When you’re trying to decide whether you can afford to move into a particular apartment in Japan, you should also remember the other hidden costs involved, not just things like the deposit or key money.
In a previous article, we explain in detail the upfront costs of moving into an apartment in Japan, which explains things like the deposit, key money, and agency fee. We also talk about other required “hidden fees” that you may not be aware of, such as guarantor company fees, renters insurance, and lock exchange fees.
In this article, we talk about the kind of hidden costs that aren’t explained in property listings but that you should know about so that you can set up as comfortable a living situation as possible.
Depending on the apartment, one hidden cost you’ll face may be the purchase of lightning fixtures for your new home.
This is because ceiling lights are not always standard equipment in Japanese apartments. Built-in ceiling lights in the entryway (genkan, 玄関), hallways, and toilet and bathroom are the rule, rather than the exception, but you may have to buy your own lighting for your living room and bedroom.
You can buy inexpensive ceiling lights for about ¥2,000 (20 USD) a piece. This is not terribly expensive, but it can add up if you have to buy lights for multiple rooms.
Lighting equipment is called shōmei kigu (照明器具) in Japanese.
When you are doing a room view, remember to look up in every room to see if you will need to buy a light fixture for the room.
Fridge and Washing Machine
Refrigerators and washing machines are not usually standard equipment in budget and mid-range Japanese rental apartments.
If you are planning on being in the country for a short period of time, it may make sense to look for a guesthouse or furnished apartment that comes with a fridge, washing machine (or shared washing facilities) and microwave or shared kitchen.
This is also because when you move out, you will have to pay to dispose of oversized garbage (please see below).
A new budget washing machine costs about ¥10,000, but you could choose to go the minimalist route and not even buy one. In many neighborhoods, students and working people opt to use the local coin laundromat.
Storage and Closets
Most rental apartments (especially studio apartments) in Japan come with very little built-in storage and closets. If you find an apartment with sufficient storage space, it’s definitely something to add to the plus side of the column when considering your rental options.
You will likely spend some money buying some shelving or racks so your things do not end up all over the floor (though this is also a perfectly acceptable option!).
An inexpensive shelving option is the “color box” (カラーボックス).
Color boxes are widely available online (Amazon, Rakuten) and at discount chains. A standard color box is about 87-cm high x 41-cm wide x 29-cm deep and is made from laminated pressboard. They are usually sold flat-packed but are easily assembled. A new standard-sized color box costs ¥2,000 ($19) or less. They are also available in many different dimensions and with different interior dividers.
Please see this article for: 7 DIY Ideas for a Japanese Apartment
Cooking Unit or Stove
Many budget studio apartments do not come with a cooking unit or stove. This is one way the landlord is able to charge lower rent!
If you must have a stove (and we are not saying you do), then you will have to go shopping for a konro (コンロ) at your home appliance store or online. Here is the link to a search for コンロ on Amazon.co.jp. You can buy a one-burner electric stove for about ¥4,000 and a gas one for about ¥2,000.
Heating and Cooling Costs
Japanese houses and apartments do not have central heating and cooling, and some older homes are very poorly insulated.
This means that one of the hidden costs you may be facing is higher utility bills in the winter and summer.
We’ve posted an article here about: How to stay warm in the winter in Japan
According to government statistics, in the Kanto region (which includes Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa) the average household electricity bill peaks in February, at about 13,977 yen (about $116). This may be lower if you are a single person household.
From our personal experience, the same (or more) goes for your summer cooling bill.
Lease Renewal Fee
When you sign your lease contract (which in most cases will be for a two-year term), the agent should clearly explain to you whether you have to pay a lease renewal fee in case you want to extend your lease.
In almost all cases in Japan, you will have to pay a lease renewal fee usually equal to one month’s rent.
We explain this in detail here: Upfront cost of renting an apartment in Japan
If you think that you might want to stay in your apartment for longer than two years, try to negotiate with the landlord before you sign the contract to have the lease renewal fee removed. Once you sign a contract requiring you to pay a renewal fee, you are legally bound by it.
Your lease renewal fee will end up being a hidden cost if you aren’t aware of it upfront!
Oversized Garbage (Sodai Gomi) Disposal Fees
Once you’ve been in your place for a while, you may accumulate some things; and after a while longer, you may want to buy new things to replace the things you previously accumulated. Or if you are leaving Japan permanently, you will have to deal with your larger possessions outside the usual garbage days.
If these things happen to be larger than about 30 centimeters, you will have to pay to dispose of them, unless you can sell or give them away.
Examples of oversized garbarge (sodai gomi, 粗大ゴミ) include: tables, chairs, book shelves, vacuum cleaners, couches, futon, space heaters, kitchen appliances, bicycles and even large cushions.
To get rid of large-sized items:
- Look up the sodai gomi center for your ward.
- Make an appointment (either by phone or internet) for a pick-up date.
- Buy the appropriate sodai gomi seal(s) at a convenience store.
- Write your name on the seals and attach them to your garbage.
- Place your items in the designated pick-up location before 8am of the pick-up date.
A lesson here, we suppose, is to try to accumulate as few things as possible!
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