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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Difficulties of a Japanese Apartment

Living in Japan may seem fun at first glance, but there are some difficulties to it if you are not prepared enough for the big changes. Apartments are already difficult enough, as it is not yours to own which means you have to play by your landlord's rules, but I find apartments in Japan can be a bit more difficult because of the obvious language and cultural barriers (if present). I'm going to share with you the difficulties you should watch out for with apartments in Japan. This is not only for people who are renting a living space in Japan but also for people who are just visiting but using an apartment to temporarily stay with services such as Airbnb (I did a separate blog post on that topic).

Renting for Foreigners

In my last blog post about Airbnb I stated that "some Japanese apartments don't allow foreigners." It's true that Japan is getting better about foreigners living over there, but it's still a problem in some cases. It's not even about the apartments as much as it's about the landlords. Foreigners have the stereotype of being loud and rude. Landlords don't want this kind of behavior in their building so they just ban all foreigners from their apartments. Not only is behavior a concern but some landlords can't speak English at all and don't want to try to converse with foreigners as it is difficult for them.

But not all apartments will ban foreigners. Foreigners living in Japan due to careers is increasing over time, so there are still options. First, you'll need an agent. They will help you in the apartment search process, and they are kind of a requirement unless your job is helping you settle into an apartment themselves. If you are not confident in your Japanese skills bring a friend to translate for you. And lastly, you'll need a guarantor, who will be responsible for your payments if you fail to make them yourself.
The view of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower. Many of these buildings are apartments.

Paying for an Apartment

There are so many fees to pay before even moving into the apartment. Some apartments will only have a few of these fees but here they are: your deposit, key money (ask your agent to look for apartments with no key money), agent costs, first month's rent, gift money (money to landlord that you never get back) and maintenance fee. The price of these fees will vary depending on the apartment and the landlord. You'll also have to pay for utilities and possibly parking. The average rent in Tokyo is about $800 USD. This obviously varies depending on where you're looking and how big the apartment is. It's not cheap, so save that money!

Apartment Space

Depending on who will be living in the apartment with you and/or how you want to function in the apartment will determine the size you want. Japan has a unique way of describing apartment layouts. LDK means living, dining and kitchen which refers to designated rooms in the apartment. A Japanese apartment can have all of these of just one, depending on the layout. Along with these designated rooms there may be an accompanied number in front. This number is referring to how many additional rooms are in the apartment. For example a 1LDK apartment means there's one additional room (bedroom) along with a separate living, dining and kitchen area. Bathrooms are usually not specified in these layout terms. So depending on what kind of apartment you get you may need to utilize the space in order to fit all the things you need. Some apartments are a tight squeeze so I hope you're really good at Tetris because you'll need to stack appliances and such in order to create more space (I used appliances as an example because kitchens in Japan are usually small).
Kitchen in a LK apartment layout.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. It's a lot of information but I hope it helps in your apartment hunting in Japan when the time comes. There are plenty more articles out there about apartments in Japan so if you're still curious go look for those.

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