Which Apartment Type in Tokyo is Best for Me?

Comparing Japanese Apartment Complex Types

As an expat moving to or living in Tokyo, there are choices to be made when choosing your living space. As for apartment complex types, you can live in either an “apartment” (called ‘apa-to’ / アパート) or “mansion” (called ‘manshon’ / マンション).

“I’ll live in a mansion!”  Easy decision! …Well, maybe not.

Western standard definitions of living spaces don’t translate very well into your new home in Tokyo. In fact, the description can change from realtor to realtor, if you go to a local Japanese agent (yes- but of course, when you’re apartment hunting, be sure to contact us first at Apts.jp ! :-)).  (For sake of clarity, we at Apts.jp do refer to either type of rental as “apartment”, so as to not be confusing!)

So the question comes down to- which building type is right for you?

(アパート) Wooden Structure Apartments

Wooden structure apartments in Japan- アパート- are usually buildings no taller than three stories high made from a wooden structure (木造 , ‘mokuzou’). There are sometimes wooden construction buildings that are over two stories tall, but the main point is– wooden construction, and always low-rise.


Benefits of Wooden Construction rentals


High Value (more space for the rent price)

The most value for your money in Tokyo, is wooden structure apartments. When constructed, they are less cost intensive to build (compared to concrete construction), resulting in faster building time, and allowing them to be rent out at relatively affordable rent prices. They tend to be smaller buildings without elevators (walk-ups- though some wooden construction buildings do have elevators), and in general, the management fee can also be lower, due to small size of whole complexes.

Being some of the most affordable types of rentals in Tokyo, this is a significant benefit to wooden construction complexes.


Disadvantages of Wooden Construction rentals


Little to no Insulation

Japanese wooden apartments often have barely any insulation, resulting in hot summers and cold winters. Although you can use space heaters or cooling units (or modern AC with hot and cold), be prepared to use them regularly.

Thin Walls, Loud Noises (‼ VERY IMPORTANT POINT)

Noises are by far the biggest complaint about wooden construction apartments. The reason so many concert halls or instruments are constructed from wood, is because of wood’s excellent acoustic properties. Apartments tightly stacked on top of each other, with barely any insulation, results in very similar acoustic transmitting/amplifying effects.

You can hear your neighbor’s footsteps, conversations, toilets flushing, music, movies– if you can name it, you can probably hear it. This can often lead to complaints either being made against you, or by you (…reported to us, of course, and then we have to sort out the situation in some sort of amicable fashion! Writing letters stating “Please don’t be loud”, to neighbors, is something we’ve had to do).

★ SPECIAL NOTE:  Wooden construction for a whole house, doesn’t pose the same type of noise issues, as wooden construction complexes with multiple units.  This is because the house is a standalone, with no shared walls.  In this case, wooden construction just might be the perfect rental for you! (Though inside the house, you still might hear your kids running around upstairs, etc.)

But if you’re looking at a wooden construction apartment for its high value– Please note that a very high percentage of clients who we’ve placed in wooden construction apartments, have complained in one way or another about noise

As such, we often do dissuade clients from wooden construction apartments- despite being good deals- due to the aforementioned noise problems.  Expats tend to talk and hang out at a FAR higher volume than the average Japanese person, which is why we do highly recommend concrete construction units to our clients.  But if there’s a wooden construction rental that you really really want to rent (found on a portal site, etc.)– just be FULLY aware of the possible noise issues!

(マンション) Concrete Structure Apartments

“Mansions”- yes, the direct Japanese transliteration- and no, these are not what one usually imagines if someone says, “He lives in a Mansion!”  Japanese “mansions / マンション”, are concrete based constructed buildings, and they are often three or more stories tall.  They typically have a communal space (lobby, mailroom) and elevators. Built using concrete and steel materials, such building types are SRC, RC, ARC, etc.


Benefits of Concrete Construction rentals



Concrete apartments tend to have more of a modern curb appeal. There are more options when it comes to layout and design, as they have more space to work around. There are some very high-design wooden constructed apartments, but near central Tokyo, the best of the best styled and designed apartments, are going to be concrete construction. All the luxury complexes– concrete construction.

Absorbs Heat

Concrete being high in thermal mass allows it to absorb heat and release it slowly. So on those hot summer days, the temperature has a harder time going through the walls and vice versa on cold winter days (concrete keeps your heat in). This can save money by cutting down your heating and cooling costs and is also a nice comfort point.

Helps Reduce Sound Travel

Concrete constructed rentals are not entirely soundproof, but they can come pretty close! The amount of noise transmitted through concrete walls, is nowhere near the noise level that wooden walls allow for. Concrete’s density, along with insulation, stops a lot of sound from traveling from residence to residence, making concrete construction great for living comfortably.


Disadvantages of Concrete Construction rentals


Higher Cost

Since the cost of building with concrete is higher than wood- with more investment needed to construct- the costs get passed down in the form of higher rent. Also, with all the communal spaces and elevator running expenses, the management fees will most likely be higher than a wooden construction rental.

Although cost can play a huge role when choosing where to live, peace and quality of life should also be taken into consideration.


If you don’t want to be walking on eggshells every time you get home, consider a concrete constructed rental.


It is best to consult with our team, if you find an apartment on a portal site, or elsewhere, and want to send it to us to confirm viability for your situation.  Most apartments listed on Apts.jp are concrete construction, but there are a few wooden construction rentals posted from time to time.

CONTACT US if you have any questions on apartments! We’d be happy to find you an apartment that is just right for you!   🙂