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It’s about 11:30 and I’m getting ready to settle in for the night. The rain is falling pretty heavily outside but I’m in what I can call my own apartment/bachelor pad right in the middle of Tokyo. It’s just under 20 square meters (215 square feet), and has a balcony too. I’m paying $1370 a month, or about $6.4 a square foot (which is still cheaper than Luke’s $800 for 78-square feet, which comes to about $10.3). Still, this far exceeds anything I had expected to pay, though I quickly realized that my options for rent in Tokyo boils down to a few key concepts:
a) Most housing contracts in Japan are on a two-year basis.
Not terribly surprising, but it does prevent me from looking at traditional rent options (with a renting agency, or fudosan), which would be cheapest.
b) Many housing contracts require key money, deposit, and guarantor
This is fairly unique to Japan, as far as I know, because the key money (reikin) is essentially money you pay to the landlord as thanks for renting the place to you (it is illegal in the UK as well as in the United States). A guarantor is also typically desired just in case you fail to make payments - this is largely a result of very generous tenant laws in Japan that prevent landlords from kicking nonpaying tenants out easily. But to show you just how ludicrous this policy can be, my parents, who are also planning on renting in Tokyo, had to find a guarantor, despite having enough money to pay for a decade’s worth of rent (at least!). If a rent system requires key money and a deposit, it usually means your first month’s pay is 3-month’s rent.
c) The deposit is rarely returned in full
Landlords typically use a good portion of the deposit to clean the apartment as you move out, so the deposit is, according to my landlor, very rarely returned in full. Landlords are very nitpicky about cleanliness, in other words.
d) Some renter’s agencies will not rent to Japanese nationals
This is somewhat of a bias (and I’ve inquired for further information), but at least two companies work “exclusively with foreign passport holders”. My landlord suggested that it may be because rental agencies are inherently suspicious of Japanese folks who want to rent without key money and deposit, which might suggest the inability to pay future payments.
That’s getting closer at about $8 per square foot - see listing here.
There’s a waiting list? I bet some of you have walk-in closets that are bigger than 97-square feet! listing here.
What worried me most was the fact that many of these units were actually being occupied, and available units that I had scoffed because of size suddenly became appealing in the eyes of those unknown folks who seemed willing to pay. Granted, I was fairly particular about location - I’m right in the middle of Roppongi which clearly narrowed my choices to begin with. There were several other options I pursued, including craigslist and another rental agency, but in the end I settled with one of the first units I saw when I arrived in Japan.
It’ll be interesting trying to accomodate some of my friends in my apartment as they try to map out their visit to Japan this summer. We’ll see how it goes.