Japanese Apartment Terminology for Starting Your Apartment Search

Apartment hunting anywhere is a hassle. Applying for apartments online, meeting agents, viewing apartments, etc. are all part of a time-consuming process that, quite frankly, can be a bit of a headache. Add on top the fact that there are certain twists to the apartment hunting process in Japan and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Even if you are confident with your Japanese language ability, you might understand the words, but not the process.

From personal experience, and from stories of other foreigners looking for apartments in Japan, one of the hurdles to get over is just how specific agents will try to get regarding your apartment search criteria. It’s a really good idea to get used to these different criteria to refine your search and make the apartment hunting process much easier for you and your agent. If you walk into a real estate agency without having some idea of your preference for these criteria, chances are you will most likely be walking out of the meeting feeling like you wasted your afternoon.

In terms of your specific apartment search, most real estate agents will expect that you have a good idea of the type of apartment you’re looking for. This is a difficult thing to prepare as a foreigner without that much background information on apartment types, neighborhoods, etc. in Japan. Our in-depth blog articles are a great starting point to arm yourself with some knowledge to make your apartment hunt much smoother.

The real estate agent will most likely go through a list of apartment details/features like:

English Japanese (kana) Japanese (kanji)
Monthly rent ちんりょう 賃料
Layout まどり 間取り
2nd floor or higher にかいいじょう 2階以上
Separate bathroom/toilet バス・トイレべつ バス・トイレ別
Distance to closest station えきとほぶん 駅徒歩分
Building age ちくねんすう 築年数
Autolock オートロック
Bicycle parking ちゅうりんじょう 駐輪場
Delivery box たくはいボックス 宅配ボックス
Air conditioning エアコン
Corner apartment かどべや 角部屋
Pets negotiable ペットそうだんか ペット相談可
Balcony バルコニー
Walk-in-closet ウォークインクローゼット

If the agent can’t get a grasp of the type of apartment you’re looking for, it will be difficult for them to help you find a suitable apartment. Here are a few guidelines to help understand what you should be thinking about regarding these criteria.

  • Monthly rent
    • It will be almost impossible to start an apartment search if you don’t have at least a maximum rent price in mind. This can be hard because you might think “Well depending on the features, I could actually go up 10,000 yen or so…” and if that’s the case, then use that as your actual maximum rent price.
  • Layout
  • 2nd floor or higher
    • In general, you can save some money on monthly rent by looking for a ground floor apartment. However, apartments on the first floor also have to deal with factors like: road/sidewalk noise, pests, and less privacy (easy to look into the apartment through windows from the street).
  • Separate bathroom/toilet
    • In order to save space in Japanese apartments, often times 1R and 1K apartments (sometimes even 1DK and 1LDK apartments) will have one room that is a combined bath/washroom/toilet space.
  • Distance to closest station
    • Usually measured by walking distance. Keep in mind if you have a bicycle your commute to the station might be a little easier.
  • Building age
    • A good indicator of what kind of features you can expect in the apartment. Newer buildings (around 2017 and newer) might even have built-in WiFi. This criteria will also affect the price range of apartments your search will bring up.
  • Autolock
    • A building with this security feature has a front entrance that automatically locks. Great for peace of mind. Also, because of this, you should have a reduced number of solicitors.
  • Bicycle parking
    • Self-explanatory. But keep in mind that not all bicycle parking is created equal. Some are outside in the elements, some are partially covered, and some are inside the building.
  • Delivery box
    • Very convenient feature for those living alone in Japan. If a delivery (from an online store, etc.) arrives to your apartment but you are not there to receive it, it can be placed in this locked box and the delivery person can leave the delivery box code in your regular mailbox. As long as a delivery doesn’t require payment or your signature this should be an option.
  • Air conditioning
  • Corner apartment
    • Better airflow and natural lighting if there are multiple windows. Can be slightly more expensive than similar, non-corner units.
  • Pets ok
    • Usually means “pet consultation ok” and you’ll have to discuss with the agent what types of pets are actually ok. Buildings might have different rules about how big of pets you can keep in your apartment.
  • Balcony
    • Self-explanatory. You might save some money on rent with an apartment without a balcony.
  • Walk-in-closet
    • Self-explanatory. Quite rare in studio apartments. If you have a huge wardrobe, it might be a good idea to look for apartments with large walk-in-closets so you have enough space to store everything neatly.

It’s hard to have an idea of your ideal apartment if you’re brand new to Japanese apartments. It’s a very good idea to browse through listings and make a mental note (or even better, actual written notes) of things you like and dislike about different apartments. All this footwork and preparation you do before meeting your agent can make the entire process smoother, so you can enjoy moving into your new home right away!

Lead photo: iStock

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