Looking for an apartment in Tokyo is such an ordeal for most people, not just for people who come to Tokyo for the first time in their lives but also for people who has lived in Tokyo for years. I, for example, have been in Tokyo for four years and Oakhouse Kichijoji 2, one of the Oakhouse shared houses, has been my house.
I recently got married and a baby girl is on the way. I realized that I might not be able to stay in this house anymore, simply because of the size.
My housemates in the living room in Kichijoji 2
To be extra clear on this topic, Kichijoji 2 is a house big enough to fit around 20 people to live with. There are about 18 private rooms (each around 10sqm, or 6 Tatami) and 1 dormitory room where 4 people share bunk beds. There is a big common space including a living room with two sets of couch, kitchen, shower rooms and laundry space, even a backyard!
Backyard BBQ in summer in Kichijoji 2
The size of the house as a whole isn’t a problem here and my wife and I don’t mind sharing a house with other people. We actually love it. It’s fun, convenient, easy to hang out in the common room etc… It’s the lifestyle that I’m going to have in a few months. I am having a baby. and this… is a game changer.
My wife and I talked about this many times. We thought about staying in Kichijoji 2 because we love the life in here but we finally agreed to move out. The private room isn’t big enough for a family like us.
Soon after, I started looking for an apartment. I started by looking into websites where real estate companies updates every single day. This is almost the only way to look for apartments in Japan. It’s fairly easy and efficient to go through with this process as long as you can read Japanese. Go to the websites and search by the conditions. There are many conditions you can choose, like rent range, Train line, Station name, location (how close from a near-by station). I save the apartments that I’m interested, contact the local company who’s posting the information, make an appointment via email or phone call, check out the house to see if you really like it.
I repeated this process again and again for two months. Here’s what I learned.
1. An initial cost is a bitch
Let me get straight to the point. It costs around 5-6 months of rent to move in an apartment in Tokyo. That’s how much you need to spend just to move in. Let’s assume you’re looking for an apartment. For one room apartment in Tokyo, 70,000 Yen is the average rent. Here’s how much it costs.
(Currency = YEN)
Rent (first month): 70,000
Management fee: 3,000 to 5,000
Deposit: 70,000～210,000 (one to three months of rent)
Key money: 0～140000 (one to two months of rent)
Agent charge: 70,000 (one month of rent + 8% tax)
Key exchange fee: 20,000
Cleaning fee: 50,000 to 60,000
In total: 300,000～400,000
In my case, the rent range was around 100,000 because I was looking for a family size apartment. The total cost for the first month was around 500,000 to 600,000. I was very surprised to see this number at first but I was even more surprised that almost all the apartment in Tokyo charge this much. First, this is a lot of money for just moving in an apartment. It really doesn’t make sense to pay this much if you’re only planning to stay there for short term (short as in even for a year). Just remember, most of the money you pay here doesn’t come back when you move out of the house. I hear the deposit doesn’t fully come back in many cases.
2. No houses are equipped with furniture or electronics
There are none. People who rent a house are expected not to leave anything behind when they leave the premises. They have two choices. To throw away all the furniture or somehow find someone who want them. What a waste! In Japan, no one likes a furnished house.
My room in Kichijoji 2 (Oakhouse rooms are equipped with enough things)
So, you need to buy everything when you start renting an apartment.
To fully and nicely furnish a house (as big as 45sqm), it costs more than 600,000 yen even if you try hard to buy everything online. I know this because I furnished two Airbnb houses from scratch last year. Even if it’s a smaller apartment, it would cost at least 400,000 yen. Money, money, money…
3. Contract renewal fee
This is the most mysterious, irrational fee I know in my life. Basically, this is the payment you need to pay every two years to renew the existing contract. Let’s say you’ve been living in a 70,000 Yen room for two years. To continue living in this apartment, you need to pay one month of rent additionally to the rent. Of course this fee never comes back to you. Some people try to leave the apartment without renewing the contract, simply because they don’t want to pay. but these people have to pay for initial cost (which is usually much more than the renewal fee) to move in other apartments anyway. So, not renewing the contract isn’t always a good idea.
As you already have noticed, the cheapest way to live in Tokyo is this. “Find an apartment so perfect that you have no reason to move out and live there for the longest you can”.
I was so desperate to know that it costs this much to start renting an apartment in Tokyo.
I tell you what I did to avoid all those fee I mentioned above. Oakhouse actually run many apartments in Tokyo and they’re quite reasonably priced. and moving from Oakhouse sharehouse to another share house doesn’t cost you much. The moving fee is as low as 10,000 Yen to 30,000 Yen (depending on where you are and where you’re moving to).
Tachikawa garden town. This is where I’m moving in.
I chose to move in one of the Oakhouse Apartment called “Tachikawa Garden Town” and I paid 30,000 yen for an initial cost. This is ridiculously cheaper than all the other options I had.
I think Oakhouse is doing a great job here.
Good luck finding a good apartment!