Welcome to your comprehensive “Guide to Renting an Apartment in Japan.” Japan’s unique rental landscape and housing market can be both fascinating and complex. Whether you’re a newcomer to this beautiful country or a seasoned resident looking for a new place to call home, this guide is your essential companion. We’ll navigate the intricacies of Japanese real estate, explore the rental process, and provide you with the insights and practical tips you need to secure your ideal apartment. From understanding the various housing types to grasping the rental procedures and cultural nuances, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to embark on your Japanese apartment-hunting journey with confidence. So, let’s begin!

Why you need a Real-estate Agency

1. Exclusive Databases

Every Real-estate Agency in Japan has access to exclusive databases, not accessible to the public, which list all available properties for rent or purchase. These databases are continually updated, ensuring that property listings reflect their current availability. For this, you may have encountered a situation where you found a fantastic apartment online, only to be informed by an agency that it’s no longer on the market. In most cases, they are not lying to you; it’s simply that information from regular websites is oftentimes obsolete.

So, does this mean that conducting your research before approaching a real-estate agency is unnecessary? The answer is a resounding ‘NO.’ In fact, it’s strongly advisable to do your own research, and we’ll delve further into this in the following sections.

2. Complicated process

In Japan, Real-Estate Agencies do not work directly with the landlords, but managing companies. Here is a high-level view of the parties involved that you need to know:

  1. Landlord: The direct owner of the property.
  2. Managing company: When the landlord wants to lease their property, they will contact a managing company to list them on to a website, as well as doing the relevant administrative work – e.g., answering inquiries, working with the guarantor companies, making contracts, etc.
  3. Guarantor Company: They provide insurance service for the landlord in case of delinquent tenants. They will screen your profile, and you being able to rent a property or not largely depend on them.
  4. Real-estate Agency: This is the bridge between the Managing Company and You. 

That is done for the explanation of the parties involved, the process when renting an apartment is as follows:

1. Choosing Apartments: The Agency picks out a few options based on your requirement and present it to you. A decent agency will do all the prerequisite work beforehand (e.g., contacting the managing company to see if foreigners are allowed, the number of people that can move in – in case you want to move in with your family, or friends) and then show you the options.

2. House tour: When you have your preferred properties, the next step is to go there and see what the apartments actually look like. You can simply tell the agency your availability, and they will contact the managing companies to schedule a House Tour at your preferred date and time.

3. Application: Now you have had the chance to look at the Apartments, the neighborhood, etc., the agency will ask you some information to proceed with the Application Process. The information needed is typically as follows:

  • Personal Information: name, address, phone number (JP), email address, Residence card, Bank account information
  • Work Information: Company/School name, address, phone number, payday, job description (required for each of the people that will move-in with you)
  • Emergency Contact (preferably someone you know that currently in Japan)name, date of birth, phone number, address, relationship with you.

Your information will be sent to the managing company, and screened by the guarantor company. In short, this is similar to building your resume when applying for a job, but instead of judging your ability to work, they will judge your reliability, and stability as a tenant. This is also the part that separates a good agency from the ones that only do the bare minimum for you.

4. Landlord Interview Call: After your information has been screened and approved, the landlord will call you to ask questions in Japanese. It is mainly to test your Japanese level, but do not be afraid, since these questions are basic and only require the most fundamental Japanese skill to answer.

5. Sign the Contract: All the documents will be prepared by the managing company and sent to the agency. You will have to take some time (1-2 hours) to come to the office, where the real-estate agent explains to you the content of the contracts, and sets up automatic payments (utilities, rents). Last but not least…

6. Key Handover: After all that process, you signed the contract, the last step is getting the key to your apartment. Varies on a case-by-case basis, you can get the key the same day of contract signing, or a few days later at the managing company office. Regardless, you have officially walked through the door, you did it, congrats!!

The process seems long and complicated, but from your point of view, you only have to pick your apartment, provide some information, answer the easy phone call from the landlord, sign the contract and get the key. The rest of the work in the background is for the Agency to do, and you don’t have to worry about it.


1. Initial Fee

Below are the fees that you will encounter when renting an apartment in Japan:

Type of Fee Amount Explanation
Monthly Rent
100% Everything is calculated based on % of the monthly rent
Maintenance/Management fee
Varies Depend on the properties
100% Can be refunded after moving out
Key money/Thank-you fee
100% Thanks the landlord for letting you stay there
Renewal fee
0 – 150% Pay when moving out.Can be offset by your deposit
Rental Guarantee fee
30 – 100% The amount paid to the Guarantor company. 
Agency fee
100% + tax (110%) The amount paid to the Real-estate Agency. 
Other fees
Key changing fee, cleaning fee, fire insurance, etc.
~ 50% Depends on the properties

* The amount you pay every month = monthly rent + management fee. Here on out referred as “rent”

*You will have to pay the amount of rent from the date you move in until the end of the month (i.e., Move in on the 20th, pay for the rest 10 days), and the following month.

This is one of the most, if not the most, confusing things foreigners face for the first time doing house-hunting in Japan, due to the amount of fees involved. These fees can add up to as much as 6 times your monthly rent, depending on your move-in date. It would not be a problem if you are Elon Musk, but for regular folks like us, it can be a considerable amount. However, don’t fret! Many properties do not require a deposit or key-money, or sometimes both, and a reputable agency will focus on presenting these options to you. In addition, typically you only have to either pay the deposit (at the start), or the renewal fee (in the end), not both. So, in total, the initial fee will be 4-5 times your rent. You expect that, and the amount you pay will be lower.

2. Living expense

It goes without saying but the initial fees are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to budgeting for a new living arrangement. Beyond the upfront costs, there’s a multitude of other financial considerations that should not be overlooked.

One major component to factor into your monthly expenses is utility fees, which include electricity, gas, water, and internet costs (can be free sometimes, make sure to check). These utility bills typically amount to an additional ¥15,000 to ¥20,000 every month.

Furthermore, don’t forget to budget for other expenses such as groceries, clothing, transportation, and the ever-important emergency fund, as they can collectively add up significantly. As a rule of thumb, if your monthly rent does not exceed 30% – 40% of your monthly income, you should be fine.

Tips for you

1. Do your own research: While general internet sites do not have the amount, variety, and the real-time status of the properties, you still should browse through them before going to/contacting a real-estate agency. The things to look out for are the apartment layout that you prefer, e.g., 1 R, 1K, 1LDK, etc., what kind of apartment you can get with your budget, the area that you want to live in, train lines/stations you want to live near, etc. The more information you can prepare, the easier and more accurate the agency can find you options that suit your needs.

What is even better than just telling the agency about your requirements is to dedicate 1-2 hours of your day to find the apartments with an agency, whether on-site or through a virtual meeting. This will prevent the situation where the agency has to make educated guesses about your preferences and budget, contact the properties’ management company to verify availability/suitability, and then send you information that may not align with your expectations (reality often disappoints). In which case, the process has to begin again.

1-2 hours seem like a lot, but you will be surprised how much time you save just by doing so. In the best case scenario, you can find some really good options in the session, the agency can contact the managing company to schedule the house-tour on the same day, and even complete the application step afterwards. After that, all you need to do is to sign the contract and receive the key a week later. Believe us, this happens more often than you think.

2. No need to stress: Vacant properties tend to come and go all the time, year round, so there is no need for you to feel pressured to secure your housing 2-3 months in advance. The ideal time frame for contacting an agency falls within 2 weeks to 1 month before your intended move-in date.

3. Be proactive: As mentioned in the previous part, vacant properties can quickly be filled, so if the agency confirms that your ideal apartment is available and can move on to the application stage right away, make sure to complete it as soon as possible. There are many cases where the customers do not reply until a week later, by which time the property they like is no longer available. And you guessed it, the process begins again.

Bottom line

House-hunting can be a long, confusing, daunting process for foreigners living in Japan for the first time and Japanese residents alike, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right preparation/mindset, and the right real-estate agency the process can be a breeze and be done before you know it. Remember to do your own research, be proactive, take your budget into consideration, let the agency do the rest, and you will be fine.

Here is an agency you can trust: Us! Yes, us, J&F Plaza. We have decades of experience in this industry, English speaking staff, and are always ready to help. If you have any questions at all about living in Japan, and we mean everything but the kitchen sink, make sure to contact us via email: info@jafplaza.com, or phone: (+81)03-6455-0360, free of charge of course.

Have a great stay in Japan ☆*: .。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆!!