4 Tips When Moving and Renting in Japan

Moving to Japan, or wanting to move from a mansion to a detached house? Here are a few basic bits of advice that could save you a lot of trouble when renting in Japan. 

My wife and I are moving to into a detached house (we’d had enough of small flats). So we booked a 4-hour bus into Fukuoka and planned to visit three estate agents over two days. 

Tip 1. Keep your wits about you

Of the three estate agents we visited, we only actually liked one of them. 

Estate agent 1: This guy acted like a car salesman. When we said the one house we were interested in was a little dear, the staff member printed one other house out – that was nearly double the size and price of the first house. He didn’t try to introduce us to any cheaper houses or understand our circumstances, he just wanted to make a sale. When it looked like he was losing us, his boss came in with a pitch to try win us over. We didn’t feel comfortable with things, so we told them we would contact them after we have met another estate agent that had a house we were interested in. After saying this, they desperately tried to find out what the company name was and where the house was, simply so they could ridicule it. 

Estate agent 2: Even though we traveled 4-hours to get there, the estate agent didn’t have the decency to tell us that the house we wanted to see was no longer available due to leakage. He only bothered to tell us when WE rung him, the day before. 

Estate agent 3: A genuinely decent person who helped us look through many houses for several hours. He tried to find us a cheap but decent house. We eventually chose a house here, and he went out of his way to get us a better deal by negotiating with the landlord.

Tip 2. Learn the lingo

There are a few words you should probably know if you’re interested in renting in Japan. Here are just a few of them.

Chintai Mansion 

This is a block apartment style building that is made from concrete or similar materials. They are usually more expensive than an apaato, but they have much better sound-proofing.

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Cheaper than a chintai mansion, but because they are made of wood, sound is likely to carry between rooms. 

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A detached or semi-detached house. 

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The initial costs when renting.


An estate agent.

Tip 3. Understand the expenses of moving.

Renting in Japan is insanely expensive. We were told that when moving into a detached house, one can expect the shokki-hiyou (initial costs) to be 10 x the price of one month’s rent. So if you’re rent is $1000 a month, it could cost $10,000 to actually move. (Apartments tend to have lower initial costs).

Let’s break down some of these costs. 

Chinryou (rent) – of course, you need to pay your first month’s rent (sometimes even two months). 

Reikin (Thank-you money) – this is a gift to the landlord. Perhaps the landlord has had work done to the house, most likely they’ll want some thank-you money. This could be anything from 1-3 months rent.

Shikikin (deposit) – Pretty much the same as anywhere else, but it could cost 1-3 months rent. 

Chuukairyou (estate agent’s fee) – usually one month’s rent. 

Kagi Koukan-hi (key exchange fee) – when moving, the keys for the doors will be changed. This costs up to one months rent.

Chuusharyo (parking spot fee) – some houses require additional fees for parking. Prices vary. 

Hokenryo/Hoshouryo (insurance fees) – prices for insurance and guarantor fees could add up to nearly a month’s rent. 

Pet-keeping fee – in some cases, additional rent or an extra month’s worth of ‘thank-you money’ could be required. 

Make sure to chose a house with has both affordable rent and as fewer fees as possible! 

Tip 4. What you need when renting in Japan

To actually be able to rent in Japan, you’ll need a few things. As explained earlier, a fair amount of money is one. Another difficult thing to attain is a guarantor. If you don’t have proof of income from a permanent position, you’ll probably need one. A guarantor is liable to pay all fees if, for some reason, you can’t. If you’re married to a Japanese person, you may be able to ask their relatives to become a guarantor, if not, you can pay for an insurance company to be your guarantor. This, of course, costs even more money. 

Another thing you may need is a hanko/inkan. This is a stamp that acts as a signature in contracts. 

While there is a ton of other stuff you’ll need to know, sometimes it’s easier to learn along the way than to burden yourself with too much information at once. You should also be aware that there may be prejudice against foreigners trying to rent. This isn’t due to racism per se but is simply to do with communication worries and a fear that foreigners don’t understand how things are done in Japan. Hopefully, you’ll have a bit of good luck and find a nice place. And perhaps just maybe, this article will make renting in Japan a little easier for one of you.