Apartment rental in Japan

living room of a typical apartment in japan
living room of a typical apartment in japan

Being a landlord in Japan sounds like a pretty sweet deal, especially if you have a desirable property near a major station.

As a tenant, I’m paying:
2 months of gift /key money (礼金)
2 months of upfront rental
1 month of real estate introduction fee
0.5 month of guarantor fees
0.5 months of random expenses (lock changing, insurance)

Plus, there’s a penalty of 2 months rental if i break the contract before 1 year.
There is a 1 month penalty if i break the contract after 1 year.

If I want to renew my contract, I need to pay 0.5 month rental as a “sign of gratitude”.

Where do these “privileges” of being able to surrender my money come from?

Anyway, since I have outlined some costs of renting an apartment, here are the steps to renting.

Choose your neighbourhood to live in.

Some companies sponsor the commuting costs for their staff, others don’t.

You may still want to live near your workplace for convenience. Other things to consider would be amenities such as parks, convenience stores, supermarkets, gyms, etc.

Approach the real estate agencies in that neighbourhood

Generally, real estate agencies hold a portfolio of the area that they are based in. If you try to approach an agency for an area further away, they may choose to make a referral and direct you there.

They may ask you several things, I have included a non exhaustive list below:

-Budget for monthly rental

-How big you would like the apartment to be

-Construction material of the building

-Age of the building (this has to do with earthquake proofing standards)

-How far the apartment is from the nearest station

– Do you want a place with no key money and no deposit? (if you can find one, there is a high chance it is a low quality listing)

Next, choose a few for viewing. Some people prefer to do multiple viewings over the day to check whether the apartment gets good light in the day. If you are allowed, good for you.

Corner units are generally preferred as they have less issue with noise and are also brighter since they have more windows.

Be aware that ground floor units have more issues with insects and even rodents. There is a higher chance especially if you live near forested areas.

Once you commit to a place, even verbally, there is an implied meaning that you will definitely take it. This was explained by my agent. Basically, they will have to communicate with the owner of the unit, the building management and the guarantor company to allow you to stay. If you back out in the middle of negotiations, you will be viewed as someone with low credibility (even before you sign a contract and your next chances of securing housing will be lower). So be sure you want the place before saying yes.

After a few weeks, they will get back to you with a stack of documents and you should get ready to cough up the cash.

When you go down for the contract signing, do prepare your hanko (stamp/ seal) since they need it for official documents.

Once you finish with the signing and stamping of all the documents (I had at least 5 different pieces and more than 10 pages in all), you will be informed of the moving in day and the key will be handed over the day before.

On the actual day, move in and enjoy your new place!

Banking in Fukuoka (some parts relevant to other areas in Japan)

I was lucky to already have 2 bank accounts from my previous time in Japan when I came to Fukuoka.

Just be careful of the bank locking up your account when your residence card (在留カード) expires.

When opening a new bank account in Japan, because of new laws that try to prevent criminal syndicates from exploiting foreigners’ bank account that have been left dormant over the years, it became harder to open one, especially if you are not employed by a company in Japan.

Here, I was lucky to have been sponsored by the Fukuoka Government to start my business here. Representatives from the Global Startup Centre helped me out with the bank by using their existing goodwill to nudge my application along.

The application with the bank would not have been so smooth otherwise.

1 If you have the backing of a local government office, your bank account application will be that much smoother with less questions asked.

2 If you are going for a smaller bank/ online bank like Shinsei/ Sony/ Rakuten, I heard it might be easier for foreigners.

3 For some banks, try to open the 総合口座 (combined/ integrated account) rather than the normal one (普通). Different banks have different systems but Fukuoka Bank does not allow the normal accounts to use internet banking (WHY?!)

Getting a credit card in Japan

My experience getting a credit card in Japan as a foreigner running his own business.

1. Prepare the following:
– Zairyu Card (Residence Card)

– Any bank account passbook / ATM card from a Japanese bank (I personally use MUFG)

– Have a semi-permanent place to live in, as stated in your Juminhyo (residence form).

AirBnBs and hotels do not count.
Sharehouses and short term / monthly housing do.

– At least JLPT N4 proficiency (meaning you can read and understand some of the terms they will throw at you).
No translators are allowed since they are worried you are being swindled into getting a credit card for syndicates, oh well.

– A Japanese phone line (must start with 070|080|090, if your number starts with 050, your application will be rejected.)

-A Smartphone to download any credit card app they might ask you to.

2. My experience was with EPOS card. The staff will ask you to download the EPOS app and apply from there. Otherwise, you may also use a tablet on the booth.
Fill in all the details in the application form, notably they will ask you for the things I have mentioned above.

A staff member will call you on your phone. They will also check that the payment gateway to the bank is active (for direct deduction)
approval will mean

3. Approval is immediate, they issue a card on the spot with your desired name on the card.
Credit limits will be set by them, mine was $5000 to start.

4. What can you do with a Japanese credit card?
-Get random perks with Japanese companies (JQ cards have 10% off on many bullet train tickets)

-Sign up for accounts like with Mercari to find interesting stuff on the pre-loved market (like collectibles)

-Use the card with traditional minded companies that would otherwise reject your foreign issued card.

Let me know what other interesting things have happened during your credit card application in Japan.

Internet: Both for home and away

Wifi router speeds in Japan are slow?

That’s because you’re using the one meant for foreigners.

Company “JW”, targeted at foreigners because it offers English support, is almost 10x slower than the one offered by UQ WiMax.

In practical use? I could barely watch youtube at 720p using JW, whereas now 4K streaming is perfectly fine with UQ.

I’m not sponsored but for foreigners living in Japan, do yourself a favor and go with the local established brands.

The price is the same at 4200 yen monthly for both brands anyway.
Get a friend who speaks Japanese to help you translate.

And go down to BicCamera, Yodobashi or Yamada Denki so that you get your wifi router on the spot and also get some freebies too, maybe. Depending on your needs, a portable wifi router could serve all your purposes just fine (personally, watching 4k Youtube videos and web conferencing is perfectly fine).

If you prefer a cable connection, you will have to sign up for home internet (typically, fibre optics is called Hikari 光). Be aware that could be an installation cost of between $150-200 depending on your building. If you are lucky, your building may already have the infrastructure and you can save some money on that. Plans from the big 3 carriers, NTT Docomo (also Asahinet for English support, AU and Softbank, generally range between $40-80. For example, Softbank’s plan is about $43 a month, there is an initial admin fee of $33 for a contract of about 2 years.

Summary: List of useful services for residents of Japan

As a conclusion for the article, I have curated a list of services I use on a regular basis for convenience or to save money on. Some of these places/ services are for Fukuoka, but there will be alternatives in other parts of Japan too.

Here are some places I recommend for your daily needs as a foreigner moving to Fukuoka city.

Online shopping: Amazon JP, Rakuten Ichiba

Housing: Foreigner friendly agencies like Asumirai, Miyoshi | Sharehouses

Mobile phone: Japan Wireless (050 number, careful with this), Y Mobile, Mobal (they donate money to charity too)

Furniture: Nitori (think the Japan version of Ikea) or Amazon (they seriously have everything)

Electronics: Mouse (as in the company called “Mouse”, not a computer mouse), Amazon, Bic Camera, Yodobashi

Second hand item apps: Jimoty (ジモテイ), Mercari, Yahoo Auctions (ヤフオク)

Groceries: Sunny Supermarket, Gyoumu Supermarket (literally commercial use supermarket, but anyone can use it), Max Value, Aeon, Seiyu.

Bank: Bank of Fukuoka, 西日本シティ銀行 ( Bank of Western Japan)

Coworking Space: Q-Coworking Space (convenience), GSC Coworking Space (cheap), Startup Cafe (free but you only get a place to sit, that’s all. No need to buy anything, it’s not a real cafe)

Credit card: Amazon, Rakuten, EPOS
(Those who come in with a Japanese registered company backing them, you might have an easier time. Freelancers and entrepreneurs, your mileage may vary)

Thanks for reading and I hope this article has been useful to potential residents of Japan 🙂

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