How to Rent an Apartment in Japan

What documents do I need to rent an apartment in Japan?

In this article, we explain what documents and other information you need to have ready in order to rent an apartment in Japan.

Before you dive into the checklist below, you should know that to be eligible to rent a long-term apartment in Japan you need to have a working or student visa. If you are on a short-term tourist visa, the information below will not apply! On a tourist visa, you will need to look for housing at guest houses or serviced apartments and rental listings that specifically permit short-term stays.

1. Passport & Residence Card

To apply for a regular apartment in Japan you will be asked for two forms of identification: your passport and residence card or student ID.

Make a legible copies of both the photo page of your passport and the page where your visa stamp is attached and of the front and back of your residence card or student ID.

Sample of the front of a Japanese residence card.

Sample of the back of a Japanese residence card. You have to submit copy of the back because this is where government officials will update any of your personal information, such as an address change, as in the example above.

You will be asked to supply a passport and residence card for each person who will occupying the apartment.

2. Certificate of Eligibility or Employment Letter

You will be asked to submit official paperwork documenting the purpose of your stay in Japan.

If you haven’t yet been issued a visa, you will need to provide a Certificate of Eligibility. This is a document issued by a regional immigration authority certifying that the activity you wish to engage in is valid and falls under a status of residence in Japan. Getting a Certificate of Eligibility can significantly speed up your visa application process.

If you will be working in Japan, a signed employment contract or official offer letter can also be submitted instead.

3. Proof of Income Documents

To prove that you’ll be able to pay your rent, you have to submit proof of income documents. You will be asked to provide copies of recent pay stubs, usually for the past two or three months; or a copy of your annual tax withholding slip (gensen choushuu hyou, 源泉徴収票). 

If you are are a student (for example, if you are renting your apartment through the GaijinPot Housing Service as a college student or student at a language school) and your parents will be paying your rent, you will be asked to provide copies of their latest bank statement.

Sample of a Japanese tax withholding slip (gensen choushu hyou).

4. If you are a student: Student ID & Admission letter

If you are a university student or will be studying at a Japanese language school, you will also be asked to provide a copy of the front and back of your student ID and school admission letter.

Other Information To Have Ready

In addition to the actual documentation above, you should also have the following on hand when you start apartment hunting in Japan:

1. A Japanese Phone Number

To arrange a room view and to keep in touch with your Japanese real estate agent on the status of your application, you will need to have a phone where they can reach you. As a rule, Japanese agents will not deal with rental applications from overseas, so when we say a phone we mean a domestic phone number.

2. A Japanese bank account

As a rule, property managers and landlords require monthly rent payments to be made by wire transfer via a domestic bank account. As part of your application, you will often be asked to fill out an automatic withdrawal form, so that the rent will automatically deducted from your account on the day that it is due.

More recently, some agents will allow you to pay the agent’s fee with a credit card.

If you do not have a Japanese bank account or don’t want to get one, the GaijinPot Housing Service is a good option because it allows you to pay all your upfront move-in costs by with a credit card.

3. Domestic Emergency Contact

On the rental application, you will be asked to provide the name of a person in Japan to be your emergency contact. You can give the name of a friend, co-worker, or your manager at work, but it’s best that the person can speak Japanese because most property managers and landlords do not speak English. In the unlikely event that they need to get in touch with your emergency contact, you want to be sure that they can communicate with each other.

4. Be approved by a Guarantor Company

In Japan, traditionally, in order to rent an apartment you needed a guarantor, a person who officially agrees to be liable for your rent in case you cannot pay. This is true whether you are Japanese or not.

Nowadays, most property managers (PM) and landlords actually prefer that you use a guarantor company, rather than a guarantor of your choosing. As part of your rental application, the PM will submit your personal information to a guarantor company who will do a background check. If you’re approved, it will help tremendously in getting your rental application approved.

However, you should be aware that you have to pay one month’s rent upfront to the guarantor company and a renewal fee of ¥10,000 every time you renew your lease.

An easier way to rent: The GaijinPot Housing Service

As described above, there are serious hurdles to renting an apartment in Japan.

To help foreigners overcome some of these barriers, we started the GaijinPot Housing Service, an end-to-end housing support service for foreigners looking for rental housing in Japan.

What we offer:

  • You can apply from overseas and have your place set up before you arrive in Japan.
  • You don’t need a guarantor.
  • Full bilingual support throughout the application process.
  • You can pay for everything (from move-in costs to your monthly rent) with a credit card.
  • Bilingual concierge service after you move in, including utility set up and help setting up maintenance appointments.
  • 2,100+ apartments pre-approved for rental to non-Japanese. Nationality will never be a factor in whether your application is approved or rejected.

For more information, please visit: GaijinPot Housing Service

To see a list of apartments currently available, please see: GaijinPot Housing Service apartments

You may also be interested in: Tips for Getting the Apartment You Want in Japan