Moving across town can be pretty stressful, and moving across an ocean introduces a new level of anxiety.
Moving with the family pet to Japan can be even more challenging, but rest assured that it is possible to find pet-friendly apartments to rent or buy that will provide a high quality of life for you and your pet.
Let’s explore just how difficult it is to find pet-friendly apartments, standard rules and regulations regarding such properties, and a checklist of pet-related questions to ask when apartment hunting.
How Hard Is It to Find Pet-Friendly Apartments in Japan?
As with any real estate search, it isn’t easy to find the ideal property immediately. We have some good and bad news, but let’s get the discouraging facts out of the way before we provide you with some hope.
There is, generally, not much available inventory, comparison shopping can be difficult, and finding a pet-friendly property is likely to cost extra. Few properties are advertised as pet-friendly in Japan.
While rates vary significantly by location, the top brokers typically have only 2 ~ 11% of their overall inventory listed as pet-friendly or at least pet-negotiable. All is not lost, though.
Given that at any given point, there are hundreds of thousands of available dwellings on the market, and this still leaves a fair number of options.
Why Are So Few Apartments Pet-Friendly in Japan?
The first thing to remember is that, if given an option, most landlords would prefer not to allow pets. They are worried about the potential for damage and complaints about noise and odors.
Thus, many properties not initially designed for pets are converted to pet-friendly residences because of relatively high vacancy rates.
Such properties are slow movers usually because they are not popular enough to attract tenants through regular sales efforts. Maybe the property is out-of-date, far from the nearest train station, or it has no elevator.
Some properties are often advertised as pet-friendly because of their location along the railroad tracks, where noise is always a concern, and barking dogs will not be much of an obstacle. If a property has many vacancies, landlords often convert it to pet-friendly since it requires almost no investment in facilities.
The relatively low amount of available inventory makes it difficult to compare shops. Using industry lingo, it isn’t easy to do comps.
The Extra Cost of Pet-Friendly Housing
Your landlord may tack on an additional 1 ~ 2 months for the security deposit. While this fee is supposed to be refundable, check the fine print of your lease agreement carefully. You are likely to face increased scrutiny when moving out.
Even without pets, in Japan, landlords expect their tenants to return their apartments to their original state after vacating. Thus, when a pet is involved, most landlords will assume that the whole place will require an extra-thorough cleaning after you leave, which will eat up a large portion of the security deposit.
They will expect you to cover the cost of replacing and fixing any scratches on floors and walls. In rare cases, the landlord might also require a monthly surcharge on the rent, which can be somewhere around ¥5,000-¥15,000 extra per month.
The Changing Landscape: The Pet Boom in Japan
Okay, relax. It’s not all bad news. Lately, there are plenty of encouraging signs that should make it easier to find suitable housing for the whole family—including your pet.
If you’re looking to move to Japan, it turns out that your timing is good, as Japan is in the middle of what the Japanese call a petto bumu (ペットブーム) or “pet boom.”
Due to increasing demand, pet-friendly properties are on the rise. Some—including both single-occupant homes and communal share houses–are listed as petto kyoseigata bukken (ペット共生型物件), which means that they have been designed specifically for people to live with pets.
Recently the number of pet owners in Japan has been increasing as more people spend more time at home, a trend that was kick-started by the pandemic.
According to the 2021 National Dog and Cat Breeding Survey by the Pet Food Association of Japan, the number of dogs and cats increased during 2020 and 2021. There are now about 8.5 million dogs and 9.6 million cats being kept as pets in Japan.
Considering about 55 million households in Japan, it is fair to say that pets live in about 1/3 of all Japanese households. Pets reside indoors 80% of the time. Thus, landlords are starting to understand that pet-friendly properties can provide extra income.
Innovative Examples of Pet-Friendly Properties in Japan
Another demographic trend is fueling the pet boom – more single people are starting to have pets. Thus, the number of smaller rental housing units that allow pets is increasing.
Miyoshi Real Estate’s Cat-friendly Apartments
One example is Miyoshi Real Estate in Fukuoka, which drew national attention when it completed an entire “cat-friendly apartments” building in 2019. Their “ifCAT” six-story apartment building has 20 rental units, all of which are 1K-type residences.
The common areas include a grooming space, a bulletin board with information on cat adoptions, and a pet waste area.
In the private areas, the apartments are fitted with features convenient for keeping cats, such as small cat doors, ceiling-suspended cat steps on the wall, catwalks, cat seats for toilets, and 24-hour ventilation systems.
Ipet Insurance’s Pet-Friendly Developments
In 2020, Ipet Insurance in Tokyo, citing a lack of rental apartments where people can live comfortably with their pets, announced that they will independently acquire land and develop pet-friendly rental apartments in Takao and Kichijoji, Tokyo.
One of their properties is a five-story building just a six-minute walk from Takao Station on the JR Chuo and Keio lines and consists of 12 1-bedroom and five 2-bedroom units.
It has common area facilities such as a private rooftop dog run and a foot-washing area. Exclusive benefits for residents include free online pet health and training consultation services.
The private areas are said to be designed considering the needs of pet owners, who can keep an eye on their pets while doing household chores.
Amenities Desired by Pet Owners
Overall the most important amenities for dogs and cats are air conditioning and soundproofing/soundproofing. For cats, additional requirements include escape/deodorizing facilities, nail-clipping posts, and pet doors. The tenants love their new home.
“The first floor of my apartment building is equipped with a pet foot-washing area, which is very convenient. In my previous apartment, I had to go straight to the bathroom to wash my dog’s paws after returning from a walk, which was quite a hassle, so I am glad to have a pet-friendly apartment just because it eliminates that problem. Also, there are several people in the apartment where I live who have chihuahuas just like mine, and we became friends at the foot-washing area, so the community has expanded even further.” AT, age 31
Japan-specific Rules and Regulations For Pet-Friendly Apartments
It is, naturally, a given that your pet must have all of its shots up-to-date. Japan’s Animal Quarantine Service lists instructions for bringing pets into Japan from abroad in detailed English.
Most pet-friendly rental properties will also stipulate specific rules and regulations in the lease agreement. There will commonly be language about both size and number of pets.
There may also be specific rules requiring pets to be carried or placed in a carrier when going in and out. Sometimes it will be necessary to use a back elevator or separate entrance for pets. Dedicated garbage facilities for pet waste are becoming more common.
In addition to regular trips to the vet, the key to avoiding conflict with your neighbors and landlord is cleaning up after your pet. Trying to keep them quiet will help you gather goodwill, too.
In a country like Japan, with high urban population density, it turns out that one of the most common issues regarding pets is when a tenant brushes their pets on the balcony. Sometimes loose pet hair will dry on laundry outside on a lower floor.
Remember that most Japanese apartments lack driers, and letting air-dry laundry outside is still the norm. In larger buildings, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who is responsible for the unwanted pet hair, leading to complaints.
“I live on the first floor of an apartment building. On weekends, pet hair often falls from above and gets on my clothes when I hang my laundry, which is very annoying. I have told the management company, but since they don’t even know who is doing it, all they can do is put a notice on the bulletin board, and there has been no improvement. I avoid this by not hanging my laundry outside on weekends, but I can’t stand it if it continues like this forever, so I am considering moving out when the time is right.” M, age 37
For non-pet owners, pet smells, and noises can be very bothersome. Facilities that counteract the smell of excrement and other animal odors are also effective. Simply installing air purifiers in each room can be effective.
If you have an outside water supply, you can use that area for bathing your pet. Your pet will not bring as much dirt inside by washing their dirty fur and paws after walking or playing outside. In the long run, this will save you money on house cleaning costs.
Finally, if a person is injured by a dog bite or develops an allergy to a pet, he or she may be required to pay compensation for damages.
So, where should you start?
Extra Checklist for Pet-Friendly Apartment Hunting in Japan
When searching for a pet-friendly apartment, it is wise to probe a little deeper to ensure that pets are, in fact, welcome. Here are some suggestions:
- Surrounding Area
- Are there any parks or paths where you can take a walk with your pet?
- Are there any sources of loud noises such as hospital emergency room entrances, police stations, etc. that may upset your pet and cause them to bark or make loud noises?
- Are there pet stores or supermarkets nearby that sell pet food?
- Common Space
- Is there a pet foot-washing area?
- How is pet waste handled?
- Is there enough space for a cage?
- Is there any residual odors from previous tenants (cat smells tend to linger)?
- Are there any scratches or scuffing on the flooring or wallpaper?
- Are the walls thin (tap them lightly)?
While finding a pet-friendly apartment in Japan is not easy, it is getting easier. If you do your homework in advance, you and your pet can find a pleasant new place to live in Japan.