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Apartments in Japan: Part 2

First things first, it isn’t entirely necessary to read Apartments in Japan: Part 1, but I would recommend doing so if you already haven’t.

Ok, so we know about Leopalace, what are the other options? Where can I find them?

Well I don’t know ALL the other options, but a few to get you started.

Initially you may need a place to stay whilst you get sorted, of course friends etc. are a great option to those who have friends willing to put them up temporarily. But for those who don’t, there is an alternative that will roughly run you the same cost as your own apartment.

Now, I’m not fully educated on this matter, but I believe there is a certain niche grouping/culture of people who either temporarily reside in Japan for business (aka foreigners in Japan for business, they may stay for 1 month or so) and there are also Japanese contract workers that, due to the instability of their employment, cannot commit to a lease or something like that. It was told to me a while ago so I’m a little rusty on the nitty gritty details but either way there are accommodation services that cater for these people – the beauty is that YOU can use them too!

These services are generally just hotels. But they’re cheap, dirt cheap, and generally quite nice (not fancy but definitely clean etc.) and they are generally in the “bad” areas of the city. But we’re talking, ¬•2,000 ($25 – I’ve even seen cheaper!) a night for a small room, a tv, wardrobe, bedding and even internet access. Now, whilst this may seem more expensive than your own place, after taking into consideration other expenses such as gas, electricity, water and internet this really does equate to the same price. The downside is you’re in a tiny room instead of your own, private apartment. Here, I’ll even plug the one I’ve previously stayed at: Hotel Chuo (Tennoji, Osaka). If I ever come back to Osaka as a tourist, I will always¬†stay there. I think its great, it’s in one of the bad areas of Osaka but its safe enough. And there is a train station and subway station right outside that will whisk you away to anywhere you want to be in Osaka in no time at all. It’s also on a sort of main road and not down some back alleyway or anything.

So staying at a place like that is great if you’ve just arrived in Japan. Now for apartment hunting!

Going to a Japanese Real Estate is an option I guess, especially if you’re near fluent with your Japanese or have a Japanese friend along. But the other suggestion is going to bars or restaurants that foreigners frequent often and try find newsletters and magazines that are directed at foreigners. Otherwise, if you don’t want to venture out in the wilderness, these publications generally also have a website, with each publication available for download. Check out Kansai Flea Market and Kansai Scene (These are Kansai area publications, but no doubt there would be other publications for other areas in Japan). These publications have apartment listings (as well as job listings!).

If you check these listings, you’ll find people looking for a roommate or agents (foreign and Japanese agents) looking for tenants but also boasting no Key Money or Guarantors required etc. etc. Often these apartments are in the city center, so there’s not that great a chance that you’ll find an apartment in these listings in, for example, Hirakata-shi (for any prospective Kansai Gaidai students reading this). Most apartments seem to run you about the same as what the Leopalace seem to cost, some cheaper, some are furnished but also probably won’t require a lot of upfront money that will result in no value. So it’s give and take.

Apartment sizes are generally listed in square metres (m2) and/or by tatami mats (each tatami mat is 1.62 m2). Apartment types are generally listed a sort of code-like way. All apartments contain at least 1 room and toilet/bathroom. So the smallest type of apartment is a 1R apartment (“1 Room” + toilet/bathroom). There are also 1K apartments (“1 room and a Kitchen” + toilet/bathroom). There are also 1DK (“1 room, a Dining room and Kitchen” + toilet/bathroom). Then there are 2DK (“2 rooms, Dining room and kitchen” + toilet/bathroom). And so on.

There are also a lot of advertisements for Guest Houses (or GH, or I think they may also be listed as 1R apartments? Anyone care to clarify?). Guest Houses I guess can be more likened to a Dorm. You have your room but then the rest of the amenities are shared. The downside to these is that the people who own the house/building may also enforce rules such as curfews and allot shower times.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you still out there wanting to know where I ended up (and yes, I’ve found a place), but all in due time. However I didn’t actually check out any of the apartments in these publications mentioned above. So I don’t really know any more details. But I would imagine if you’re dealing with a private seller you’ll have more flexibility in terms of your lease and employment status. Whereas I think if you go through a Real Estate agency you might end up facing something more resembling the Leopalace experience (my guess is that it wouldn’t be as expensive as Leopalace apartments – but that’s just a guess. I don’t actually know) and you’d probably require a job, bank account etc.

In summary, my advice to those in search of an apartment in Japan:

  • Do not rush. Talk to people. Talk to friends.
  • Inspect the apartments listed in publications that are geared towards foreigners.
  • Stay in a cheap hotel in the mean time until you find yourself an apartment and/or a job.
  • Be patient, don’t be afraid to say “no”, other opportunities will come your way and it will be well worth it once you find something that works for you.

Stay tuned, the final Apartments in Japan post will be up in a day or two.

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