住 – Accommodation

Please give your attention – we are not living in small houses made of wood and paper only these days. Current Japanese-style houses are well fire/earthquake-resistant.

Still, if you are from countries of vast land and small population, the size of normal apartments here might be shocking. This is because of our large population, which exceeds 100 million, pushed into the limited space on mountainous Japanese Archipelago. Rooms are measured by tatami mat, which is approximately 180cm X 90cm. 4.5-tatami apartments with kitchen and bathroom, costing 100,000 yen a month, are not rare in central Tokyo.

For foreign guests who stay in Japan for one month or longer, a guesthouse (or a dormitory for students) is an easy choice of accommodation. It would avoid frustration and costs which could follow contracts to live in conventional apartments. Some guesthouses offer weekly contracts as well. There are many guesthouses in major cities including Tokyo of course, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, etc. Dormitory-like single building is often managed by a landlord/lady, while ones similar to hotels or apartments are operated by real estate companies.

Guesthouses come as shared or private, Japanese- or American-/European-style rooms. “Shared” means that kitchen and bathrooms are shared by lessees staying on the same floor. Rents are therefore much cheaper (40,000 – 100,000 yen per month) than private ones (100,000 – 150,000 yen per month). Either type do not tend to be newly built, yet equipped with air-conditioners, beds or futons, refrigerators and televisions.

Rental fees depend on location, age of the building, size and position: apartments located close to the nearest train station, built recently, wide living space and faced to the south tend to be expensive. Furthermore, following are the repeated fees associated with residential contracts;

  • Rent (=yachin), paid monthly, often via automatic bank transfer. It is due by the end of month.
  • Maintenance fee (=kanrihi/kyoekihi), a small amount of monthly payment to cover expenses for shared equipments by all lessees.
  • Insurance, required by some landlords/ladies to insure fire and earthquake.

Most guesthouses include fees for utilities such as water, electricity and gas in above monthly payments, yet please make sure of it when you enter a rental contract. Tap water is safe and drinkable. If you feel it smell, please think about attaching a filter which is available from \1,300. As for electricity, the voltage is 100. Electrical plugs have two, non-polarized pins while most outlets are polarized (one slot is slightly wider than the other). If this condition is all different from your country, please prepare adapters to protect your sensitive electronic appliances.

It might be the countryside who helps you sense the real Japan. Relaxed rhythm of life would let you regain the flied time in big cities. Weekend visit to remote islands, onsen (=hot springs), easy-to-access mountains and orchards are strongly recommended.

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Edo life: Residences of normal citizens in the Edo period were all made of wood and paper. Dwelling condition was such that it often caused fire. It was catastrophic, yet generated needs for wood, paper, construction labor, etc. Vulnerable houses contributed to a kind of virtuous circle of economy at that time.

Tatami: made of straw. Japanese-style rooms are characterized by tatami mats and shoji, sliding doors made of paper.

Futon: might be wisdom to save living space. Shikifuton (=mat) and kakefuton (=quilt) are folded to be put into the closet every morning. One room can be used for living and dining in daytime, while as a bedroom at night.

Conventional apartments: could be a challenge if you are used to our country. They are usually rented via real estate agents whose offices can be recognized by listings of available apartments in their show windows, advertising signs outdoors and publications. As one of the problems which conflicts with the fact for many foreign guests, most landlords/ladies on agents’ lists are reluctant to rend their apartments to those who are not able to communicate in Japanese. Furthermore, agents often ask you to provide them with information about your financial conditions while to have a guarantor co-sign the rental contract. Guarantors are required to be a Japanese national of stable economic backgrounds. Not at last, entering a rental contract with a real estate agent is very expensive. A number of refundable/non-refundable fees have to be paid as listed below;

  • Tetsukekin (=reservation fee), equivalent to one month’s rent, paid when you apply for an apartment. It serves as a guarantee that the apartment will be reserved for you, while for the agent that you never change mind. It will be refunded after the actual contract is signed.
  • Shikikin (=deposit), equal to several months’ rent, used to cover future damage. It will be refunded when you move out, deducting costs for repairs.
  • Reikin (=key money), in the amount of several months’ rent, paid to landlords/ladies and never refunded.
  • Chukaitesuryo (=commission), equivalent at most to one month’s rent, paid to the real estate agent who served for your contract.

It is therefore strongly recommended to use real estate companies which specifically target foreign guests. They offer apartments on the conditions that are much suitable to your needs, with staffs trained in foreign languages.

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May 2019
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