To say you live in Tokyo gives you the kind of status that one gets from saying you live in New York City, London or Sydney. Just like those other famous large cities, knowing where to live is the first step to beginning your new life.
Like with most big cities, while you might want to live in a certain part of the city, your wallet may say otherwise. Once you’ve decided on the best area that will meet all of your living and financial requirements, it is time to begin the
house hunting.

Step 1:  Budget

Although this might seem obvious, the start up costs for renting apartment in Japan can be overwhelming. On top of that, for the amount that you will end up paying, you could end up with very little living space compared to what you may be used to in the US or the UK.
So, it is important to plan ahead with a healthy budget set aside. It’s better to over-budget than to find that you don’t have enough. As a guideline, it is best to plan for between five to six month’s worth of your planned rent.
Yes, you read that right. You could need up to six months’ of rent to move in. Here is an example breakdown of what that money pays for if you have an average rent of 100,000yen per month.

  • Deposit (usually 1 to 2 month’s rent) = 200,000
  • Key money called reikin (礼金:money as a separate gift to the owner for allowing the tenants to live in the                                                       owner’s apartment/one month’s rent) = 100,000
  • Agency fee (one months rent) = 100,000
  • Guarantor’s fee (20-80% of one month’s rent) = 80,000
  • First month’s rent = 100,000
  • Property/fire insuiopurance = 20,000
  • Key/lock exchange fee = 15,000

This is approximately 615,000yen.

Therefore, it is not just enough to look for low rent, but doing so will also help lower your start up costs. Also, depending on the rooms you may need to pay “Property Management Fee” apart from rent. it basically costs 3,000 to 10,000 yen. If you will settle in the room over 2 years in the future, don’t forget to renew your contract, which require monthly rent. On top of that, Repair Cost may be required if something is broken in the room.  However, the payment includes Deposit basically.

Step 2: Decide Apartment Requirements

Once you have determined your budget, then you should look at what you can get for your money. Apartments in Tokyo are advertised a bit differently from what many foreigners understand. When we say that we want a one-room apartment, usually we are referring to a bedroom, kitchen, living room space and bathroom. However, in Japan, one-room means exactly that!
So, to help you avoid some confusion, here is a list of how housing is expressed.

1ROne RoomA studio apartment usually with a small cooking space.
1KOne KitchenA studio apartment with a compact kitchen.
1DKOne Room + Dining Room + KitchenOne-bedroom with a dining/kitchen space plus a bedroom.
1LDKOne Room + Living Room + Dining Room + Kitchen One-bedroom with a living room

separate from the kitchen/dining area.

2KTwo Rooms + Kitchen Two-bedrooms with a kitchen area.
2DKTwo Rooms + Dining Room + KitchenTwo-bedrooms with a dining/kitchen space.
2LDKTwo Rooms + Living Room + Dining Room + KitchenTwo-bedrooms with a living room separate from the kitchen/dining area.
3LDKThree Rooms + Living Room + Dining Room + KitchenThree-bedrooms with a living room separate from the kitchen/dining area.
4LDKFour Rooms + Living Room + Dining Room + KitchenFour-bedrooms with a living room

separate from the kitchen/dining area.

SSpecialThis means there is a bonus room usually listed as 1SLDK, which  means a 1LDK plus a small bonus room – for storage or laundry.

The average 1K dimensions are between 20~30㎡, while a larger 3LDK could be up to 65~80㎡. Depending on the area in which you have decided to live, you may be limited to a certain size of  Apartment. However, at least knowing what is available and what you might be looking at will make it that much easier for you to decide on the perfect place.

Step 3:  Find an Agent & Guarantor

If you do not speak Japanese, this can possibly be one of the most challenging aspects in the process. Luckily, there are some options. Although you can look for realtors tailored for expats, be warned that the luxury of being able to deal with a fellow expat can also cost.
However, if you do speak some Japanese, it will definitely help in finding a realtor. There are some big chain real estate agents that will be foreigner-friendly.

Starts Pitat House International
Chintai **in Japanese**
Real Estate Japan

While these realtors may have someone who speaks English, it will be in your favor with potential landlords and guarantors if you can speak even a little bit of Japanese.
Speaking of guarantors, these are either people or companies that will serve as a kind of insurance to the landlord should you be unable to pay to your rent on time or if there is any kind of problem between you and the landlord. Most Japanese landlords will not rent to a foreigner without a guarantor. If you have a Japanese friend who is willing to serve as your guarantor, they will still need to be approved by the landlord and realtors. Either way, there will be a background check done on you to ensure you are ‘worthy’ of guaranteeing. This is why the fee can be rather high, but if you think of it as a bit of insurance, then perhaps it makes the cost a bit easier to accept.

One of the most popular guarantor companies is GTN
“GTN” means one of the insurance companies for foreigners called “Global Trust Networks”, enabling to interpret several languages, English, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese language and Nepalese. If you feel it is difficult to find any guarantees or are not sure about the rules of renting apartments in Japan, don’t worry, they will help to go on the processes smoothly.

There are cases where a guarantor might not be required as it is generally up to the landlord. Your realtor will let you know and can negotiate on your behalf. Also, most realtors have connections with guarantor companies if you do not have anyone else.
Once you have decided your realtor and sorted out your guarantor situation, then it is time to start looking at places.

Step 4:  Choosing Your Housing

If you are used to Western-sized housing, then it may take a few visits to different places to get your head around what your budget will get you. It is recommended that you check out at least three possibilities and the varied size of places. A good realtor will probably do this already, but if not, be sure to ask to see a lot of places. Remember this is a bit of an investment, so you want to be sure that you know all the options available to you.

Here are a few things to consider:

・Pets – most landlords do not allow pets. If they do, you may have to pay a deposit and possibly an increase rent for having a pet. Also, be sure to ask what kind of pet you can have as many landlords will accept dogs and not cats. Or, if you can have a cat, it may only be one cat and not two. Just make sure that this rule is very clear from the start.

・Light fixtures – most vacated places will not come with any light fixtures. There will possibly be one over the kitchen sink and your bathroom sink might have lights. Otherwise, you will be responsible to purchase your own and remove them when you move out. If you are lucky enough to view a place that comes with a few light fixtures, take this into consideration as each light could cost you up to 8,000yen or more.

・Bathroom setup – in Japan the toilet is almost always separate from the wash area. For the smaller places, these might be combined into one space. So, just consider what you prefer and what can or cannot live with. Also, older places (older than 5 years) may have water heaters in the bathroom that require heating or switching on when you want to bathe. Newer places usually have a central hot water button that covers the kitchen and shower area.

・Kitchen – unlike many Western apartments, Japanese places come with nothing. Therefore, there will be no cooking stove, refrigerator, etc. If you do find a very modern and updated kitchen, then you might be lucky to find the cooking stovetop included.

・Flooring – the question of tatami vs flooring is an important one. If you want to have a more authentic Japanese living experience, then having at least one tatami room can be a good choice. However, some people have allergies to the bamboo or find cleaning and maintaining them too much trouble. These days you can find more and more places with flooring only.

・Closets – storage space in Japan is a luxury. There are often not many closets in the room. In fact, some places may come with no closets at all and you’ll be expected to buy your own wardrobes or create storage space. If you have a tatami room, there will likely be at least one wall that has built in closets.


Step 5:  Completing the Paperwork

After you have finally decided on the place that will suit you best, you may feel exhausted. However, the process is just getting started!
The best way, to make what can already be a challenging experience smoother, is to ensure that you have all the basic requirements met. That means having your visa done and dusted. There are options available (see below) should you still be in the process or not sure you want to make a two-year commitment to a place.

However, if you are sure and want to move forward, the minimum requirement is to have your visa and residence card. Of course, there are cases where you can find a place if your visa is being processed, but it will make your life easier if you’ve done this process.

There will also be a need to have a Japanese telephone number (mobile phone), bank account, domestic emergency contact (better if that person is Japanese) and a job or proof of income (work contract).

If you have all of these things, then you’ll likely have to meet to thoroughly go over the contract. Be sure to ask questions at this time regarding holes in the walls if you want to hang anything, gardening or yard requirements, procedures if there is anything initially wrong with the apartment.

It is important that you very carefully go through the space once you get your keys and before you move in. Take notes and even pictures of things that you feel are not quite perfect with the walls, doors, screens, etc. This will save you upon moving out and in determining the return of your deposit.

Finally, you will sign a number of places on the contract and make your payments. You’ll have your keys in hand shortly thereafter and can begin settling in to your new home!

Other Options

Now, if you decided to move to Japan on a whim, are taking advantage of a last minute decision for a change of scenery, or aren’t sure about a two-year contract commitment – don’t worry.
There are a number of ways to procure temporary housing.

For example, Airbnb has proven to be very convenient for people who are just visiting for the duration of their 90-day tourist visa or are in the waiting period of finalizing the visa process. However, these go quickly and may not meet your requirements.


Metro Residence is the reservation platform that introduces monthly apartments and serviced apartments (with regular cleaning and sheet exchange) in Tokyo and Yokohama. You can compare and search rooms by referring accurate photos and information and find the room that meets your requirements.

The monthly apartments and serviced apartments are listed from popular areas convenient for office and daily shopping, near the main stations of JR and private railway lines in Tokyo. We have business in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia, and are used by many global companies.

Please ask MetroResidences to book your monthly apartments and serviced apartments.