CJGuide: Where to Live

Food, Shelter, Sex

Hitting The Beach | While You Wait | Permanent Places | Reading An Ad | Apartment Types

Hitting The Beach

The Process
Once you hit the beach, you should allow at least a week to ten days for apartment hunting, keeping in mind that it will take about a week from the time you choose an apartment until you are able to close the deal and move in.

Basically, once you choose an agency, tell the agent approximately what you're looking for and he or she will hand you copies of floor plans to peruse. (For things to consider, see Permanent Places below.) After you choose a number of potentially suitable apartments, the agent will schedule a day in the near future to visit the apartments. If possible, send your requests to your employer and let it arrange the visits for the first few days you are in town. You can always ask to look at other places.

Once you choose an apartment, the agent will begin "negotiations" with the landlord. The price is fixed by the advertisement, but the agent will sometimes want to see if the landlord will allow foreigners. This is usually not a problem with agencies advertising in English language magazines, but might be a problem with agencies used to dealing mainly with Japanese. (See "What Color Is Your Skin?" for more information.) Also, if you've insisted something be repaired or cleaned before moving in, don't count on it being done unless it's something major like the water heater or windows.

The rest is merely waiting for paperwork to be processed. Your agent sends information to your employer who sends a guarantor form to the agent who eventually meets with you for a signing and a handing over of obscene amounts of cash. In many cases, you will probably never meet your landlord face to face. He or she will exist merely as numbers on an account.

While You Wait

Most people coming to work for established companies will probably already have some sort of pre-arranged accomo- dation. Therefore, hotels should be considered only in an emergency. A decent hotel will be, at best, 8,000 yen per night while most of your stuff sits in paid storage at Tokyo station. If possible, make sure your employer is footing the bill.

Gaijin Houses and Weekly Mansions
So-called Gaijin Houses are dormitory style accomodations where many foreigners arriving in Japan first settle. They are generally cheap and don't charge "key money" (non-refundable deposit). They can be rented for a week or month at a time and can be moved into quickly. Both single and shared rooms are available. Not only are they a good place to reside while hunting for a permanent apartment--they are much cheaper than staying at a hotel--they are also a good place to make contacts with other foreigners who already know their way around town.

Weekly mansions are temporary apartments which can be rented by the week or month. They are a relatively new phenomenon and most of the places are new and clean. Although they specifically cater to Japanese businessmen and women, they will also accept foreigners. Again, there is usually no key money charged.

Permanent Places

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

In The City Or Out
Living in the city can double the price of an apartment. Therefore, unless you are one of those people who absolutely, positively have to live in the center of things, consider living outside the city. For example, if you are moving to the Tokyo area, consider living in Saitama or Chiba Prefectures, or at least in areas around the edges of the city, such as Edogawa-ku, rather than areas like Shibuya or Shinjuku

Keep in mind, however, that Japan's remarkable train system starts shutting down between midnight and one in the morning and doesn't start up again until five. Unless you're one who likes to stay out all night you'll have to come home early. On the other hand, if you live in the city you're only a taxi ride away from home.

Also, the 'Burbs might lack many modern conveniences: cheap coffee shops, fast food, and decent bookstores and video shops. To reach those, you will have to travel into the city.

Let your partying and entertainment needs be your guide.

How Much Room Do You Need?
Another factor to consider is the amount of space you will need. If you can get by with a spartan one room studio apartment you will save vast amounts of money over getting a two room apartment. You can see some standard apartment types here.

Convenience Costs
The closer an apartment is to a train station the more expensive it will be. Consider getting an apartment that is, according to the advertisement, 10 or 15 minutes away from the nearest station. Keep in mind, however, that Japanese summers, unless you live in Hokkaido, are merciless, high temperature, high humidity affairs and that walk to the station will seem especially long in July and August.

The more "modern" conveniences around an apartment, the more it costs. If an apartment is near a grocery or convenience store or a major shopping area, it will be more expensive. Balance the price with the burden of having to walk ten minutes to go shopping and then drag all the groceries back.

Doing The Math
Keep in mind as you read an advertisement that you have to use some multiplication. Multiply the listed monthly price times the amount of reikin (Key Money, or non-refundable deposit) requested plus the amount of shikikin (security deposit) requested. Add first month's rent and the equivalent of one month's rent in agent's fee. The absurdly large number before you is the amount of money you will have to pay up front.

Reading An Ad
For more information click here.

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Copyright 2003, Dwayne Lively
Created January 2003