An old saying goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” This can be said, too, for knowing how much you’ll need to spend on an apartment in the gleaming, exhilarating metropolis of Tokyo.
“How do I know what to expect when renting in Tokyo, Japan? Preparation, preparation, preparation.”
Because there is nothing worse than a derailed dream thanks to poor planning, we’ve assembled a guide that will be your go-to source for how much you can expect to spend on a place in Tokyo.
Upfront Costs When Renting an Apartment in Tokyo
This will be the most important section you read to find what to expect for initial spending.
Japan is unique in its rental process, which is an excellent way of saying they charge a lot more money at the beginning of your renting journey than you may be used to.
It’s recommended that you have three to seven times the stated monthly rent ready to go when looking for a place to live, which will shock many.
While the daunting prices will be worth it in the end, it’s better to be mentally (and fiscally) prepared for these costs rather than be blind-sided. Below is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for when you find the right place.
Security Deposit 敷金 (shiki-kin)
This is typically a straightforward payment of one month’s rent.
This covers any repair costs for damages once you leave your apartment. It could also be used if you fail to pay your rent or decide to terminate your contract and are required to pay a fee.
Advance Rent 前家賃 (mae-yachin)
One or two months’ rent will be expected to be paid ahead of time. Be aware that if you aren’t moving in on the 1st of the month, your advance rent may include the days you move in and the following month (or two).
This helps to know if you have wiggle room to strategize your move-in date.
Key Money 礼金 (reikin)
A payment of one or two-month rent (sometimes more – nationwide, according to the Ministry of Land, renters pay an average of ¥77,400, roughly $560) to the landlord as thanks for accepting your application is expected.
This is purely a show of gratitude and is not a payment you receive back.
Note that more and more landlords will waive this, but some still won’t. A residual custom from post-WWII, when urban housing was hard to come by, and renters needed ways to get ahead, this may one day be obsolete.
For now, it’s best to be prepared to pay up, just in case.
Guarantor Fee 保証会社費用 (hoshōgaisha hiyō)
During your apartment application, you’ll be asked to provide a reliable Japanese guarantor who will act as your landlord’s insurance should you not pay your rent.
If you don’t know a Japanese person well (this may be especially true if you’re coming from overseas), or if you do, but you feel awkward asking them to be responsible for such a considerable expense, there are plenty of foreigner-friendly guarantor companies (hoshō gaisha).
Japanese citizens also use these companies, and sometimes landlords prefer their renters to go through them because they’re reliable.
The guarantor fee is relatively affordable, usually costing around a half month’s rent for the first year and then charging around ¥10,000 yearly. Some companies even allow this to be broken down into monthly installments, easing the upfront costs for the renter.
Rental Agency Commission 仲介手数料 (chūkaitesūryō)
This fee will go to the rental agency that helps you seal the deal for the apartment. This typically costs one month’s rent plus tax.
While this fee may be unfamiliar to some, rental agencies in Japan help negotiate the best deal for you, communicate with management in Japanese, and strive to find the best apartment that suits your needs.
They’re well worth the cost.
Hidden Costs When Renting an Apartment in Tokyo
Knowing some things you may or may not need to shell out a few (or a few hundred) extra bucks is essential.
It’s very common to get an unfurnished apartment in Tokyo.
This may surprise some, but this includes appliances like a washer and dryer unit and a refrigerator.
On the apartment layout, you’ll likely see the kanji 洗 or 冷 with an X marked over them, which indicates spaces where a washing machine and refrigerator could go, respectively.
You may also need to get burners that you install yourself or an air conditioner. And trust us: Tokyo summers will require you to have an AC to live comfortably.
Some of these are purchases that would majorly raise the cost of moving in, so be prepared ahead of time.
Maintenance Fee (管理費 kanri-hi)
This fee goes to the building management company and will help pay for building upkeep, amenities, and common areas.
This fee may or may not be included in the advertised price for an apartment you see online. When you think you’ve scored the perfect apartment for ¥300,000 a month, you may find that the maintenance fee wasn’t included in the advertisement, making the actual rent ¥315,000 a month.
Before moving forward, always know whether or not the fee is included in the advertised price.
Lease Renewal Fee
While no hard-and-fast law requires a lease renewal fee to be a part of a rental contract, it is very common in Japan.
Most rental contracts are good for two years. Unless you explicitly negotiate with your landlord to have it taken out of the contract before signing on the dotted line (or stamping your hanko seal), you’ll be expected to pay roughly one month’s rent upon re-signing your lease.
Your agent could help negotiate this for you, so mention it.
This roughly ¥20,000 fee covers the cost of changing the locks that were in place during the previous tenant’s stay.
This will cost you around ¥20,000 for a two-year policy.
Factors that affect the cost of rent in Tokyo
Age of the apartment
A big influence on the price of the apartment is its age and condition. The newer the apartment, the higher the price will likely be.
Many residents in Japan, especially people in their 30’s, are willing to pay higher rent for a brand-new place. However, if you find an older apartment built about ten or twenty years ago (which, to most people outside of the country, would still be relatively new), this may save you quite a bit in rent.
While they might not be the sleekest apartments out there, they’re plenty comfortable and will provide you with much more affordable housing.
Type of Housing
While you may think apartments are the only options when hunting for a place to stay, other types of housing may be more suitable to your needs—and more affordable.
Share houses are residences where people rent out a single room, a shared room, a semi-private room, or a dorm-style room (think bunk beds and several people sharing a space).
This style of living allows for affordability, flexibility, and the chance to meet others who may have come from overseas. A sense of community and camaraderie may be just the thing you’re needing while getting your footing in a different country.
The average cost of a share house room in central Tokyo is ¥45,000 ~ ¥60,000, while one in the 23 wards averages from ¥30,000 ~ ¥45,000.
Like apartments, share house room prices will vary based on proximity to transportation, amenities (some have benefits like gyms, cafes, and bars), and household services. Be aware that you will likely pay a security deposit of around ¥20,000.
Guest houses, also known as “gaijin houses,” are another affordable option. This could be great for those looking for short or long-term housing who don’t want to spend too much on their rent. They can avoid start-up costs, as well, avoiding costs like guarantor fees. Weekly contracts are also available.
In Tokyo, a shared apartment at a guest house can range from ¥40,000 to ¥100,000 per person per month, while a private apartment costs around ¥100,000.
And finally, we arrive at the biggest factor that affects your rent: where in Tokyo you choose to live.
Most renters in Tokyo look for convenience when it comes to their proximity to local transportation (most likely the train) and places they frequent (the grocery store, the post office, the bank, and entertainment).
Many are also dead set on not having to walk more than five or ten minutes to the train station for their daily commute.
If this is a major priority for you, just be aware that while it’s an option, it will drastically change the price of your rent. If you’re willing to be farther away from your local train, your rent will be more affordable. It comes down to what you’re willing to negotiate on and what you’re not.
On a grander scale, what district (or “ward,” as they’re called) you live in will also greatly influence what you pay.
For instance, outer wards like Nerima and Arakawa will be more affordable than wards that are part of the city center, like Minato, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. We’ll get into more of this below.
Other things that may affect the price of your rent:
- Pets (pet-friendly apartments can be a challenge to find, and you almost always will be asked to pay another month’s rent in your security deposit)
- Built-in AC
- Parking garages
- Elevator access
- Whether the apartment is on a corner or in between other apartments (corner apartments cost more)
- Security costs
- What floor the apartment is on (the higher the floor, the more expensive the rent)
Typical apartment layouts, sizes, and costs in Tokyo
If you’ve peeked online at apartments in Japan for the first time, you more than likely saw numbers and letters strung together that looked more like a passcode than anything that made sense.
Below, you’ll see a breakdown of what it all means—we promise there’s a method to the madness.
- R = room
ex. 1R describes a single-room (one-bedroom) apartment, aka a studio apartment. If the single-room apartment is listed as a 1K, it means there is a separate space for the kitchen.
- D = dining
ex. 1DK indicates that the one-bedroom apartment also has a dining space and a kitchen.
- L = living room
ex. 1LDK means one bedroom, a living and dining space, and a kitchen. There is no set definition, but a 1LDK will almost always be larger than a 1DK.
Of course, if there are more rooms, it’s reflected in the apartment description. A two-bedroom apartment with a living space, a dining space, and a kitchen would be described as 2LDK.
Other letters and kanji you may see on floorplans are:
- S = storage
- WC = toilet
- UB = unit bath
- PS = pipe space (water or gas)
- CL= Western-style closet
- 洋 / 洋室 = yōshitsu, a room with Western-style flooring
- 和 / 和室 = washitsu, a room with Japanese-style flooring (tatami mats)
- 帖/畳 = jō, the counter for tatami mats
It’s likely that if you’re moving to Japan for the first time, you may have a certain idea of what “small” means when it comes to housing.
It’s important to adjust expectations a bit when apartment hunting in Tokyo. The city is a sprawling, gorgeous mecca, and one of the trade-offs to having access to such a fantastic place is space.
Luckily, Japan is very good at utilizing the space it offers, and apartments are no exception.
So, while you may be getting a slightly smaller apartment than you were expecting, you’ll more likely be getting a very efficient place. Plus, it costs less to furnish, you’ll have less clutter, and it will be an easier space to clean and manage.
The average size for a one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo is 40 m² or 430 ft². For comparison, the average size of a one-bedroom apartment in New York City is 70 m² or 753 ft².
It’s important to note that rooms are typically measured by tatami mat size, even if they don’t have tatami mats. One tatami mat is 3 x 6 ft, or roughly 17 ft².
This means, for instance, that in a smaller room with six mats (6-jō 帖), the space is about 9.6 m² or 103 ft².
Here are some average prices you can expect to find for apartments in Tokyo based on a one-bedroom apartment.
Central Tokyo = Minato-ku, Shibuya-ku, Shinjuku-ku, Chiyoda-ku, Chuo-ku, Greater Tokyo = The rest of the 23 wards.
Here is an overall breakdown of the average cost for rent in Tokyo based on room layout:
- 1R: ¥71,583 ($652 USD)
- 1K: ¥81,217 ($739 USD)
- 1LDK: ¥120,974 ($1,101 USD)
- 2LDK: ¥181,996 ($1,657 USD)
- 3LDK: ¥266,352 ($2,425 USD)
- 4LDK: ¥456,886 ($4,159 USD)
Source: National Association of Real Estate Transaction Associations July 2020 Data
The closer you are to central Tokyo, the higher the price you’ll pay for rent. The farther out you’re willing to go (and in a city where public transport is king, you shouldn’t be afraid to), the less you’ll need to spend.
The cheapest wards in Tokyo lie to the north and the east and include Adachi-ku, Awakawa-ku, Kita-ku, Itabashi-ku, Nerima-ku, Suginami-ku, and Edogawa-ku.
The most expensive ward will be Minato-ku, home to some of the chicest, high-end residential areas, including Roppongi, Omotensando, Azabu Juban, Aoyama, Shirokane, and Akasaka.
Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama are perfect prefectures for those looking to either save money or to be away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis of Tokyo. It would require an hour commute or so, but if you’re happy to trade time for money, this may be a perfect option for you
Whether moving from another city in Japan or overseas, finding a place in Tokyo can be an overwhelming task. That’s where we come in. We offer services that will guide you to your perfect home, making the process a breeze. Check out our services page here for more details.