How to find an apartment in Japan

Finding housing in Japan is often different from other countries and many people get confused.
There are many real estate agents, owners, and management companies that do not speak English, so finding a room is not an easy task.
Here are some things you need to know when looking for a room in Japan.

Three Screenings

In Japan, it is rare to rent an apartment directly from the owner and pay in cash.

Most housing in Japan are run by a management company commissioned by the owner. In recent years, the law on guarantors has become stricter, so owners and management companies are now using guarantor companies. The guarantor company’s fee is to be paid by the person renting the apartment. In addition, the guarantor company may ask for a Japanese or permanent resident guarantor to avoid any risk.


Tenants never meet the actual owner of the apartment.

Management company

The operation and management of the apartment is entrusted by the owner to the management company.

Guarantor company

It acts as a guarantor of the tenant to reduce the risk of owner and management company.

Real estate company

It introduces the apartment to the customer and organizes the interaction with the guarantor company, management company and the owner.

Comparison of general housing and UR apartments (UR rental housing)

General housing

UR apartments


Common service fee/ management fee


Security deposit
Fire insurance

Moving out”

Cleaning fee

Expenses that are often required when renting an apartment in Japan

Know the features so you don’t have to worry about the costs.

Security deposit (Shikikin / Hoshokin ) 敷金/保証金

The money will be refunded after you move out, but it is often refunded after deducting cleaning and repair costs.

Non-refundable security deposit (Shikibiki / Shokyaku) 敷引/償却

The security deposit will not be refund.

Key money ( Reikin ) 礼金

A non-refundable fee that the tenant pays to the landlord before moving in.

Brokerage fee ( Chukairyo ) 仲介料

A fee that the tenant pays to the real estate company for its services.

Guarantor company ( Hoshogaisya ) 保証会社

The make a contract with a guarantor company is mostly required to be eligible for moving in. If you cannot make a contract or are refused by the guarantor company, you will not be allowed to move in.

The person renting the apartment must pay 50%-100% of the monthly rental fee (Common service fee and Town fees included )for the first time, and an annual fee of 10,000 yen.

In most cases, the guarantor company requires the person renting the apartment to have a Japanese or permanent resident guarantor.

Door lock replacement cost ( Kagi kokan hiyo ) 鍵交換費用

Replacement of the old door lock with a new one. It costs 15,000 yen and usually the person renting the room pays for it.

Repair cost ( Shuzen hi ) 修繕費

You may be required to pay it when you move in. There is no guarantee that the room will be clean even if you pay the fee, but you will not be able to move in unless you pay it.

Fire insurance ( Kasai hoken ) 火災保険

It is non-life insurance. A two-year contract costs 15,000-25,000 yen. It must be renewed every two years and costs will be incurred each time. Some management companies have monthly fire insurance.

You should always have fire insurance. Insurance companies are often designated as management companies.

The insurance generally covers fires, flood, and wind damage. For example, it compensates for the damage of furniture and home appliances caused by fire or flood. It may also compensate for burglary or for injuries incurred by a visitor caused by furniture or home appliances. It also compensates the owner and neighbors in case they incurred any damage.

Rent ( Yachin ) 家賃

The cost of renting an apartment. It is calculated based on the security deposit, key money and other expenses.

Common service fee ( Kyoeki hi ) / management fee ( Kanri hi ) 共益費/管理費

It is the cost of maintaining the common area and the cost of outsourcing the maintenance to a management company.


Cable TV cost. You have to pay even if you don’t use it.

The monthly fee is 200-500 yen.

Town expenses ( Cho hi ) 町費

It is mandatory.

The monthly fee is 200-400 yen.

Bicycle parking ( Churinjyo riyoryo ) 駐輪場利用料

Payment is required if using a bicycle. 

The monthly fee is 200-500 yen. Some places offer with free bicycle parking.

Car parking ( Chusya jyo ) 駐車場

Japanese parking lots are designed based on the size of Japanese cars, so there are restrictions on height, width and length. For this reason, it may be difficult to park oversized vehicles. Depending on the apartment, the apartment itself and the parking lot may be managed by different management companies. In that case, you may be asked for a parking lot brokerage fee or deposit.

Motorcycle parking バイク置場利用料

It is a parking lot exclusively for motorcycles. If you park your bike outside the building grounds, you may have to pay a fine. It is possible that some motorcycles cannot be parked at the motorcycle parking lot depending on the size of the motorcycle.

Tenant support service ( Nyukyosha anshin support ) 入居安心サポート

After moving in, many places offer 24-hour tenant support service.

Penalty for short-term cancellation ( Tanki kaiyaku iyakukin ) 短期解約違約金

If you cancel within two years, you may be required to pay two months’ rent as penalty fee, and if you cancel within one year, you may be required to pay one months’ rent as penalty fee. Recently, there have been some cases when the tenant was billed for not only the rent but also for all monthly expenses such as common service fee.

Step-by-step guide to renting an apartment (General housing)

The owner is a private person.

It takes about two weeks from application to moving in. The move-in date is generally within one month after application.

1. Search using websites such as SUUMO and HOMES (Japanese)

2. Search through real estate agent

Check property information with real estate company

Select about three apartments you are interested in.

Tour the room with the staff of the real estate company. You can meet the staff at the apartment.

Apply for the room you like. You cannot cancel and select another apartment after submitting your application.

Screening by the guarantor company, management company and owner requires two to seven days.

Pay the initial fee and submit the necessary documents. You will need your residence card [Zairyu kado], residence certificate [Jumin hyo], passbook and personal seal.

Get the key on the day you move in.

Move in after you receive your key.

Terminology of Japanese Housing

Japan has unique terminology for housing

Floor plan ( Madori )

The floor plan indicates the number of rooms.


The kitchen is in the bedroom. Mainly for singles.


The kitchen is separate from the bedroom. The kitchen is often in the corridor. Mainly for singles.


There is a separate bedroom and a dining kitchen. Mainly for singles.


There is a separate bedroom and a living dining kitchen. Mainly for singles.


2 bedrooms. The kitchen is separate from the bedrooms. The kitchen is often in the corridor.


2 bedrooms. There is the separate bedrooms and a dining kitchen.


2 bedrooms. There is separate bedrooms and a living dining kitchen.


3 bedrooms. There is separate bedrooms and a living dining kitchen. Mainly for two or three people.


4 bedrooms. There is separate bedrooms and a living dining kitchen. Mainly for tree or four people.


It is called a service room or a storage room. It is a space that is not recognized as a room by law.



Concrete with reinforced steel frame

It is recommended for those who are concerned about noise because concrete does not vibrate so it does not transmit sound.



It is recommended for those who are concerned about noise because concrete does not vibrate so it does not transmit sound.


Steel structure

The walls are not made of concrete, so they transmit sound. 


Wooden structure

The walls are not made of concrete, so they transmit sound. It is the cheapest type of housing.






Walk-in closet

People can walk into the storage area


Walk-thru closet

People can pass through the storage area



Storage for shoes at the entrance





Unit bath

Prefabricated bathroom unit


Air conditioner


Lifeline utilities

If you pass screening, you can apply for Lifeline utilities. In general, you will have to apply for Lifeline utilities on your own, but we can help you if you find it necessary.

Preparation for the Contract

The most difficult part about moving in Japan is gathering the required items and documents.

Personal Seal [Inkan]

In Japan, a personal seal is required when making a contract. You can make one at a personal seal shop.


You can make one at any bank such as Japan Post Bank, Mizuho Bank or Mitsubishi UFJ. A personal seal is required to create a passbook.

Residence Certificate [Juminhyo]

When you register as a resident at a city or ward office, the office will issue you a residence certificate.

Tax Statement [Gensen Choshuhyo]

You will receive it from your employer at the end of the year.

Employment Notice [Saiyo Tsuchisho]

You can ask your employer to issue it for you.