Begin life in Japan Finding a Room | JPSS, the information site of studying in Japan

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Living Guide for International Students in Japan

Begin life in Japan

Finding a Room

Finding accommodation in metropolitan areas such as Tokyo is difficult even for Japanese people. You have to repeat getting on and off at train stations until they get too tired to walk anymore. Furthermore, some landlords and real estate agents are hesitant to rent rooms to foreigners, but you must sum up the courage to go out and look for a room.

Variation of Accommodations

1) School Dormitory:
Some schools have dormitories, while some only introduce private accommodations to foreign students. Please contact your school or university office if you had any difficulty in finding an accommodation after your arrival in Japan.
2) Student Dormitory:
There are student dormitories which are run by government, a local authority or a private organization, but the number of rooms is limited. The dormitory is furnished and rent out cheap, but there are certain requirements for those who want to stay there. There may be some accommodations that can be introduced by your school's student services office.
3) Council Housing:
It is run by prefectures or other local cities. A foreigner residing in Japan for more than I year, and those who have family living in Japan can apply for such accommodations. However, in areas where public transportation is convenient, it would be quite competitive to get one. For information, please contact a Kanri-bu, Boshu-ka in dwelling house bureau, in your local council office.
4) Company Dormitory:
The Association for Corporation and Promotion of Support for Foreign Students (in Japanese) (Chuo-ku, Tokyo) act in cooperation with Japanese companies to accept foreign students in a company dormitories. Applications are made through universities.
5) Private-run accommodations:
Flat: two-storied wooden buildings or prefabricated buildings. They are equipped with a kitchen and a shared toilet often with no bathroom.
Condominium: usually ferroconcrete buildings, normally more than three-stories equipped with a kitchen a toilet and a bathroom. The higher floor you stay, the more rent you have to pay.
A house: one- or two-storied independent houses with a small yard, a kitchen, a toilet, and a bathroom.
Lodging: renting one of the rooms of the landlord's house. The renting conditions in various landlords. Some landlord may ask tenants to share a kitchen, a restroom and a toilet with the landlord.
Home-Stay: to stay with a family as a member of a Japanese family. Many students apply for a home-stays program to learn Japanese cultures and customs. However, there are not enough families to match the demand.

Before Finding A Room

1) Hard to rent a room for a non-Japanese speaker
In order to rent a room, one must be able to speak Japanese language to communicate with the landlord. Each area in Japan has different living customs and regulations. To students who do not understand Japanese, the landlord is unwilling to rent out their rooms to people who are not able to consult those matters.
2) One-hour Commuting is Normal
Perhaps you would like to walk to school, or would like to bike to school. However, if the school is located at the business district, commuting on foot or by bicycle is impossible. Because of housing and financial difficulties, many Japanese students and people live far away from school or from working place, so they have to spend at least an hour in commuting to the school and the work. It is wise to make most use of Tokyo public transportation system. If you are tired of changing trains, it will be difficult to find a room in Tokyo. Being a young student, you will soon get used to the complicated transportation system of Tokyo.
3) Deciding the Maximum Payable Rent
Housing problem in Tokyo is a very serious matter even for Japanese. Before you rent a flat, you must consider how much you can afford for the rent. The rent varies according to the area, the newness of the building, facilities, and the size. You should note, on the contractual term, the payment due date is clearly stated and this is strictly executed. Do not have an expectation that it is not a problem to be late in rent payment.
4) Special Terms for Rent Rooms
One room with a kitchen is called 1k (high class flat is called "one-room mansion"), two rooms plus a kitchen with the space for a dining table is called 2DK, with a large space for a dining table is called 2LDK.

Market Prices for Rent

It is very inconvenient to rent a private-run accommodation if you did not understand the payment conditions. Generally speaking, the closer you stay to the center of Tokyo, the more you have to pay. On the contrary, the farther away you stay, the less you pay. Besides, the rent varies based on the distance to the train station, the newness of the building, the surroundings, the facilities, and the popularity of the area.

Where to Find Rooms

1) School or University Students Office
Student office in your university, special training school, or Japanese language school give the information of accommodation to students. For details, contact your school office.
2) Real Estate Agency
Real estate agency is a place where it introduces rooms for you. Most agencies are located around train stations with their posted signs such as "XYZ HOME" or "XYZ FUDOUSAN". They can easily be recognized by windows and doors covered with many advertisements of conditions of apartments and condominiums printed on.

Ref: "Basic Knowledge and General Terminology of Housing Contracts"

3) Search for a room using the internet.

Housing and real estate information site "SUUMO"

• Call and Visit
If there is a place of your favor, make a call right away. Even if the apartment is already rented out, ask if there is a similar one for rent. Do not be too discouraged if it does not go well. Japanese people also spend much time in visiting many agents finding a flat of one's choice.

Basic Knowledge & Housing Terminology

1) Rooms are basically not furnished
For example, most kitchens are equipped with a sink but not always with a gas cooker. You have to get your own lighting equipments, a carpet and curtains as well.
2) deposit, key-money, commission charges
You have to be ready with all the payments of deposit, key-money, commission charges on the day of contract which amounts up to 5 to 6 months of one month rent.
3) Joint Surety (Guarantor)
At the time of contract, you will need to find a Japanese guarantor who is capable of compensating on behalf of you when you fail to undergo payments. This custom is not only applied for foreigners but to all tenants including Japanese.
4) Ask a Person Fluent in Japanese to go with you
When you go to a real estate agency, it will be more effective to bring your Japanese friend, guarantor, or someone who can speak Japanese well.
5) Procedures of finding a room at a Real Estate Agency

First, tell the agency your requirements of the room and if you wish, can have a look at them. You will be under no obligation to take the room after having seen it and did not like it. There is no charge for this service. If you like it but need few days to give some consideration or talk with your friend, you should tell that to the agency.
Under this condition, some landlords might ask you for deposit. If you put down the deposit, you then will have the first right to rent the room. This payment can be used as a part of the housing deposit. But if you decide not to take the flat, this money will not be refunded in most cases, so you need to clarify this point before you pay for it.

6) Points of Finding A Room using Real Estate Agency
• The rent for 1 month and other costs; common-area charge, maintenance fee, etc.
• Consider the transportation convenience, distance from the nearest train station and a shopping area, and a public bath.
• Give a good look at the room, check on how much the sun light is coming in and etc.
• What kind of heating system can you use there? Some landlords do not allow you to use gas or kerosene stove to prevent unnecessary fire.
• Check also if there is loud noise or not in the immediate vicinity. If possible, try to discover if the area is noisy by asking people who live nearby.

Signing a Contract

• All the Important and Related Matters are shown on the Contract. When you decided to rent a flat or a condominium, you as a tenant and a landlord must give a sign a housing contract.
• Generally, there are about 2-3 copies of the same contract including names, addresses, contract's seals of the tenant, the landlord, and the guarantor for each of them to have a copy.
• Generally, landlord will supply the contract forms, in some cases real estate agency will do it on behalf of the landlord.
• It shows the contract period, the amount of deposit payments, etc . So, it must be carefully safeguarded until the day you leave the room.
1) General Terminology and Knowledge of the Housing Contract
• Rent:
The rent is paid monthly. Generally, the next payment must be made at the end of previous month. If the housing is under real estate agent's management, 10% charge may be collected for the late payment exceeding one week.
• SHIKI-KIN (Deposit Money):
To cover late-payments and damaging on the estate, deposit money is required. Generally, it is equivalent of I to 2 months of a regular rent payment. When you are moving out, the deposit will be refunded after the cleaning and repairing charge is subtracted.
• REI-KIN(Key Money):
It is paid to the landlord. I to 2 months amount of the rent, and is not refundable.
• KYOUEKI-HI(Common Service Fee):
It is a monthly charged for using electricity, water service, and maintenance of shared facilities like stairs, passages, and toilets.
• CHYUKAI-TESURYOU(Real Estate Agency's Commission):
It is the commission charge you pay to the agency. It is equivalent of a month rent.

2) Understand the Details of Contract before Signing
Legal terms are always hard to understand in all countries. However, once the contract is signed and the seal is executed, the terms and conditions stated will be effective. Therefore, you must understand the content well before you sign and seal it. If there is anything you do not understand, ask a foreign students' officer at school or university or your friends who has a longer experience of studying in Japan.
3) Validity of Contract
The period of contract is valid mostly for 2 years. Details on extension of the contract are also stated in the housing contract. Please read it well.
4) Sharing a room with Friends or Relatives, or Sublet to Someone else is Prohibited
• For Japanese private run accommodations, no other person can stay in the apartment than persons listed on the housing contract. This is one of the practices of unique Japanese cultures and customs which is different from other countries. If you would like to share a room with somebody, you must ask landlord or real estate agency's for a permission.
• In cases of giving a temporally bed to your relatives and friends, make sure that you will get a landlord permission in advance. Problems between foreigners and landlords are often caused in these cases.

5) Do not Make any Alternation to the Room
Without a consent from the landlord, you cannot make any alternation to the room. When you are making a renovation you must get a permission from your landlord first.
6) Codes of Requirements at moving out
• On the contract, it is stated that how long in advance the notification must be made when you are moving out. Generally, tenants must notify their landlord one month in advance before moving out. If the sudden notification is made, you will have to pay for an extra month rent even if you did not stay at the apartment anymore.
• You must give the room back to the landlord in the same condition as how it was in the time of moving in. You must clear away all unnecessary belongings from the flat in the set manner. Do not burden your landlord with leaving unnecessary belongings. Moreover, do not forget to settle your last payment of electricity, gas, water, and telephone bills.

Joint Surety

When you look for a room through real estate agencies, in most cases, they would tell you that "you need a Japanese guarantor" for renting a flat. The following part is the explanation on the joint surety.

• The Condition for being a Joint Surety (Guarantor)
The guarantor must be self-supported. That is, if one does not have any income, he/she cannot be a guarantor.
• The Guarantor must be Responsible for all of Your Debts or Payments
If you fail to pay rents or the repairing cost in case of damaging the room, the landlord will have the right to ask the guarantor of the tenant for compensation. Legally, the guarantor will have to be responsible for all the tenant's debt default. Most of Japanese students will have their parents to be their guarantor for renting a room. The landlord or real estate agency will contact their parents to get payment if their children fail to make payments.
• Person You Do Not Know You Well Will Not Be Your Guarantor
Since the guarantor must be responsible for all of your actions, he or she would not be willing to be your guarantor if they did not know you. Chose a person who knows you well such as a guardian.
• School as institutional guarantee
By using Housing Compensation System for foreign students supported by JASSO, school could be institutional guarantee when you rent a lodging. However, in order to make use of this system, following conditions should be fulfilled.
First, the school you registered should be member of Housing Compensation System.
Second condition is that you should take out an insurance policy which has been designated by Housing Compensation System. (Fee for one year is 7,500yen while fee for two years is 14,000yen)
What is more, housing owner should consent that your school will be your guarantee.
Please inquire details from school office.
• Guarantor's Seal is Needed for the Process
In some cases, you are required that the contract must be stamped with a guarantor's seal, and attached with an official proof of the seal. In Japan, all citizens will have to register their residency in the area they live in. The proof or certificate of seal can be obtained from the residency registration office. The certificate will be used as a proof that the seal used is of the original one.
However, if your school would be institutional guarantee, a document certifying that a seal is registered is not essential.


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