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Accommodation & PropertyBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Tokyo - Accommodation & Property
In Japan "tsubo" or "jo" (tatami mats) are used as a unit to indicate the size of land or a room. One tsubo corresponds to two jo (two tatami mats), to 3.3 square meters or 35.583 square feet. Apartments (apato or mansion in Japanese English) refer to single-level apartments that start at around 35 square meters up to around 300 square meters. Apartments may be located in clusters with a small compound or common recreational area. Maisonette is Japanese English for an apartment containing two or more floors. Duplex properties are suitable for families and are mostly found in the outer wards of Tokyo. Single-family houses can have 3-4 bedrooms and are usually between 120-400 square meters in size. A cluster of single-family houses in an enclosed area with security and recreational facilities is known as a compound. There is useful information about housing and rentals, including common Japanese expressions when looking for a property, at this website.
Most Tokyo residents live in high-rise apartments. Apartments in Tokyo are usually rented out by realtors or real estate agents rather than property owners. Real estate offices are identifiable by their signs on their shop windows. Some property owners prefer not to rent out to expatriates who cannot speak Japanese to avoid communication misunderstandings. Non-Japanese speaking expatriates can turn to real estate companies that specifically target Tokyo's foreigners. These companies usually offer shorter rental contracts and are staffed with agents who can speak different languages. Gaijin houses are good rental solutions for expatriates who intend to live in Tokyo for a short period only. The apartments on offer can come furnished.
For expatriates renting for the first time, it is essential that you have at least 5-6 months' rent available as the initial down payment. This initial down payment includes the rent for the first month, a security deposit (shikikin), key money (reikin) and agency fee. Some fees can be negotiated (e.g. reikin), and some fees (e.g. shikikin) are refundable in principle. Disputes regarding security deposits are common. If you are unable to resolve the disputes, you can wish to consult the National Consumer Affairs Center. The Tokyo office is located at 3-13-22 Takanawa, Minato, Tokyo, 108-8602, Tel: 3-3443-6284. In Tokyo, there is a Rental Housing Conflict Prevention Act to reduce disputes and guidelines on the responsibilities for the restoration of rental properties by the Tokyo Bureau of Urban Development. The website is available in Japanese only. You can try calling 03-5321-1111 for more details on the Act.
Most rental contracts are worded in Japanese. If you have difficulties understanding the language, have someone you trust to help you with the translation, or rely on a trusted real estate agent to provide an English translation of the contract. Sometimes, you will need a guarantor for a renal contract.
Fully furnished apartments are not common in Tokyo. Most apartments come empty, but there are a growing number of furnished apartments catered to the expatriate community.
Given the high costs of owning a property in Tokyo, most expatriates will rent, but some longer-staying expatriates (usually 5 years or more) may consider buying a piece of land and property.
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