If it’s time to move, here’s what to look for in your next apartment in Tokyo

In Tokyo you can find apartments and houses for every stage of your life and career.

If you’ve lived in Japan for a year or two, you might be looking around your apartment and wondering if it’s time to find a new space. Maybe you want to cut down on your commute time or have recently changed jobs. Or you’re looking for a place that really connects with you on a personal level. It could also be that the studio apartment you’re in now is starting to feel a bit cramped. Whatever the reason, moving to a new apartment can completely change your perspective on living in Tokyo and dramatically improve your overall quality of life.

When many of us arrive in Tokyo, we don’t really know the flow of the neighborhoods or what to expect from a 1R or 1K apartment. But after some time here, we get a better idea of what we’re looking for in an apartment or neighborhood (also remember to check out our Area Guides if you’re looking at any areas in Tokyo). And with many Japanese apartments on a two-year lease, maybe it’s about the time to start thinking about finding an apartment that you can really call “home.”

Features to look for when you’re moving to your apartment

Today we’re going to take a look through three properties we would consider a step-up from a standard studio apartment in Tokyo. Keep these features in mind when you’re getting ready to make the jump into your next apartment in Tokyo!

  • Year built: This is a pretty decent way to quickly grasp how clean and modern the interior of the apartment will be. Especially newer apartments like from 2017 will have fairly convenient electrical outlet locations, good lighting, and maybe even built-in internet connection.
  • Separate toilet/bathroom: If you’re trying to save money, apartments with unit bathrooms where the toilet, sink, and tub are all in the same small waterproof room are generally more affordable. But after you’ve spent a few years in a studio apartment with such kind of layout, it’s very nice to be able to have separate areas for your toilet and your washroom.
  • 2nd floor or higher: This could be personal preference, but in the city there can be additional noise or pest issues to deal with on the first floor. It is also generally easier to move into/out of a first floor apartment so there are some benefits to living on ground level. In buildings without an auto lock (electronic intercom lock) in the lobby, some people would also prefer to be on the second floor to avoid being the first door that salespeople knock on. Also, although Tokyo is one of the world’s safest cities, women may also prefer to be on the second floor or higher for safety reasons (especially in buildings without an auto lock)
  • Construction material: Property descriptions do not always include this information, but generally speaking, steel-frame construction is considered to be the most earthquake resistant, followed by steel-reinforced concrete (SRC), reinforced concrete, then wood construction.
  • Direction facing: This criterion is something that is embedded into your knowledge if you grow up in Japan (or spend time looking at apartments in Japan). Basically, a south facing apartment is preferred over the other directions. It allows for a good amount of sunlight during the day, without getting heated by light in the afternoon (which would be pretty unbearable in the spring and summer). This also helps with drying laundry out in the elements, a south facing apartment tends just be the overall easiest to deal with in these regards.
  • Closest station: Pretty self-explanatory. The closer you are to a station, the shorter your walk in the rain or summer heat. Also, just from personal experience, it really is a horrible feeling when you live 15 min from your nearest station, walk all the way to the station, and then realize you forgot something at your apartment.
  • Garbage room: With strict garbage disposal rules being a way of life in Japan, having a garbage room is not something you’ll know you want until you actually have one. It allows you to take out the garbage whenever you want (instead of having your garbage sit in your apartment until the designated day). This can be a big bonus in the summer months.
  • What’s near the property: Nearby open spaces like parks are invaluable for giving you a quick way to stretch outside. But, if that’s not your idea of relaxing, you might want to consider apartments that are close to major entertainment areas. Being a walk away from restaurants, bars, and shopping malls means you won’t have to worry about making your last train!

On to the featured apartments!

1R apartment – Meguro Ward – ¥131,880

  • Year built: 2019
  • Separate toilet/bathroom: Yes
  • 2nd floor or higher: No
  • Direction facing: Southeast
  • Closest station: 4 min to Toritsu-daigaku (Tokyu Toyoko Line)
  • Other features: Open kitchen, balcony, walking distance to Jiyugaoka (roughly 15 min)

This 1R apartment is very conveniently located on the Tokyu Toyoko Line. It’s also a recently built (2019) apartment with a unique layout for a studio with an open kitchen design. The open kitchen design makes everything seem more flowing, even if it is a studio apartment. There’s also a lot of storage space in the entryway for shoes/umbrellas/etc. which is super helpful – a crowded entryway is a recipe for disaster. The only thing to point out at this specific listing is that it is a 1st floor unit. But, that alone shouldn’t dissuade you. If you’re interested you should at least reach out to the agent to see if they can find other available units in the building or if they know of anything similar.

1K apartment – Ota Ward – ¥103,306

  • Year built: 2007
  • Separate toilet/bathroom: Yes
  • 2nd floor or higher: Yes
  • Direction facing: West
  • Closest station: 3 min to Heiwajima Station (Keisei Line)
  • Other features: Loft apartment, balcony, walking distance to Shinagawa Ward Residents’ Park (aquarium and walking paths)

A key factor for many of us looking for our next apartment in Tokyo is the transportation options available from the apartment. This 1K is a killer opportunity for those who want to move to a comfortable commute to Shinagawa. From the apartment to Shinagawa Station would take just about 10 min. The interior also has a very unique look – almost like a cafe with the lofted area and long bench in the living/dining area. If you are anti-loft apartments then this might be a no-go, but otherwise this looks like a really nice spot in a great neighborhood. Nearby Shinagawa Ward Residents’ Park and Heiwanomori Park are really nice to just have to walk through when you need to stretch your legs. Live in the city long enough and you’ll find that you’ll gravitate towards the tranquil parts where you can kind of get away from the concrete jungle.

It is really nice to have a park like the Shinagawa Ward Residents’ Park in your neighborhood! Photo: Aku Pyysalo via Flickr

1K – Shinjuku Ward – ¥117,593

  • Year built: 2006
  • Separate toilet/bathroom: Yes
  • 2nd floor or higher: Yes
  • Direction facing: South
  • Closest station: 4 min to Shinjuku-gyoenmae Station (Marunouchi subway line)
  • Other features: Gated entrance, balcony, corner apartment, walking distance to Shinjuku Station (roughly 15 min)

And rounding out our selection for this article is this very comfortable apartment next to Shinjuku Gyoen Park. This is a really great choice for moving so close to downtown, and the gated entrance adds an additional level of security/privacy. Living right in the city gives you so many more opportunities for exploring and finding different communities. Instead of spending time on a train, you can be out and about, developing different social circles. Take advantage of living in the city while you can! Of course, to each their own and if you know that you would be more comfortable in a suburb then by all means you’ll be able to find great neighborhoods there as well.

Definitely use all our resources about finding the most suitable apartment and neighborhood for you when you’re apartment hunting in Japan! We have Area Guides, apartment layout basics, procedures for moving within Tokyo, and more!