Cost of living in Japan

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Cost of living in Japan
Things to Consider When Looking for an Apartment in Japan
February 16, 2017  |  By Mike Kozlowski

Many students are surprised to find out that Tokyo is not that expensive of a city to live in. Japan has a wide variety of accommodation at varying price points, so you should be able to find something that fits your budget.

The main challenge that many students face is that it is extremely difficult to rent an apartment from overseas. Japanese landlords are a bit old fashioned, and they prefer to rent to tenants they can meet and preferably speak some Japanese.

Fortunately, our GaijinPot Apartments is made to be as easy as possible for foreign renters, even if they’re not in the country yet!

Things to consider when looking for an apartment

How big is the place?

  • As one would expect, a larger living space will increase costs. Room sizes are typically much smaller than in other countries so do be aware that you’ll be getting less for your money.

How far is the housing from the station?

  • In Japan, the train station distance is major. The pricing difference from an apartment that’s 5 minutes away vs. 15 minutes away can be pretty major. Usually, there will be a bus stop close by regardless of where you are, although most people don’t want to have to rely on bus service. If you plan to ride a bicycle, you will also have to factor in station parking as it can be expensive.
  • Also, pay attention to the route you would need to take to get to the station. Even if something says it’s a 5-minute walk, there’s a big difference between just walking down a single street and having to cross several busy intersections on the way, and usually, the rent will take this into account. It can be very frustrating if you’re in danger of missing your train and get held up at a red light that takes a long time to change!

What kind of shops are nearby?

  • Being close to supermarkets, department stores, and other useful shopping centers will increase the rent.
  • Also, being close to schools, parks, or other public areas may increase the rent.

How old is the building?

  • Newer buildings are more desirable for many reasons and the rent reflects this. If you don’t mind living in a place that’s over 30 years old, you can probably rent it for much cheaper than newer properties. Japan has pretty high building standards due to the risk of earthquake so anything built within the past 20 years will probably be very comfortable to live in.
  • Newer buildings may also contain features which you may or not may care about, such as a locked entrance (called “auto-lock”), package delivery boxes, video intercoms, or advanced bathing units. There’s no sense paying a premium on these features if you don’t care about them.

What floor is the room on?

  • Due to privacy concerns, rooms on the lower floors are less desirable than those on the higher ones. If you do not care about this, then you can find better prices by living on the ground floor.

What is the view outside?

  • Landlords know that people want a nice view from their window, so anything that lets you see Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Skytree or other appealing landmarks will cost you more.

What extra fees are there?

  • Japanese companies love hidden fees! The price you see advertised may not be what you’ll actually be paying. Some of the fees that landlords love to charge tenants are “key money,” cleaning fee, lock changing fee, maintenance fee, administration fee and anything else they can think of. Make sure to fully research a listing to see what the total price will be before you agree to sign anything.
  • Of course, other factors will determine the price of a room, but these are the big ones.

Apartment Lingo

Apartments here use the following terminology:

L – Living Room

K – Kitchen

D – Dining Room

S – Storage Room

R – Room

The number in front of the letters means the number of bedrooms.

1R = One room only, studio apartment

1K = One bedroom and kitchen

2LDK = Two bedrooms, living room, dining room, and kitchen.
Toilets can be separate from the bathroom or combined, called “unit bath” or “split bath”.

Types of housing

As a student, you’ll probably be looking into one of the following, each with their advantages and disadvantages.


Pros: Fairly easy to get into, usually decently priced, easy to make new friends, usually furnished and utilities included.

Cons: Your experience will heavily depend on your housemates, limited privacy.

Sharehouses are starting to become popular in Japan, and even Japanese people are starting to move into them. They’re essentially big houses with private rooms, with the rest of the facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom shared with others. Sharehouses are common in the busier areas of Tokyo and the rent will be cheaper than an apartment. If you are looking for a lot of privacy then shared houses are not a great option but they are good for practicing Japanese with your housemates!


Pros: Your own place, can find something that meets your specific demands.

Cons: High moving in costs, have to deal with utilities and furnishings.

Apartments, called mansions in Japan, are probably what the majority of people are looking for. You can find a place that matches up with what you want, and you can decorate it with how you want within reason. It’s also usually possible to share an apartment with other people if you want to save money. The main problems is that moving can be expensive in Japan, with countless fees that quickly add up. You’ll also have to set up your own utilities and buy your own furniture. It’s possible to buy used stuff in order to mitigate the costs, but you’ll also have to factor in transportation and setting it up!

Furnished Apartment

Pros: Convenient, don’t have to deal with registration, usually a fixed monthly rent

Cons: More expensive, risk of being stuck with stuff you don’t want to use

Although not terribly common, furnished apartments exist for people who just want to move in right away. Everything is already taken care of, and usually, utilities are included in the rent. For the convenience, you’re likely going to be paying a higher rent than if you set everything up yourself. You also have no choice with what you get, so if the furniture is of low quality or there are things you don’t want, you have to keep them in the apartment, and buying your own stuff will take up a lot of space.

In conclusion…

There’s a lot of things to consider when finding a place to live! The best way to budget for housing is to go to the GaijinPot Apartments website and take a look at available apartments, you can customize the search to something that would be ideal for you and take a look at what you’d be expecting to pay.

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