Testimonial: Cocoa with Lana

We sat down with French Ph.D. Student and Software Developer, Lana, to chat about her experience finding her new apartment in Tokyo. Lana has been living in Japan for over 6 years and speaks fluent Japanese, however, after seven months of rejected rental applications she contacted Apts.jp for help.

Thanks for meeting with us, Lana!

What brought you to Japan?

I originally just came to do an internship for one month. I really liked it here so decided to come back the next year, and the year after, and then finally I decided to go to a Japanese university up north. That’s where I got my masters and then I came to Tokyo University to do my PhD. I study Artificial Life, though I usually just say AI. It’s about trying to understand the properties of life by building systems that have the same properties. It’s a lot of fun!

Why did you decide to move apartment?

I was living in Wakabayashi, I basically ended up there because I couldn’t find a house and didn’t have a lot of money. I took the first apartment that would accept a foreigner, it was very cheap for Tokyo – maybe ¥45,000 a month. However, it was cheap because it had a lot of bad points. It was very dark and depressing, and it also had a lot of mold. Everything would get moldy, and one day my passport got moldy and I thought, “maybe I should move out”.

living room

Lana’s new apartment has plenty of natural sunlight!

What was your experience like apartment hunting in Japan?

Well, I can speak Japanese, I have Japanese guarantors, I have a Japanese emergency contact, I have a Japanese bank, I have everything you’re supposed to need to get an apartment. However, unfortunately, I’m a foreigner and most apartments I applied to would refuse me for that reason.

Many people have had experiences where they’re told “it’s because you don’t speak Japanese” or “it’s because you don’t work for a Japanese company”. But I had everything and was still refused, so I knew that wasn’t the real reason.

I must have contacted dozens of agencies. About half of them refused me when I first sent an email, some never answered, and some let me apply but then the landlord refused me because they don’t want foreigners.

When I learned this would happen, I was very careful. Each time I’d say “I’m interested in this room but please check that foreigners are okay” and they’d say “of course it’s fine”, but they wouldn’t actually check. Then they’d come back to me saying “sorry, it wasn’t okay” after my application was rejected.

How did you come across Apts.jp, and how were they able to help?

I couldn’t find a place and my rental contract was coming to an end so I went to a share house where they accept foreigners and let you pay month-by-month. I stayed there for 7 months looking for a place. One day my friend asked me if I’d heard of Apts.jp and I said I hadn’t but if I got refused again I’d try it. Well, I got refused again, so I tried it.

I sent them a message about a room I’d seen elsewhere that I really wanted to have. The upfront fees were very expensive and I didn’t know why, so I asked if they could help me with that. They said, “Yeah, we think we can help you” and they negotiated the price down to almost half! I had originally been asked for ¥800,000 in upfront fees like key money, guarantor money, two months rent in advance, and all this other stuff. Apts.jp negotiated for me and got rid of all the fees that had been added for no reason, so I only needed to pay about ¥400,000.


The layout of the apartment was exactly what Lana had been searching for.

How else was Apts.jp of assistance?

When I found that room I mentioned, I thought “wow this is the most beautiful room I’ve ever seen, I want it”. The agency said I could have it but when it came time for me to actually apply they told me the price on the website was incorrect and asked me to pay more. But when I met with Apts.jp, they were able to get it back to the original price.

Then when I went to sign the contract, the property management company didn’t accept signatures and said they needed a Japanese stamp, so Apts.jp offered to have one made for me. Also, when I actually moved in, one of the staff came with me and gave me a lot of advice and showed me how to use everything in the apartment.

Later on, I had some issues with the air conditioner and the filter in the kitchen. The air conditioner was blinking all the time and I didn’t know what to do, so they came to my house to try and fix it. As for the kitchen, a big filter sheet has to be put in the hood above the stove and I didn’t know how to do it, so they also came and did that for me too. I really didn’t expect them to come to my house to help!

What are your favorite things about your new apartment?

I have lots of favorite things! My previous room was really dark but this one has a lot of sunlight. It’s also really clean. It’s a 10-year-old building but you really don’t feel it, everything is really high-tech and well cared for.

There are lots of very small details that just make me happy. For example, there’s a heater in the ceiling in the bathroom. You can also use it to turn the bathroom into a drying room, it has lots of functions. It’s really nothing much but it makes me happy!

I also really wanted my own kitchen because I didn’t have one in the share-house. This kitchen is super convenient and it’s an open kitchen so I have a lot of space and a countertop. It’s really great. Oh, and usually when you get a package from the post office you have to be home to collect it, but this building has delivery lockers so your packages are there when you get home.


The modern open-plan kitchen.

What piece of furniture were you most excited to get for your new home?

Hmm… the washing machine! Up until now, I’ve only had second-hand washing machines. They break and you have to repair them and they make a lot of noise, so this time I got a new one. It’s great, it’s so quiet!

What is your advice to people searching for an apartment in Japan?

The other agencies would take weeks to give me an answer and kept asking me for more documents, more documents. When I went to Apts.jp I had ALL the paperwork they could possibly ask me for and I got the apartment after about a week, so being prepared helps.

I could give lots of advice but in the end, if an agency refuses you just because you’re a foreigner there’s nothing you can do about it. Right now my advice to everyone who asks me how to find an apartment is to use Apts.jp.

Thank you, Lana!

We hope you enjoy living in your new home.


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