How to Get Your Dream Tokyo Rental (Before Anyone Else!)

Finding a new apartment in Tokyo isn’t easy, especially if you are new to the city. In addition, depending on the time of year, it can also be very competitive. These are our recommendations for getting ahead of the game.

From location and layout, to rent and upfront costs, there’s a lot to consider before you move house. It’s important to be organized to give yourself the best chance of securing that dream apartment before anyone else comes along. Here’s what you can do to make the process go as smoothly (and quickly) as possible.

1. Start with a bit of research

Looking for your dream apartment might seem like the easy part but there are a lot of things to consider. At, you can look for apartments based on location, size, and amenities within your ideal price range. We’ve created a handy Japanese Apartment Size Guide to help you visualize floor plans and measurements for your Japanese apartment and an infographic showing what you can afford in Tokyo based on your income.

2. Plan a timeline

Everyone’s schedule is different, however, we have a recommended apartment timeline for Tokyo to give you a place to start. Generally, we advise starting your search 1-2 months before you plan to move. This will give you plenty of time to find the perfect rental. If you are on a time crunch or already have all your paperwork in order, we’ve had some clients find an apartment in Tokyo in only one week.

Not sure when to move? We have noticed an increase in available listed properties between January and March, which can give you more options to choose from. On the other hand, September to December are slower months with fewer available listed properties that give a better potential for negotiation on price and required fees.

3. Get your finances in order

Once you have a rough idea what to expect and what you are looking for, you can start preparing for all the upfront costs you will need to pay. Although we endeavor to negotiate the best deal for our clients, the upfront costs for renting an apartment in Japan can be quite high and generally you will need to save enough to cover:

  • Advanced first month’s rent (前家賃 zenyachin)
  • Management fee (管理費 kanri-hi)
  • Security deposit (敷金 shiki-kin)
  • Key money (礼金 reikin)
  • Agency fee (仲介料 chūkai-ryō)

Additionally, you might also be responsible for cleaning, lock replacement, guarantor, residence services, and fire insurance fees. We recommend having 4 – 5 times the price of the monthly rent saved up to cover these costs. You can read our article on the upfront costs of renting in Japan for a detailed breakdown of the fees and a cost estimate, as well as what we are able to negotiate for you. All of our property listings also include an estimated initial cost so you can know what to expect.

4. Gather the required paperwork

There are a lot of boxes that need to be ticked to get you happily settled into your dream apartment. Unfortunately, many of those boxes require paperwork!

While you are narrowing down neighborhoods and searching the site for possible places to live you will need to start collecting:

  • Photo ID such as Residence Card (在留カード zairyū kādo), Japanese Driver’s License (運転免許 unten menkyo) or Passport for each person who will be living in the apartment
  • Certification of Residence (住民票 juminhyō)
  • Proof of Employment (stating your income) or Enrolment in University
  • If you a freelancer, or have an alternative source of income, you will need to provide documents to prove your income.
  • Proof of Enrollment in Health Insurance, such as a photocopy of your health insurance card (健康保険証 kenkō hokenshō).
  • Guarantor (保証人 hoshōnin) who is fluent in Japanese, and their employment and salary information. Your guarantor must be willing to agree to pay rent or damages on your behalf if you are unable. If you cannot find a guarantor, you will need to use a Guarantor Company. Some property managers ask all tenants to use a guarantor company.
  • Japanese bank account (銀行口座 ginkō kōza)
  • Emergency contact (緊急連絡先 kinkyū renraku-saki), preferably someone who is Japanese or speaks Japanese

We have created a guide listing where and how to get the paperwork required for your apartment application in Japan with further information and definitions. Having your documents ready early helps us to understand your situation, and better prepare ourselves for discussions and negotiations with the property manager.

5. Narrow down the neighborhoods

If you are moving to Japan with your family, you may place a preference on living in a family friendly neighborhood in Tokyo or near one of the many international schools. If you are moving by yourself or with a partner, you might be more focused on living in an area with a great commute, vibrant nightlife and dining, and access to your hobbies. Whatever you value, help us make that a priority for you in your hunt for an apartment.

6. Make time to attend apartment viewings as soon as possible

Pictures and floor plans only go so far. The only way to know for sure if the apartment has enough natural light, is a convenient distance from the train station and grocery store, has thick enough walls, and feels like a good fit, is to actually visit. As soon as you have narrowed down some apartments you like, schedule in some apartment viewings and use this chance to figure out what characteristics make up your dream Tokyo apartment. Remember, the sooner you see a property in person, the sooner you can apply.

Click here to read more articles about finding an apartment in Tokyo. Or, if you’re ready to start your search, contact us with your criteria and we’ll search our database for properties that match your needs and lifestyle.