Top 5 unrealistic expectations about finding an apartment in Japan

Speaking to apartment hunters and real estate agents everyday, I’ve noticed that there are a few common misconceptions people have about moving in Japan. Below are the five that I see most often. Please give it a read so you’ll know what to be aware of for your next move.

#1 Low Move-in Costs

Once you find an apartment you really want, it’s best to ask for a quote immediately.

Unless you’re willing to spend a considerable amount to secure your dream apartment or home, it’s best to know of the move-in estimate before you proceed with viewing or signing contracts.

There are many articles on our blog mentioning that move-in costs are usually 3-4 times the monthly rent, but really sometimes it can go above that depending on the agency you’re dealing with. While there are some that can be generous and understanding (by waiving key money or halving agency fees) there are agencies that stack on small fees that can balloon tremendously. 

While of course, it’s always a blessing to find something with low move-in costs, it never hurts to check. In the end, it’s always up to whether you’re willing to spend for comfort, or compromise to save up.

#2 Space

On a related note, maybe this is something most people already know, but I feel that actually finding and seeing an apartment by yourself can be more eye opening than just hearing about it from other people.

Big cities in Japan are cramped. Thirty-sqm (333-sqft) units can go up to ¥90,000-¥100,000 ($860 to $955 USD) if you’re on the edge of the city center, and even higher than that if you’re in the middle of the city. While it might have been normal for you to have your own washer and dryer back home, such space in Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya, would be a luxury.

In the end, like the point above, it all really boils down to if you’re willing to raise your budget or sacrifice for comfort.

#3 Papers

I’ve actually written an article in the past about this, so that may be worth checking out if you’re moving within the country: When you move in Japan here’s the paperwork you’ll need to do.

To summarize, moving isn’t just about moving your things to a new place. You have to let everyone know that you moved. And usually in Japan that includes every single subscription you have, your banks, your companies, schools, and the ward office. 

Luckily, automated systems and databases online make this easy, but the sheer amount of updating you have to do might be intimidating. So I would suggest listing down whom to update when you’re on the final step of your big move.

#4 Cleaning

Whether it be moving into a property or out of your old one — it’s always best to clean before and after. You would be surprised how much easier it is to move out of a clean apartment, so I highly suggest tidying as much as you can before you relocate.

People moving into unfurnished apartments usually don’t think of cleaning before their stuff arrives, and I kind of agree. But it’s a good idea to do a big sweep ahead of time to make your eventual routine easier in the future.

Spraying and applying products meant for preventing dust buildup, mold, and pests from entering are some steps you can start with. If you’re unsure about cleaning products, here’s an article (Guide to essential home cleaning products in Japan) detailing what you can use for specific spots at home!

#5 Pets

Who doesn’t love a cute, furry companion? 

While it’s expected that adopting or getting a pet would be expensive, on top of food and basic needs, most people would be surprised to find out that real estate companies require fees, like pet deposits or monthly maintenance fees, just to keep them in your apartment. Most property management companies in Japan don’t even allow them at all.

I’m sure it’s different for every country, but it was easier where I’m from to have a pet and to let building management know if you’d be keeping a pet inside your unit. 

I’m also planning on interviewing a tenant who’s gone through the process of purchasing and registering a pet with her property management company, so please look forward to that article!

I hope you picked up something from the points I wrote above! Hopefully they should help with your decision making if you’re planning to move, as well. Here’s another article you could check out if you’re stumped on moving: 2 things to think about when you’re looking for an apartment in Japan

Nathan has also written features on Chiba and West Tokyo in the past. If you are interested, here are the articles he’s written so far!


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.

Learn More About the GaijinPot Housing Service


Article by Cindy


Cindy works for the GaijinPot Housing Service, helping foreigners find their home in Japan. She relocated to Japan after graduating from De La Salle University in the Philippines. Read Cindy’s self-intro to find out what brought her here!


Lead photo: A steep road in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, photo by Scott Kouchi