Friday 24 March 2017

The Cost of Renting an Apartment in Tokyo

An ad showing costs for renting an apartment in Western Tokyo
An ad for a rental apartment in Western Tokyo
Yesterday's news noted that Tokyo had returned to the ranks of the world's most expensive cities. The world's costliest place to live in 2012, Japan's capital had dropped out of the top ten in recent years but jumped back to #4 this year. So how expensive is it really to put down roots in Tokyo? This of course depends on where you live in a metropolis of 13 million people. The picture left shows an ad for a rental apartment (chintai apāto) in Western Tokyo. The cost is ¥53,000/month (£380/$475) for a "quiet south-facing 2DK" - that is 2 bedrooms plus a combined Dining/Kitchen space (no living room) that gets the afternoon sun. This is not the total cost however; an in theory refundable ① deposit (shikikin) of one month's rent to cover any damages done to the apartment must also be paid up-front; on top of that, parking costs ¥7,000/month (you need a parking space in order to register a car - parking on the street is for the most part illegal). Luckily, this apartment doesn't charge the notorious ② "key money" (reikin, literally "gift money") nor is there ③ a communal service fee (kyōekihi) typically charged in larger apartment complexes.
An ad outside a real estate agency for eight different apartments in Azabu Juban, central Tokyo
An ad for apartments in central Tokyo

Of course, if you want to rent in central Tokyo, you'll be paying much more. The poster right is from an estate agency in Azabu-Juban, one of the most sought after residential areas in central Tokyo and especially popular with non-Japanese residents. For example, the bottom right apartment is a 1LDK (one bedroom plus combined Living/Dining/Kitchen) only three minutes from the station and costs ¥204,000/month (no "key money" needed). Unfortunately, renting an apartment takes more than just money. In most cases, a guarantor (hoshōnin or 保証人) is also needed on top of a deposit, and this must usually be a (Japanese) relative or employer. This can obviously be an major impediment to non-Japanese but in recent years it has also become a problem for elderly Japanese without close family. As a result, private companies have sprung up to act as guarantors - at a price. Ultimately, though, the owner has the final say on whether to rent their apartment or not - and not a few refuse to rent to non-Japanese, something which remains entirely legal. A 2006 Tokyo survey found that foreign residents visit an average of 15 agents before finally finding a place to rent.

[UPDATE: A new survey by the Justice Ministry found that almost 40% of foreign residents had been barred from housing; 30% had experienced racial or discriminatory remarks]