Your Guide to Finding a Home in Japan

All the important things to note when looking for a place to live in Japan.

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When you’re moving to a new country for work, one of the first things you tick off on your to-do list is to find a place to live. Some people who work in Japan live in the housing that their company provides. And while there is no problem with that, there are those that have to search for an apartment of their own. Also, for those who live in a company housing and want to move out, chances are they need to look for their own place to live. But what are the things that one should take note of when looking for a place to live in Japan?

You’re in luck because we’ve put together a guide to finding your home in Japan. Here are the four factors you must consider when shopping around for a house or place to live in: (1) money or your budget; (2) necessary documents; (3) guarantor (
hoshonin) or rent guarantee company (hosho-gaisha); and (4) language skill to understand the contract details. Let’s break them down one by one. 

1. This is how much you need to set aside for your initial payment.

When moving into your new place, take note that it will almost always cost more than what you initially expect. For example, for people who would live in a 1K (one-room) apartment in the cheaper Edogawa District in Tokyo, the monthly rent would average ¥60,000. But, the first payment, which includes the deposit and agency fee, would be much bigger. Here is an example of the breakdown of your first payment for a one-room apartment: 

?? (shikikin

Deposit (one month’s rent is the usual amount)


?? (reikin)

Key Money (one month’s rent is the usual amount)


????? (chuukai tesuryou)

Agency Fee (one month’s rent is the usual amount)


??? (zen yachin)

Previous month’s rent (depending on when you start living there but for this example we put one month’s worth) 


???? (kasai hoken)

Fire Insurance (depends on the structure of the building)


?????? (kagi no koukan hiyou)

Key Exchange Fee (depends on key type)


????? (hoshou tesuuryou

Rent guarantee payment (to be paid to the rent guarantee company, usually amounting to one month’s rent)




While this is simply an example, you can see how a simple rent of ¥60,000 would amount to ¥330,000 as the first payment. Although there are apartments that offer a free deposit, no key money, or discounted agency fees, the amount is always greater than your monthly rent so make sure to keep that in mind when budgeting your living expenses. 

2. Make sure you’ve got all the necessary documents in order.

There are several documents needed to be submitted when doing a rent contract. While this is normal even for Japanese people, for foreigners, there are a few more documents that might be required, such as those that prove the residency status. There are also some apartments that typically do not accept foreigners, so it is important to find an agency that has a strong support for foreigners. 


Here are the documents that are often required: (1) passport; (2) residence card; (3) copy of proof of residence/residence certificate (
juuminhyo, you can get these at the city hall); (4) proof of employment (kinmu shomeisho, you can request this from your company, if you are already employed); (5) proof of income (shuunyu shomeisho, can also be requested from your company).

Basically all of these documents are proof that you are legally living in Japan and that you have the means to pay for your rent. Some agencies will require just one to two of these, while some agencies require all of them. Best to be prepared or ask ahead. 

3. You will need a guarantor (hoshonin) or a rent guarantee company (hosho-gaisha).

There are times when the tenant, for some reason (in case of illness, for example) cannot pay the rent. During these times the guarantor (
hoshonin), an individual and usually someone related to the tenant, comes to the rescue. These guarantors usually have a prerequisite and not everyone can be considered one. However, for foreigners who are working in Japan, it can be hard to find a guarantor. That is where a rent guarantee company comes in. By paying them (usually an amount equivalent to a month’s rent as stated above), you essentially bind a contract with them and they act as your guarantor. 

Whether you need a guarantor or a rent guarantee company is really on a case-by-case basis, so make sure to ask the agency first before moving forward with anything. 

4. You might need to up your language skill, so you can understand the contract details.

In signing a tenant contract (or any contract in Japan, for that matter), a high-level of Japanese language ability is required. Companies that offer English versions are just a handful. Having one’s Japanese level checked when applying for a housing contract is not unheard of in Japan.

Not only is a language level necessary, but knowing your budget, as well as the rules and limitations in Japan is also important. If you are worried about your Japanese language ability, it might be good to bring along a Japanese coworker or friend with you, so that everything will go more smoothly.  

What’s next?

Now that you’ve figured out those four important factors, it’s time to move in. Below is the contract process and some important points to take note of when you move in. 


Contract Process

While it may look like a long process, it actually goes much quicker than you think! 

Looking at this process, we recommend that you already think of a budget ahead of time. Because there are so many options to choose from in Japan, thinking about the rent and facilities you would rather have ahead of time is important. Please take note that the process mentioned above is simply an example, and more specific procedures may differ depending on the housing type, agent, and even the region and prefecture. So make sure to know the basic process first (as pictured above), and confirm with the agent so you can avoid mishaps later on.

Once you are done with the process above, it is time to officially move in. How exciting! 

Hiring a moving company

While it depends on whether you are coming to Japan from another country or simply moving within Japan, you might consider hiring a moving company. It largely depends on the distance and the amount of stuff you have, but most people living alone can hire a moving company with a fee that costs less than ¥10,000. It is best to canvas several moving companies beforehand, as the price range really varies between companies. This can help you maximize your budget.

Securing utilities and furniture

In Japan, the utilities considered are usually electricity, water, and gas. Some apartments will require you to accomplish certain procedures from your end. Of course, agencies will help in explaining and contacting the utility companies, but when it comes to signing and other documentations, you need to be there in person. So it is important to confirm the process of what you need to do with the agent beforehand.

Apartments in Japan often come unfurnished, so it’s best to incorporate them in the moving-in budget as well. At least prepare a bed, a fridge, and kitchen stuff to start with.

Other procedures to take note of

When moving in within Japan, official documents that need your address such as your residence card (or My Number card), bank and postal information, and sometimes even mobile phone contracts need to be alerted for your change of residence. Make sure to do them as well so as to not miss your mail and getting false certification in the future.

PRO-TIP: Rent/housing contract renewal in Japan

In some instances, a rent contract requires a minimum length of stay such as 1 or 2 years. Upon renewing the contract, some landlords or companies require a month’s worth of rent as a renewal fee. Take note that this is a case-by-case basis.


Now that you’ve got everything you need, are you ready to move to Japan?

 (17 June 2019)

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