Renting in Tokyo: How to Find and Set Up an Apartment

renting in Tokyo

With around 38 million people in the Greater Tokyo Area, there are plenty of accommodations available; but finding the right apartment and knowing what to expect is another thing. If you’ve begun thinking about moving to Japan’s largest city, keep reading for tips on renting in Tokyo.

In this article:

  • Finding an apartment
  • What to expect after you find an apartment

Finding an Apartment in Tokyo

Don’t know where to live in Tokyo? If you don’t mind commuting, take a Tokyo Metro or JR East transit map and follow one of the many train lines away from where you will be spending the majority of your time. Commuting distance, price, and daily schedule can help inform you how far out of the city center you should live, all of which can be confirmed with a simple search in your web browser (like “Shibuya Station to Mitaka Station”). And remember: It’s possible to find cheap apartments in some areas of central Tokyo with a bit of looking.

renting in Tokyo

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some English-friendly sites that can help you with your search.

Leo Palace is useful if you’re searching not just in Tokyo but throughout Japan. The company doesn’t require key money or charge extra fees, and fully furnished apartments are offered. This convenience is somewhat offset by higher monthly rental fees and that most of the listings are hidden until you create a user account.

GaijinPot is particularly useful if you’re looking at apartments in Japan’s larger cities. All the pertinent information is displayed prominently, letting you do your search quickly.

Tokyo City Apartments offer apartments, share houses, and dormitories in Tokyo, and an availability of short-term options make this website a good choice if you’re unsure how long you’ll stay in Tokyo.

Shared Housing vs. Private Rentals

Both options are widely available for foreigners in Japan. Shared apartments come in several forms, often housing four or more people. Each occupant usually has his or her own private room and everyone shares the kitchen and bathroom. This is a great option if you’re cost-conscious, and it’s also a great place to meet outgoing people from all over the world.

The alternative is renting your own apartment or flat. Renting affords you the luxury of more space (which can fetch a high price in Tokyo), freedom to have friends over whenever you want, and personalizing your living space. If you’re undecided, here’s a deeper look at the pros and cons of both options, plus some suggested foreign-friendly Tokyo rental agencies.

What to Know before Moving into Your Apartment

renting in Tokyo
Image from PaylessImages / 123RF

In addition to your monthly rent payment, setup fees are usually part of the rental process in Japan.

Upfront Costs

Typical upfront costs include key money, deposit, agency fees, guarantor fees, and rent for the first three months. Key money is the most notorious cost. It’s sometimes a fixed fee, sometimes based on monthly rent, and is separate to the deposit. You may be asked to pay three months of rent instead of key money or a deposit.

Connecting Utilities

Utilities are relatively simple. Your landlord will probably have already arranged the connections so you need only set up accounts with the various companies. This involves filling out forms for the electricity, gas, and water companies. Gas requires a serviceman visit your apartment to flick a switch, but electricity and water should be available immediately.

Setting up Internet

The internet is not so simple. A service provider will have already installed a line to your apartment, and another company will connect you to the Internet. You can use separate companies for the physical line and the ISP, although offers for combined service can be cheaper.

Getting service may take anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on what needs to be done. You’re also stuck with whatever line your landlord installed, meaning there is a chance you will end up with an older DSL connection, which is still common in Tokyo. You can find out more about setting up broadband in Japan here.

Mobile Internet Services in Tokyo

renting in tokyo
Image from antonioguillem / 123RF 写真素材

A great way to sidestep this headache is to use a mobile provider like Sakura Mobile, which combines the flexibility of mobile service with the speed of modern 4G wireless Internet.

Rental SIM

If you book a mobile Internet plan in advance, your Data SIM card will be ready upon your arrival—there’s no need to wait up to a month to be connected. You can get it delivered to your residential address; or if you do not have an address yet, pick it up at the airport, your nearest post office, or hotel. You can be online with your own connection within hours of landing in Japan.

Support is available in multiple languages (including English) on the phone or via e-mail. To see whether your SIM device is compatible, you can check here. If your device is not listed or you’re unsure whether or not your phone or tablet will work, you can contact Sakura Mobile for help.

If you need a phone number then a voice SIM card offers the benefits of a data plan and a Japanese phone number combined, perfect for getting set up in Japan.

Pocket WiFi

For WiFi-enabled devices, a Pocket WiFi is small and easy to use. You can also pre-order and pick it up when you arrive in Japan. The battery can last more than 20 hours, so you don’t ever need to worry about running out of power. You don’t even need a portable charger! Just throw it into your bag and take the Internet with you for all your devices.

Speeds of up to 150Mbps are available in cities, with excellent LTE coverage ensuring a stable, fast connection. These speeds are even faster than many wired ISPs. The bandwidth cap is also generous, giving you up to 30 GB of data a month. This can be expanded or reduced depending on your needs.

Monthly Plan vs. Pocket WiFi rental

No matter how long you intend to stay in Japan, Sakura Mobile has a plan to suit your needs. The three-month contract with fixed daily data limits can be extended indefinitely, ideal for those still deciding how long they will stay in Tokyo. If you need a short-term solution, daily Pocket WiFi rental routers are a great choice for visitors or anyone who wants even more flexibility.

Make Renting in Tokyo Easier with Sakura Mobile

When setting up an apartment in Tokyo some headaches are unavoidable—connecting to the Internet need not be one of them. A long-term Pocket WiFi or Data SIM will give you fast, reliable internet access that can help you before and after you find that perfect apartment!

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