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House Hunting in Japan

February 18, 2016

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We have finally moved into our new home in Japan! Woohoo!!! After one week of house hunting in Japan and almost three weeks of paperwork, we were able to move into our home as of Monday. We will be doing a house tour, but we have to wait for our furniture to arrive from Korea. It ships out next week, and it should take a month to get here. Right now, though, we’ve got a carpet, a lamp, a small outdoor plastic table with plastic chairs, and a bed. So, not much to tour yet!

For those of you interested in how to rent an apartment or house in Japan, we’re going to talk more about it in detail now!

Problems with Renting in Japan As A Foreigner

In Korea, you either have the money for the key money or you don’t. There are few places that let you rent long term without a key money deposit, and those places are usually made for foreigners or short term visitors and are not very big. If you’re looking for something bigger, though, you’ll more than likely be needing to put down a big amount for key money.

Since the key money in Korea is so huge, you’re not going just leave Korea without it, so even if Korean landlords rent out the place to you, they’ll always have the safety of your key money even if you skip out on rent. The key money in some situations is just about the total rent you’ll be spending in your two years as a tenant. So, for us, we’ve never had any issue with renting places in Korea. If we had the money, nothing else mattered.

In Japan, though, there seems to be concerns about how to assure the landlord that they will get their money. As far as we know, there is no system in place to chase down a foreigner who just bounces without paying their rent, so there’s no way for the landlord to really feel too safe renting to foreigners. And so, we’ve experienced some problems with home owners just not wanting to rent to us when they found out we were foreigners. Even with our current place, it took a lot of work to convince the landlord that we were good for the money. We’ve heard similar stories from our other foreigner friends in Japan, and it doesn’t matter what colour your skin is or where you are from. All that matters is that you’re not Japanese with a Japanese family in Japan.

Getting a Guarantor

So, in Japan, we needed to get a guarantor. We did not need this in Korea at all! I think there was some insurance we had to file, but the process of getting a guarantor here in Japan was exceptionally more challenging.

In order to rent a place in Japan, either as a foreigner or a Japanese resident, you need someone to act as a guarantor. That is, someone who acts as back up for you if you act irresponsibly and/or can’t pay the rent. Most Japanese people just use their parents as guarantors. The funny part is, some people’s parents don’t necessarily even have the money to afford to pay for the rent, but the general theory is that your parents would feel emotionally attached to you and help out any way they could if you needed some help with rent.

If you don’t have a Japanese relative, you can use a third part insurance company that acts as a guarantor, but since we are working with a company, we had help from them. Thankfully. But there was even some obstacles there, because our company’s name isn’t a Japanese name: Breaker. That’s a foreign name! So our landlord was hesitant as well. But, after jumping through some more hoops, we were able to get a guarantor, and the landlord agreed to rent to us. I wish we could have just paid him for the two years rent right away. We do it in Korea! But that wasn’t an option, it seems.

Types of buildings: Apartment, Mansion, or House?

Apaato or Apartment (アパート) is for rented unit buildings, usually pretty low rise, like two or three stories high. Our real estate agent told us an “apartment” in Japan are often old, dirty and sketchy with no security at the front door, but they may not necessary be like that. We didn’t go to see any apartments so I can’t tell you our experiences with them.

Mansion (マンション), on the other hand, is what we lived in our first month as a short-term service apartment. We were a bit surprised that our place was a mansion, because when I think of mansions I picture a giant sprawling piece of property with fountains and pools and double staircases and all that stuff, but “mansions” means something totally different in Japan.

They can be low-rise, like one to two floors, but they usually have multiple floors, elevators, and a secure entrance system (we needed a key to get past the front door). They also have secure postboxes. They are usually more sturdily built than apartments with concrete and steel, and that matters, after all, since Japan has earthquakes! All the places we saw in Japan were labeled as mansions, but in our hearts we called them apartments because that is what we would call them in Canada :D

Houses, on the other hand, are rentable in Japan, AND THAT’S TOTALLY AWESOME, but prepare to live in a very Japanese suburb area. Although we are in Tokyo, you wouldn’t know from the quietness of our neighbourhood. We can see stars at night! STARS! With a 20 minute walk from the subway and a 15min express train ride to Shibuya Crossing, we’re located somewhat near all the craziness of the city but we’re able to have a little shelter from the non-stop hustle bustle of city life.

I’m sure things are different out in the country side as well, but we can’t really comment on it, because we didn’t look. Maybe two years from now we can let you know, if we decide to live out there!

Understanding Floor Plans: What is a 1LDK, “8-J”, and Tatami Mats?

We saw a lot of terms like 1LDK, 2LDK, or 1DK and had no idea what it meant! So here it is: L=Living Room, D=Dining Room and K=Kitchen. For example: 2LDK would have “2L” which would be two rooms (with closing doors) that could be used a bedroom or an office. A “D” is a space for a TV and couch, maybe even a dining room table. The K for kitchen can vary in size and many of them extend into part of the L space as you might have seen in our video. A 1DK would be one large room apartment while a 1LDK would have one private room.

Tatami mats (畳 or “jo”) are about 1.653 square meters in size. They are those straw mats you saw me kneeling on in that awesome huge home. The mats themselves are traditional flooring in Japan but even if your house doesn’t have it, it might be referred to as a unit of measurement in Japan, so room sizes might be described as 8J which means 8 Tatami mats. We also saw floor plans using metres as well, so it was a confusing blend of the two terms.

So that’s it for information! This has been a whirlwind month for us so far, but we’re finally done with house hunting in Japan, and now we can get to settling in. Woohoo! We’ll tell you some stories about our move in our next Eat Your Sushi segment and let you know a little about our neighbours, so stay tuned for that.

Oh, and we don’t have internet in our home yet, so our apologies for not being as responsive to comments this week. The internet should be set up tomorrow, though! Right now we’re at a Starbucks leeching off their internet. But not as of tomorrow. Yay!

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House Hunting in Japan

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  1. Hey you two!I’m unsure if you’ll see this since this post is old AF at this point but : what moving company did you use from Korea to Japan?
    We plan on moving from Korea (Daegu) to Japan (?). I’ve found some but would love your input and first-hand experience. :)

    1 year ago
  2. Hey, I’m rewatching this video because I plan to move to Japan sometime next year. I was wondering if you could share the name of the real estate website you had used or suggest any legit companies please :3

    2 years ago
  3. How much does renting a house cost typically? Is it usually more affordable than an apartment(mansion)?

    4 years ago
  4. Interesting! We do have houses/apartments here (I live in New Brunswick, Canada!) that are child free but they are named: “Adult Only Building(s)”
    I guess it’s their way to go around it. I see it becoming more and more popular also!
    What realtor company did you guys go with if you don’t mind me asking? They sounded super helpful and they spoke English! Or do you have any other companies that you heard are equally as helpful?
    Awesome video, keep up the great work. :-)

    4 years ago
  5. I love that there’s a little yard, too, that’s so awesome!

    4 years ago
  6. Congratulations on the house! I’ve never seen anyone not being allowed to rent/buy a house, because they had kids/played an instrument/ had a dog in California. But, my neighbor has a habit of playing the piano at 12am, so….

    4 years ago
  7. OMG
    watching all your Japanvids just makes my travel bug bite so so hard!
    I miss living abroad so much and making all these new experiences. Have fun with everything!
    XO

    4 years ago
  8. What advices do you have for someone who plans to move over to Japan and work there?

    4 years ago