3. Rental Housing in Japan

Jan 29

3. Rental Housing in Japan

Japan Business Startup Series

Our previous article explained the documents and procedures necessary for Startup VISA application. However, there are still many other things you need to do to prepare to life in Japan. For instance, you will need to rent a house, register as a resident, obtain a phone number, open a bank account, and get a personal seal. This article explains the first two processes: renting a house and registering as a resident as a foreigner in Japan. Our subsequent articles will explain other necessary procedures.



1.    Renting Short-Term Housing

a.    Types of Housing

                                      i.     Regular Apartment (No guarantor needed)

                                    ii.     Regular Apartment (Guarantor needed)

                                   iii.     Monthly Apartment

                                   iv.     Share House

b.    Procedures for Renting Short-Term Housing

2.    Resident Registration


1. Renting Short-Term Housing

* This should be done prior to your arrival in Japan with a Startup VISA.

Types of Housing

There are several short-term housing options in Japan.


A.     Regular Apartment (No guarantor needed)


Contract procedure

a.      Consult with the real estate agent and view the properties of your interest.

b.      Fill in an application for the property you want to rent and submit a copy of your residence card, passport, bankbook, and other necessary documents.

c.      Receive a background check. Your application will be accepted if you are gainfully employed and have not defaulted on credit card or cell phone bills.

d.      Sign the lease contract, stamp it with your seal, then pay for the initial expenditures.



Cheaper rent than guarantor-needed apartments can be obtained for properties with some unpopular conditions, such as proximity to stations and shops, ageing buildings, old equipment, and other structural features.


Contract Period

The contract period may vary, but it is for at least one year. This means that your period of stay in Japan should be one year or more. In most cases, it is necessary to pay a penalty if you break lease before the end of your contract.


Initial fee

Initial expenditures usually consist of the first month’s rent, maintenance fee, key money (礼金reikin”, a non-refundable traditional gesture of thanks paid to the property owner for allowing your renting their home), security deposit (敷金shikikin”, a refundable expense that is meant to cover any damages done to the apartment outside normal wear-and-tear), fire insurance, agent commission, lock changing fee, house cleaning charge, etc. It is wise to keep in mind that initial expenditure (payment required when signing a lease agreement) will run to the equivalent of four to six months’ worth of rent.


Initial expenditure is less for no-guarantor-needed apartments, as the above-mentioned costs can be reduced through negotiation, especially the key money (reikin) and security deposit (shikikin). If you are not particular about the apartment you want to rent, consulting with the real estate agents will help you find properties with a low initial fee.



a.      Furniture: In most cases, the apartment is not furnished

b.      Utilities:Usually paid separately based on your usage.

c.      Internet:The cost of the internet depends on the carrier and the package you choose. Some apartments offer free Wi-Fi.

d.      Renewal and Insurance: When a lease contract expires, a renewal fee is required. The renewal fee of a property is usually one month’s rent for a two-year lease. The renewal fee of fire insurance ranges between 15,000 to 30,000 Japanese yen for a two-year lease.


Payment schedule and payment methods

In almost all cases, you will have to pay the next month’s rent before the last day of the current month or on the specified date of the current month. The followings payment methods are available:

a.      Manual transfer of rent to the designated bank account

b.      Automatic withdrawal from your bank account

c.      Credit card (However, most landlords are reluctant to accept credit card payments as they have to bear the transaction fees)

d.      Others (e.g., payment via convenient stores)


English support

Availability of English support depends on the real-estate company. Most major real estate companies provide services in English.


B.     Regular Apartment (Guarantor needed)


Guarantor system

A guarantor (保証人hoshonin”), is a person or a company that acts as an insurance for your rental contract, promising to cover any rent or damage costs if you can’t pay or suddenly terminate your contract by leaving the country. If it is difficult for you to find a guarantor in Japan, you can ask a guarantee company to be your guarantor. However, you should be careful of the terms and conditions which they offer to you.


Contract procedure

The contract procedure is the same as that of no-guarantor-needed-apartment from steps (a) to (c). However, you have to obtain the signature of a Japanese guarantor in your lease contract before step (d). Although it varies from real estate company to real estate company, the guarantor’s place of work, income, and other information will be examined.

In case you cannot find a Japanese guarantor, a guarantee company can help. After the real estate company submits the necessary documents (the application form for the guarantee company, a copy of your residence card, your proof of income, etc.), the guarantee company will confirm your information like the real estate company did. The guarantee fee is about 10,000 to 30,000 Japanese yen for the first contract period or 30-70% of the rent for a two-year contract.



Most guarantor-needed-apartments are properties with popular conditions such as newly built apartments, good equipment, and structural features. Thus, the rent is usually higher than the no-guarantor-needed-apartments.


Contract Period

The minimum contract period for this type of apartment is usually two years. This means that your period of stay in Japan should be a minimum of two years. In most cases, it is necessary to pay a penalty fee if you break lease before the end of your contract.


Initial expenditure

The cost of items in the initial expenditure is almost the same as the no-guarantor-needed-apartments. However, key money (reikin) and security deposit (shikikin) of guarantor-needed-apartments are more expensive and harder to reduce through negotiation than no-guarantor-needed-apartments. Thus, the initial expenditure will be higher than that of a no-guarantor-needed apartment.



The same as no-guarantor-needed-apartments


Payment schedule and payment methods

The same as no-guarantor-needed-apartments


English support

The same as no-guarantor-needed-apartments


C.     Monthly Apartment


Contract procedure

The contract procedure is simple since neither a Japanese guarantor nor a residence card are not required.



It depends on the type of property you choose. Most of them are newly built apartments with good-quality equipment and structural features.


Contract Period

As the name implies, a monthly apartment is rented on a monthly basis. However, some of them can also be rented on a daily or weekly basis. Please consult with the real estate company for details. The rent is typically higher than the guarantor-needed-apartments because of the short contract period.


Initial expenditure

Initial expenditure is lower than regular apartments since key money (reikin) and security deposit (shikikin) are not required, and you only have to pay one month’s rent, maintenance fee, and house cleaning charge.



a.      Fully furnished

b.      Utility cost may be included in the rent or fixed monthly.


Payment schedule and payment methods

You are required to pay a lump sum of money based on the number of days you will be staying. However, a monthly payment could be accepted in case of a long-term stay.

Considering it is difficult for foreigners staying in Japan for a short period of time to open a bank account, credit cards and PayPal are accepted as payment in most cases, in addition to the payment methods previously mentioned.


English support

Most of them offer English support since foreigners who need to stay in Japan temporarily are one of the biggest clients of monthly apartments.


D.     Share House

A share house is a multi-occupancy apartment, and the rent is much cheaper than a monthly apartment. Other than that, the conditions are almost the same as that in a monthly apartment. However, there are several rules put in place, and there will be less freedom in your daily life.



Among the four types of residence introduced above, monthly apartments and share houses are more suitable for a short-term stay because of the lower initial expenditure and simple contract procedure. Considering personal privacy and freedom in your daily life, the monthly apartment may be a suitable choice for foreigners with a Startup VISA. Therefore, the next section will explain the renting procedure for a monthly apartment in Japan as a foreigner.



How to rent a monthly apartment:

1.    Search for information on monthly apartments on the internet and consult with a real estate agent in Japan to choose properties that meet your requirements.

2.    Sign the lease contract with an overseas address and an overseas phone number. No Japanese guarantor is needed for the contract.
*You can rent a monthly apartment online; however, some companies require you to sign the lease contract in Japan. In this case, you will have to come to Japan for a short period to enable you to sign the lease contract.

*Please ensure that the leasing period is long enough for you to obtain the Startup VISA.

3.    Pay all your up-front costs (cleaning charges, key exchange fee, etc.) and monthly rent. As explained previously, you do not need a Japanese bank account to do this.


*Please consult the following website for more details prior to renting a place.



2. Resident Registration

* This should be done after your arrival in Japan with a Startup VISA.


After completing the VISA application procedure and arriving in Japan, you need to go to the city office to register as a resident. It is also an essential step for obtaining a phone number and a bank account later on.



The registration process is done in the Ward or Branch Office Citizen Services Division of where you live. Foreigners who live in Kobe can check here to confirm the locations of all ward offices in Kobe city.



Residence registration should be done within 14 days from the move-in date stated in your lease contract.



a.      A passport

b.      A residence card*

c.      ¥300 as a fee for the issuance of a certificate of residence

*You will be issued a residence card at the airport upon landing. This card, which serves as identification, is issued to all foreigners who will reside in Japan for longer than three months.


Application Process:

a.    Visit the Ward or Branch Office Citizen Services Division of where you live.

b.    Fill and submit the Resident Moving in Notice. (*If you move to Kobe, you can use this filled form* as a reference if necessary).

c.     Obtain the Certificate of Residence (住民票).


*The form is different for each municipality. Please check the information of the municipality you are moving to.



Stay tuned for further articles on “How to Start a Business in Japan,” our series on foreign entrepreneurship in Japan!


Previous Articles:

l  How to Start a Business in Japan: An Overview

l  Japan's Startup VISA


Coming Soon:

l  Further procedures for living in Japan (obtaining a phone number, bank account, and a personal seal)

l  Business Manager VISA

l  Incorporating in Japan

l  Banking in Japan

l  And more!


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Chen Xin

About Chen Xin

Chen Xin is a writer for Sugee Kansai, eftax Co., Ltd. We thank her for contributing to our series "How to Start a Business in Japan."