Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Room Tour of my Shizuoka apartment and tips for renting in Japan

muji curtains and houseplants in front of the window of my shizuoka apartment

Hey gang! What with being forced to stay inside here in the UK, I've finally got round to editing and uploading a little room tour of my apartment in Shizuoka!



So I've put together this post of things you need to know about renting in Japan (specifically in Shizuoka, as a foreigner who was not an ALT and who speaks pretty fluent Japanese).
If you're an ALT, especially JETs, you don't need to worry so much as your local board of education will set you up with a flat and you can usually buy your predecessor's furniture :)

It's a little hard to rent as a foreigner in Japan! I think big cities like Osaka and Tokyo are more used to foreign people, but everyone in Shizuoka was always perpetually surprised at my presence, and I'm glad I had a really kind estate agent who gently let me down about apartments which weren't willing to take me... ( I got refused two or three times...) One reason is that your guarantor is supposed to be a family member in Japan (or a guarantee firm, which I didn't use because my boss super kindly was my guarantor!). But yeah, that was a bit tough. Luckily I found a place!

Step 1// Search online using Suumo or estate agents' websites for what sort of places are on the market//

This will help you set your budget and you won't feel so lost when you go in in person. Places vary in size and you can modify your search based on conditions like distance to the nearest station, what floor it's on, if the door has an automatic lock etc. The smallest type of apartment is ワンルーム (One room), followed by 1K (one room plus kitchen), 1DK then 1LDK, 2LDK etc. Mine was a 1K and was plenty big enough for just me

Things to consider when looking for a house:

Transport links- picking somewhere where you could walk/ bike to your school/work is ideal
Furnished or unfurnished- places in Japan often come unfurnished- I was luckily able to borrow a futon and bought a fridge and washing machine second hand, which I was then able to sell back
If gas is 都市ガス (city gas) or not- city gas often is cheaper
I'd hiiighly recommend trying to get a place with free wifi as getting wifi set up is a hassle
Do you cook? If so, check how many gas spots it has/ whether it is gas or an induction heater/ whether the kitchen is separated from the bedroom. A lot of Japanese people living on their own don't cook much and a ワンルーム apartment will have the stove and your bed all in the same space. Needs must. 
What floor is it on? I was told to get somewhere on the 2nd floor or above, both for safety and that cockroaches are more likely to appear on the ground floor I believe. Ground floor places can also be a bit darker. Mine was on the fourth floor. 
What is the building made of/ when was it built? Reinforced concrete is the most earthquake resistant, and generally speaking the newer the building the better standard it is in terms of safety. 
Do you want a separate bath and toilet? Places with it all in one- a ユニットバス - are generally cheaper. 
The light/ what aspect your flat faces. South facing 南向き is generally the most popular, but I picked a north facing place because Japanese summer is brutal and I am British. It had a nice big window and balcony so I got tonnes of natural light.
Parking/ a place to stash your bike if you need it
Shikikin/ reikin There are lots of places with no shiki kin or reikin (kind of like a deposit, but it's 'gift money') but bear in mind that these places might have higher rent/ other hidden costs like bug prevention, cleaning fee, lock exchange fee etc. 
I was recommended to find somewhere to rent that cost no more than 1/3 of your monthly income  My rent was 4.8万円 and after rent and bills I struggled a bit with money, to be honest. You've got to get a balance between a nice place close to where you need to be and somewhere cheaper. I ended up getting a really lovely place that was only 5 minutes walk from work and 10 minutes from town which was perfect, but I definitely wish I'd been able to snag another place I had my eye on which was 3.5万円a month

Step 2// once you've got an idea of what there is/ what you can afford, go to an estate agent in person.

I went to エイブル in Shizuoka and the staff were all lovely! (especially once they realised I spoke Japanese!)
Places like Leopalace (they offer furnished apartments) are also a good idea to check, and if you're in a big city there will be places like share houses and even estate agencies which specialise in foreign clients. 
I'd reeeallly recommend you bring a supportive Japanese friend/ colleague even if you do speak Japanese, this will help put both you and the staff at ease. Also it's a good idea to get someone to go look at places with you for a second pair of eyes
Viewing the houses- pay attention to details like how old the AC is (older units are less efficient and will cost you more to run) 
Be aware that the housing market in March/ April moves more quickly than other times of year as its 'Shin seikatsu' time where students will be moving to uni and new workers will be starting their first job. 

Costs// 

My estate agent was super lovely and actually negotiated a cheaper rent for me with my landlord! You'll be looking at 2 months rent, cleaning fee for the start and end of the tenancy, home insurance, lock exchange, bug prevention, and shikikin or reikin (sometimes both) I was told that average 初期費用 initial costs are around 300,000 Yen upfront. My total was around 220,000 yen because Shizuoka is slightly cheaper and my estate agency agreed to waive the moving in cleaning fee because I could clean it myself, saving me about 20,000 yen


Moving in tips//

You can get 30 day sim only data only plans online for your mobile- check if there is a cancellation fee when you set up wifi or mobile bc I got stung. If you don't need a phone number, I'd just get a good pocket wifi.
You need to phone the city/ utility providers for gas, water and electricity, get a friend or someone at work to do it for you if you aren't confident in your Japanese. All you actually have to say is I'm moving into a new place, give the address, your name, and when you want to start using it.
You'll also need to register your address- just go to your city hall and they can help you with filling in forms.
Try second hand shopping for fridges, washing machine etc. They will often deliver or install it for you. I'd buy models newer than 4 years old if you can though, because you will have an easier time selling it back at the end of your tenancy- lots of recycle shops only accept models under 5 years old
Try minimalism! The less stuff you have, the hassle when you're moving :)
Plants are bae! 

Moving out tips// 

Start early! You can cancel your bills by saying the last day you'll be using your utilities a month in advance or even earlier. Also check your contract for how much notice you'll need to give your landlord.
Sell things secondhand/ work out how you're going to dispose of stuff. Some recycle shops offer a collection service for big items like fridges.
Manga, books and unwanted clothes can all be sold too (you won't get lots of money, but it saves it going in landfill!) Check what they do and don't accept though, for example used kitchen utensils often won't be accepted.
If you've accumulated loads of stuff- sort it out ahead of time!! I did everything super last minute and it was awful :') 
Sort your stuff into rubbish , recycling, give to secondhand shops , give to other people, send home. Bear in mind that if you have large items, unburnable items etc you might have to put them out way in advance or arrange for them to be picked up (e.g, if your local area only has one metal recycling day per month)
It is worth the money to send your huge heavy suitcase via yamato on the way home to the aiport!! Do ittt :')

That's it for now, I think. I might come back and edit this if I think of more info, and I would also really love to hear you guys' advice or questions! Obviously I'm not an expert but most of the stuff you read about living in Japan is from students or ALTs so I thought my perspective might help :)
Thanks for reading! 
-Amy xoxo


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