So one of the most exciting, but scary things that must be done when arriving in Japan is moving into your first Apartment! When I first arrived in Japan I experienced multiple ways to stay short-term in Japan. I did home-stay and stayed in an Airbnb apartment, until eventually finding my first apartment. Although, many of you can probably learn from my mistakes, skip all this BS and jump straight into your own place!
Now when renting a standard apartment, especially through a Japanese Real Estate Company, there are many hurdles (including Japanese) and specific document requirements, namely these include:
- An agent
- Passport and VISA
- Japanese Phone Number and Bank Account
- Bucket load of cash (Not joking)
- Key Money
- Agents fee
- First months rent
- Maintenance fees
- This alone can cost 350-400,000yen (Writing that makes me want to cry).
- Someone who speaks close to fluent Japanese
- And other essential items I have probably also missed
The benefits of Sakura
Now you’ve probably read all this and thought “簡単じゃねえぞ (easy, my ass!)”, but I’m here to tell you about a lovely company called Sakura House. You can find their website here. Now, of course there are pros and cons to using their services, but let me explain how they work. You are able to select and make an inquiry about any apartment they have available using a basic online contact form. From there, you can visit their branch in either Shinjuku or Ikebukuro. Once you have completed the very easy application form and paid a 20,000yen deposit with your first month’s rent, you’re DONE! Yes, the process is that simple!!!
Now to put this in perspective, let me explain it in further detail. First of all, you don’t need a bank account as you can pay via cash or international credit card. In addition, you don’t need an agent or guarantor, and you don’t need a resident VISA (such as student or work). Thankfully, you can also leave that big heavy bucket load of cash at home too! The only thing they will ask you for is an emergency contact (overseas is fine) and any details about your current work arrangements (again this is optional).
You do have to pay a 20,000yen deposit, which is a fraction of what’s required when going through an agent, on top of that you’ll receive 50% of this back when you move out; provided everything is still intact of course and there is no damage (insert cheeky smiley face).
It doesn’t end there, all their apartments are in great condition, convenient locations, and come fully furnished! Also the monthly rent includes water, gas, electricity utilities and WiFi! So you don’t have to go out of your way to pay those additional expenses! Furthermore, they provide apartments and share house/dormitory options too!
Finally, and maybe the most important factor for me … THEY SPEAK ENGLISH, and everything is also provided or explained to you in English. They have many English speaking staff, with other languages available too! So, when you decide to walk into one of their branches, and want to drop my famous line 英語を話せるスッタフがいますか？(Are there any English speaking staff?) The answer will be: “Yes”! (as you wipe the tears of joy from your face).
To support your stay in Japan, they will also send you a monthly calendar of events! These provide details of events such as language exchange, seasonal festivities, place of interest and more!
What about the fine print ?
So why isn’t everyone doing this option you’re thinking?!? Well, like everything there are a few not so good reasons…
Firstly, they only operate in the areas of Tokyo and Kyoto. Hence, if you are not going to be living in these areas you’re out of luck, but read on as I’ll explain the details of another company that may be able to help.
Most of their apartments tend to be quite small and a little on the expensive side, yet you should be able to find a place on average for about 80-110,000yen per month for a single person.
How about the neighbours you ask..? This personally doesn’t bother me at all, and perhaps 90% of your neighbors will be non-Japanese (in your building), so if you were hoping to throw a おはようございます (good morning) or こんばんは (good evening) during your random meet in the corridor or elevator, think again! Of course some of your neighbors may speak Japanese, so this may still work. Some buildings may also have slow WiFi as it’s a shared service.
Lastly, the buildings aren’t likely to be brand new, and for the brand new apartments freshly built and ready to be rented, make sure you have your (heavy) wallet ready.
Once a month, you’ll have to travel to one their branches and pay your rent! I’m not sure if you can link a Japanese bank account to prevent this journey, but I can’t see why not as this would simplify the process for everyone!
There is another similar company like Sakura House called Oakhouse, offering comparative services and apartments, and who have expanded a little further outside of Tokyo. Feel free to check out their website out here.
Bottom line is, I definitely don’t regret staying with Sakura House, I only wish I had found them earlier!
If you’re also interested in furnishing or electronic appliance options for your new found Japan apartment, you may want to read more here.