Real Estate Japan recently conducted an email interview with Intisar, who rented an apartment last month through the GaijinPot Housing Service from outside the country in order to start a new job in Tokyo.
According to Japanese media reports, the government plans to lift the entry ban for foreigners newly entering Japan from all countries starting as early as the first part of October, except for tourists. The easing of restrictions will apply to business people, including those with newly issued mid- to longer-term residency visas (of longer than three months). Restrictions on the entry of foreign students will also be completed lifted.
As many people with new job offers, internal company transfers, and foreign students have been waiting to go (or come back) or Japan, Real Estate Japan would like to provide practical information on what it’s like to look for an apartment in Japan from overseas, entry procedures when you land and what it is like to go through the mandatory quarantine period.
Below, Intisar kindly shared his experience and advice for people who are getting ready to enter or re-enter Japan.
Interview with Intisar about his experience entering Japan
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a 24-year-old Bengali-Canadian. I lived in Japan from the age of two to twelve, up to grade six in traditional Japanese elementary schools. In that time, due to my father’s education and job matters, I lived in places like Nagano, Oita, Tokyo, and Funabashi (Chiba). Most of my prior experience in Japan is from growing up as a child, and then visiting a couple of times every few years after moving away to Canada in 2008.
2. As you know, there is currently an entry ban on most nationalities entering Japan due to COVID. What personal circumstances allowed you to qualify to enter the country?
I am a Japanese permanent resident.
3. Why did you come to Japan (in this recent move)?
Two years ago, I got a job offer from a company at its Tokyo location. So, coronavirus or not, this move has been in the plans for quite a bit of time now.
4. How did you learn about the GaijinPot Housing Service?
When searching for apartments on Google, particularly with searches from a foreign country and in English, realestate.co.jp is one of the first and reliable web results. On realestate.co.jp, I learned about the GaijinPot Housing Service and what it entails.
5. Can you tell us how the application process went?
For any type of communication, I like talking to people personally, so first, I gave them a call. After a thorough initial discussion, most of the communication was then done through email in a very straightforward manner.
Information required from me were things like income statements, proof of job offer, residency information, and so on. Since I would be starting my job a month after moving into the apartment, my parents financially supported my initial move. For this reason, they also needed to be in on the process, as a co-signer, for the Housing Service to deem me eligible for the property. After things were settled, it was then a simple matter setting up my rent to be charged to a credit card.
I was able to do pretty much everything from abroad, apart from physically getting the key to the apartment and moving in, of course.
6. What features were important to you in picking the apartment you applied for?
Japan being a natural disaster-prone country, I wanted my apartment to be relatively new and modern, to have the best chances of being able to withstand such events.
I initially wanted a larger apartment to sort of replicate apartment sizes back home in Canada but I ultimately opted more for modernness and proximity to a train station, so I could go to work without having to do a transfer.
A good kitchen was also a priority for me but with small apartments, the size of the kitchen is always a compromise. Finally, the cleanliness and the ease of cleaning the washroom was very important, as well as having a separate powder room from the washroom and the bath.
7. We heard from our colleagues at the GaijinPot Housing Service that you ended up having to enter Japan after the quarantine requirements came into effect. Can you tell us about that?
Yes, I entered Japan with the quarantine rules in full force. The rules for entering the country became a little more painful after September, so I had to expedite my move by weeks to ensure I entered Japan by August.
The PCR test itself was not really so bad; I simply had to deposit clear spit into a small test tube and wait in a designated waiting area in the airport for it to come out negative.
My quarantine was spent in the apartment I rented through the GaijinPot Housing Service. I had an immense amount of help from my friends during this move. They even picked up the keys to the apartment for me as formal representatives. The quarantine lasted 15 days in total from the day I landed (14 days from the day after landing).
Quarantine rules do not bar me from going out for necessities such as food, so I would not say the quarantine period was very tough in that way. I went grocery shopping very, very late at night to grocery stores that are open 24-hours. I would definitely recommend this to anybody who is quarantining because it permits one to avoid any sort of crowds.
For those going through quarantine, I would not say that sustenance is the biggest problem, as much as having a good internet connection.
Wherever you are staying, make sure you have figured out all that is necessary in the way of communication and prioritize it, because in a country like Japan with its numerous convenience stores, getting food is not difficult.
8. How do you like your new apartment?
The apartment was quite similar to my expectations. In fact, the first impressions were even better than those I got from the pictures. I was careful not to have unrealistic expectations regarding the size of the apartment, so I was not surprised. However, I think that if one is not careful, it can be easy to misjudge just how small a 1-room apartment in Japan actually can be.
There were no issues per se, and if there were, they were minute and common place, such as identifying pre-existing damage and scratches. In every case there was something, the Housing Service team has been incredibly swift to respond.
9. Would you recommend the GaijinPot Housing Service to your friends?
It depends. I am satisfied with their service but it still entails fees. I used the Housing Service because I needed swift and diligent service, ensuring a place to stay when I got to Japan, so that I would not have to worry about the quarantine and job matters. If you do not have this rush or urgency and are comfortable communicating in Japanese and with Japanese, you might not need the Housing Service. However, it must also be said that for those who have very little exposure to Japanese language and culture, the Japanese way of conducting business is not necessarily the same as one may be used to in western countries, so it might take time to learn.
In my case, I am quite fluent in the language and have ample experience communicating with Japanese people, but I chose the GaijinPot Housing Service because I needed the swiftness and ease of communication, and for someone to back me up if I am in trouble, as they effectively are my guarantor.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience coming to Japan during the COVID-entry ban or any advice?
During these unprecedented times, any wrong move, however small, can be amplified by a few folds, because of the new ways of dealing with everything, from entering the country to banking. One must try to really have a handle on everything and to stay up to date with all the information needed for traveling and staying in the country. This is to say that I think it is worth it to have many friends and even paid services like the Housing Service to help you out. It helps to ensure that you are less stressed and have a backup. There likely are many more things to be stressed about in these times, without having to worry about your housing situation.
— From the Real Estate Japan Team: Intisar, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and our readers. We wish you all the best in your new life in Tokyo!
GaijinPot Housing Service
If you are looking for an apartment in Japan (whether you’re applying from overseas or are already in-country), check out the GaijinPot Housing Service. With the GaijinPot Housing Service, you:
- Can choose from 3,000+ properties throughout Japan.
- Don’t need a guarantor.
- Can apply from overseas.
- Pay all your upfront costs and monthly costs with a credit card.
- Receive full English service, from the room view, to application, to post-move-in support.