10% consumption tax. Usually the renter pays the brokerage fee to the real estate company.
Guarantor commission fee (保証委託料)
A fee payed by the renter to a guarantor company. Typically between 50%-100% of a month’s rent. Then, either 1 or 2 years later, the guarantor company will require a fee of 10,000 yen at the time of contract renewal.
*A guarantor company is a company that cosigns the rent agreement, and, if by some chance the renter does not pay their rent, will pay the landlord in their stead.
Security deposit (敷金)
Fee used to restore the residence at the time of departure (repair damages to the room that were incurred during residence)
If at the time of departure nothing has been damaged, whether intentionally or by accident, it will mostly be returned, but cleaning fees are often deducted from the security deposit.
Initial fees when renting a home in Japan
houses for rent in japan
It will depend on the area, but you will need the equivalent of about 4-6 month’s rent for the initial payment to cover the security deposit, key money, brokerage fee, etc. For example, if your rent is 100,000 yen, the initial payment will be 400,000-600,000 yen.
*They may be difficult to find from overseas, but there are also real estate companies whose properties do not require security deposits and key money or that have reduced brokerage fees, making it possible to negotiate a lower initial payment.
To touch on security deposits again, a 2020 revision to the Civil Code of Rental Contracts has established that “in principal, excluding cases of rent delinquency or where otherwise specified in the rental guidelines, security deposits can be returned”. (This is the first revision in about 120 years!)
This new law defines that the renter is not responsible for loss due to normal aging of the property between moving in and moving out, with the idea that it is already included in the rent.
With this new amendment, it is basically no longer possible for the landlord to make claims based on ambiguous standards as before. If you do not know this point (especially as a foreigner), it is possible you will be presented with a disadvantageous contract, so it is recommended that you carefully check the contents of your contract before signing.
The review process for tenants
In order to enter a rental agreement, your information will be reviewed regardless of individual or company contract. This move in review will confirm your identity and ability to pay.
• That you can prove your identity
• That you have a stable source of income
• That rent is about one third of your income
Again, if you use a real estate company specializing in foreign tenants, they will have English support, allowing you to rent a home without speaking Japanese. However, an ability to speak Japanese will be advantageous in your review, and multiply the number of properties you can choose from.
What's my rent limit?
For real estate companies with strict occupancy screening, the upper limit of rent is considered to be about 30% of your annual income divided by 12 months. Depending on the company, rent limit may be calculated as 1/3 of your annual income divided by 12 months.
Are there furnished apartments available?
In Japan, most rooms do not include appliances or furniture, and rent will be slightly higher in cases where they are provided. Therefore, if you are staying long term, it is recommended that you look for a vacant room and purchase your own furniture.
What do I need to rent a home in Japan?
1: Passport and residence card
To rent an apartment in Japan long term, a work or student visa will be necessary. To apply for a regular apartment in Japan, you will be required to have two types of identification: a passport and either a certificate of residence or residence card.
2: Employment contract or official offer letter
You will be asked for an employment contract or official offer letter. If you have not yet signed an employment contract and have not been issued a visa, you will need to present a document (certificate of eligibility) that documents your purpose of staying in Japan. This is a document issued by the Immigration Bureau and proves that your desired activities meet the qualifications for residency in Japan. Obtaining this credential will make it easier for you to obtain a visa.
3: Certificate of Income
You must provide proof of income to prove that you can pay the rent. This includes a copy of your salary statement for the last few months or a withholding slip (a document that shows the total amount of salary paid by your company over the course of a year). If you haven’t worked for a Japanese company yet, this can be substituted for an offer letter (with your annual salary listed) from your new employer.
Note: you may also need documents to prove your relationship to someone you're living with (e.g your spouse). In some cases you might be asked to provide an original marriage certificate, so make sure you bring this with you.
The above are the materials generally required, but what is needed may vary on a case-by-case basis, so please check with your real estate agent for details.
Collection of resources to help foreigners find housing in Japan
Rental companies aimed at foreigners
A real estate company based in Tokyo, and strong in terms of properties within Tokyo. Support available in English and Japanese. You can complete the preview, payment, and contract before coming to Japan. They provide all the support related to life in Japan including utility bills, WIFI contracts, and opening a bank account so that you can start your life in Japan with peace of mind.
A real estate company based in Tokyo, and strong in terms of properties within Kanto (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama etc) and Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto etc) regions, but they deal with properties all over the country. Support available in English.
They also run a real estate website for foreigners, where you can search for Japanese rental properties in English.
A real estate company based in Fukuoka prefecture, and strong in terms of properties within Fukuoka. Support available in Japanese, English, Chinese, or Korean. Provides total support for your life in Japan, from searching for a property, to contracting, garbage disposal, opening a bank account, setting up gas, water, and electricity, all the way until your departure.
Offers service in 7 languages (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Traditional Chinese)
Multilingual real estate websites for foreigners
A real estate website for foreigners, where you can search for Japanese rental properties in multiple languages. It’s a platform that mainly lists properties that will rent to foreigners and connects them with multilingual intermediary companies. (You can search in English, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, or Japanese)
A real estate company based in Aichi Prefecture. They run a real estate information website (renting and purchasing) aimed at foreigners. You can search from a wide array of properties that don’t require a guarantor or key money in multiple languages. (You can search in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Japanese)
Public housing support services for foreigners
Looking for a cheap apartment in Japan?
UR might be a good option. This organization operates under the guidance of the Japanese government so, the rental fees are very reasonable.
There are 740,000 units throughout Japan, and the contract is basically the same across all of them.
The biggest advantage of UR is that you can avoid most of the fees associated with renting in Japan. There's no key money, agency fees, or renewal fees. Plus, if you are under 35 years old or have children under 18 years old, you can even get a discount. They're also committed to accepting foreigners working in Japan.
Some popular properties are difficult to rent because of high competition. Also, some properties are in inconvenient locations or older buildings. If you're in the center of Tokyo, there are some highrise apartments with more than 50 floors, so if you can find a good property, you can rent a house at a very reasonable price. UR helps you save money by reducing initial costs, but most of the rental properties are for middle to high income. There aren't many properties for those with lower income.
Eligibility for Foreign Nationals to Apply
- Those whose status of residence is permanent resident, diplomatic, or official.
- Special Permanent Residents
- Medium to long-term residents
This real estate company, WHITESTONE helps foreigners rent UR apartments in Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Saitama, and Chiba.
NPO Kanagawa foreign resident support center
If you’re looking to find a cheap apartment in Kanagawa prefecture, it might be a good option to contact NPO Kanagawa foreign resident support center.
It’s a public service limited to foreigners who reside or wish to reside in Kanagawa prefecture. They support you in finding a place to live with support in multiple languages. Since its founding in 2001, they've supported around 1600 cases per year, including not just finding residences, but also interpretation and translation in housing related matters.
They offer free consultations and introduce you to properties and real estate companies that meet your needs. Whether or not there is an agency fee depends on the real estate company you are introduced to. If you want to reduce the initial cost and find a cheap apartment, you can tell them your preferences and they’ll introduce you to a real estate company or an apartment that can reduce the cost. You can contact them only via phone or by physically going to their office. English support is only available on Tuesdays and Fridays (10:00-17:00 JST).
Sharehouses in Japan for foreigners
If you're unsure of where to live in Japan, living in a share house for a while might be a good option.
You don't need to pay any extra up-front costs, and you don't need to buy furniture or find a guarantor.
Here are some popular sharehouses for foreigners. All of them provide furnished apartments with support in English.
Kanto region (around Tokyo)
Sakura House's rooms are fully furnished and all utilities and fees are included in the rent.
There are no initial fees such as deposits, key money, or agency fees.
By paying a security deposit of 20,000 yen (~$200) and the first month's rent, you can stay there for at least 1 month.
Before COVID-19, they even hosted international exchange events where Japanese and foreigners could get to know each other.
BORDERLESS HOUSE creates spaces aimed at helping Japanese and foreigners meet and make new friends. It's a great way to gain Japanese language skills and learn about the culture here.
When our founder Eric first came to Tokyo, he lived in one of their share houses for a while!
He made lots of Japanese friends and improved his Japanese skills a lot thanks to the share house (they had lots of social events)!
A shared house company based in Tokyo, but they have many share houses around Japan. (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo etc)
Arden Share house
A shared house company based in Tokyo, they hold regular events for residents.
Chateau Life Eze
A shared house company based in Kanagawa, but they have many share houses around Kanagawa & Tokyo. They hold regular events for residents.
International Share House 634
A shared house company based in Asakusa, Tokyo. Asakusa is one of the most historic neighborhoods in Tokyo.
Ladies Only Sharehouse
This Share House is only for women. Easy access to cities, Ikebukuro, Shinjyuku, Shibuya, Ueno, Akihabara.
Shared House information websites aimed at foreigners
You may also check out JapanBased's Guide to Renting an Apartment in Japan for additional tips.