How I rented an apartment from overseas and entered Japan during the COVID-19 quarantine

Real Estate Japan recently conducted an email interview with Kiyoshi, who recently rented an apartment through the GaijinPot Housing Service from outside the country and went through quarantine measures in order to start his life in Tokyo.

Kiyoshi is a dual Japanese-Angolan citizen who was living in Angola before coming to Japan earlier this month. He was able to enter the country with a Japanese passport, so his situation is not the same as it would be for foreign nationals coming into the country. We wanted to interview him to get his insight on what it was like to look for an apartment in Tokyo from overseas and what it was like to self-isolate. He kindly shared his experience and advice for people who are now getting ready to enter or re-enter Japan.

First, we review the current situation for foreign nationals entering the country.

As of Sept 1st, who can enter Japan?

Japanese nationals have been allowed to enter the country since the start of the travel restrictions in early April. However, they are required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, self-isolate for 14 days and not use public transportation. Special permanent residents are also exempt from the entry ban. This is a status held by ethnic Koreans whose families lost Japanese citizenship but remained in the country after the second world war.

Starting from September 1st, foreign nationals with residence status in Japan are allowed to re-enter the country regardless of visa type or when they departed. This number comes to about 2.6 million people and includes people with working visas, students, permanent residents, and spouses and children of Japanese nationals.

Unlike Japanese nationals, however, foreign residents must go through certain procedures before re-entry. Foreign residents who left Japan before August 31st need to get a “re-entry confirmation letter” from their Embassy or consulate and; those leaving after September 1st must receive a “receipt for request of re-entry” from the Immigration Services Agency before departure.

Once a foreign resident knows when they will fly back to Japan, they must take a COVID-19 test within 72-hours of departing for Japan and have a doctor sign a certificate saying the results were negative.

Quarantine after arriving

When a foreign resident arrives at the airport in Japan, they will be asked to submit the COVID-19 certificate to a quarantine officer and submit either the confirmation letter or receipt to an immigration officer and take another test to confirm they do not have the coronavirus. They will then be required to self-isolate for 14 days and not use public transportation.

Foreigners without resident status, including tourists cannot currently enter Japan

Foreign nationals without resident status (including tourists) from the countries and regions subject to the travel restrictions are prohibited from entering Japan until further notice.

Interview with Kiyoshi about his experience entering Japan

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in Angola and have dual citizenship, Japanese and Angolan. I am 28 years old and have lived all over the world. I’ve also had the privilege of traveling a lot.

2. Why did you come (back) to Japan?

I was working in IT but decided to quit and pursue my passion, which is art, so I came to Japan to go back to university.

3. How did you learn about the GaijinPot Housing Service?

I’ve rented four apartments in Japan. This time around, I found out about Real Estate Japan and thought that it was really useful since the services were provided in English. I didn’t know that it was a part of the GaijinPot group (GPlusMedia Inc.) until you mentioned it.

4. Can you tell us how the apartment application process went?

The application went pretty smooth, taking into consideration that it was all done while I was overseas. It was convenient, but on the downside you can’t really have a live viewing of the properties.

5. What features were important to you in picking the apartment you applied for?

I personally prefer modern apartments; it’s just my preference.  I also prefer a quiet neighborhood and being relatively close to a station. Also a laundry heating (drying) unit in the bathroom is a must for me.

6. 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? Do you have any advice for other people who may have to go through quarantine?

To be honest, it was quite a hassle. I had taken the PCR test in Angola before traveling but that it wasn’t of use upon entering Japan.

Once we landed we still had to wait in the plane for over an hour. Right after that we had to enter a room where we had to wait, then line up until they called us. Then we were all tested. Two options were provided, the saliva and the nasal test.

Right after that  we were sent to a separate waiting area until our test results were provided. Overall, I had to wait about seven hours in the airport before I was allowed to leave.

We were not allowed to use public transportation from the airport, so that was really inconvenient. I had to request a special transportation service that caters to self-quarantining people.

I also had to sign a document in the airport saying that I would self-quarantine for two weeks.

My advice is make use of ordering food online or book accommodation beforehand that is very close to the airport or something that has a convenience store right next to it. Also, make sure that you have someone picking you up from the airport or you have arranged some form of transportation.

7. How do you like your new apartment? Have you had any issues since you’ve moved in and was the Housing Service team able to help you?

I like my new apartment. It’s a very quiet neighborhood and my neighbors all have flowers so that is quite pleasing for someone who loves nature. My place is only two minutes from a station so that is quite helpful when commuting to the university.

The only issue that I have is that my air conditioner leaks water if I leave it on for a few hours…That is not very nice specially with the summer heat. I have not mentioned the aircon leaking to the HS team yet, I guess now is a good time to mention it!

8. Would you recommend the GaijinPot Housing Service to your friends?

I would most definitely recommend the GaijinPot Housing Service. This is very helpful to non-Japanese speakers, especially with all the rules and regulations required when renting a place in Japan.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience coming to Japan during the COVID-entry ban or any advice for people in similar situations?

It’s really not as bad as people make it out. When commuting I see that most people tend to follow the pandemic procedures, such as wearing masks and disinfecting their hands. It’s helpful that in most public places there are hand sanitizers provided. Some places are operating on irregular hours, so I have some trouble finding currency exchange booths because most of them were closed due to the pandemic.

From the Real Estate Japan Team: Kiyoshi, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and our readers. We wish you all the best in your university studies!

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

Lead photo: Social distancing sign with footprints icon urging travelers to keep 2 meters apart in the departure terminal 3 of Narita Airport. Image via iStock