Renting in Tokyo
An initial priority when coming to Tokyo for more than a week or two is finding a room. As owners struggle to fill properties in the current economy, foreigners may find more doors open to them, but there is still no shortage of owners that categorically refuse foreigners. Be ready for it, and accept it.
A full apartment rental in Tokyo can pose challenges for foreigners as most rental contracts require a month or two of partially refundable security deposit, a month’s rent to the agent, insurance costs, a Japanese guarantor, and a Japanese custom that many foreigners aren’t so fond of – reikin, or key money, which basically a non-refundable “gift” to the owner. Some of these terms are somewhat negotiable, but in desirable areas like Shibuya, Roppongi, Nishi-Azabu, Shirokane, etc., deposits are often unavoidable. Older and more working class areas like Ueno, Omori, and outside the Yamanote in the suburbs may prove more flexible.
On top of this, you then have to fill your apartment which requires all the furniture and fittings. Basically all you get in a Japanese apartment is the walls around you and a bathroom.
Many foreigners staying for a longer term but who don’t want to shoulder the burden of a full rental contract will opt for a guesthouse (sometimes called a “gaijin house”). Prices here are similar to apartments but furniture and utilities will typically be included, no guarantor is needed, and the deposit is typically around 30,000 yen to a month of rent. Contracts are also month-to-month, so moving out does not have to be a costly affair. The downshot is the age of the facilities and you never know quite who you’ll be living next door to. Lack of cleanliness and privacy are usually the biggest gripes about a guesthouse. Be sure to check the place first if you can.