West Meets East: An American in Japan | All Blogs


By Josiah Lebowitz

While many people in Japan do have their own houses (which I’ll talk about in a future post), for those living in or near major cities such as Tokyo, apartments are far more affordable than houses. Now you may be thinking that apartments are apartments no matter where you are, but Japanese apartments do have some rather unique elements.

Renting an Apartment

Some fairly typical Japanese apartment buildings.

In the US, especially with current market conditions, rental companies tend to want to make it as easy as possible for you to get into a new apartment. Many apartment complexes have rental offices that are open nearly every day, making it easy to drop in and take a look around. Find a place you like and it’s often a simple matter of signing some papers, paying the first month’s rent, and handing over a few hundred dollars as a mostly refundable security deposit. Your new apartment probably won’t be furnished but unless it was extremely cheap you’ll almost certainly get a fridge, oven, microwave, dishwasher, and quite possibly a washer and dryer as well. To add some extra incentive, many apartment complexes feature move in specials as well, offering reduced rent, free TVs, and the like to new tenants. Unless you’re really picky, on an extremely tight budget, or determined to live in a very crowded area, finding and getting a decent apartment is a fairly simple task.

But that’s the way it’s done in the US. Japanese people aren’t so lucky. First off, you can pretty much forget about rental offices. While there some rental agencies and private listings, if you want an apartment in Japan you’ll often need to find a full-fledged realtor to handle things for you. And when it comes to moving in, while the paperwork may not be that much different than it is here, the move in fees certainly are. To begin with, very few apartments in Japan allow you to rent on a monthly basis. Instead, you need to commit to a long term lease (usually for at least a year or two). While that’s not necessarily a problem, it means that you should be sure you’re happy with the place before making a deal. You should also make sure that you have quite a lot of money on hand, usually the equivalent of 4 – 6 months’ rent. Part of that goes to your realtor as a finder’s fee. Then there’s the security deposit which is not only much higher than the US equivalent but entirely non-refundable as well. Finally, there’s key money, which is essentially a questionably legal and in no way optional cash gift for the landlord. There are a handful of apartment companies (most centered around the Tokyo area) that often partially furnished apartments with minimal move-in costs and no long term lease, though the monthly rent tends to be significantly higher as a result.

With so many fees, switching apartments is something that is rarely done on a whim. And then, of course, you still need to spend to set up and furnish the apartment. Unfortunately, regular apartments in Japan often don’t include even the most basic appliances, so that’s another big expense. Even so called “fully furnished” apartments are often somewhat lacking by US standards.

Apartment Buildings

A smaller apartment building.

In the US, apartment complexes range from massive towers to groups of smaller buildings spread out over a nicely landscaped area. Many also include things like swimming pools and gyms to attract renters.

In Japan, I’ve never seen anything like the sprawling landscaped apartment complexes you can find in many parts of the US. Instead, it’s all about single buildings. While there are some older smaller apartment buildings around, quite a lot take the form of massive high-rises. Amenities such as pools and gyms are also pretty much unheard of.

Apartment Interiors

The main room in my old apartment.

While you can get large apartments in Japan if you have the money, in general you can expect any given Japanese apartment to be smaller than its US equivalent, though space does become a bit less of an issue as you move further away from the big cities. Japanese apartment sizes are classified as a number followed by letters. For example, a 3LDK apartment has three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen while a 1K will only have a tiny kitchen and a multi-purpose room which serves as the bedroom, living room, and dining room all in one. On the bright side, rent on such tiny apartments isn’t all that expensive, at least if you can get past or avoid the move-in fees.

A tiny kitchen in my last apartment.

As for the rooms themselves… Kitchens, even in larger apartments, tend to be a bit on the small side and dishwashers and ovens are pretty rare. Instead, dishes are washed by hand and cooking is primarily done on stove top (except for rice, which put in a rice cooker). Bathrooms are a bit different than in the US, with the toilet in a completely separate room from the shower/bath and sink. And, with space at a premium, things like walk-in closets aren’t common. Instead, many apartments include some large cabinets built into the walls. Though, in smaller apartments, they’re often cut to save space. And, while washing machines are moderately common, dryers are not and even today many Japanese people hang their laundry outside to dry.

The shower in my last apartment.

In the end, Japanese apartments aren’t horrible but you have to accept the fact that space and things like dedicated living and dining rooms are considered luxuries rather than standard features. Both of my Japanese apartments were ok for the short term, though nothing had I been planning to stay in a single area for more than year I would have definitely gone looking for something nicer.


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Anyone wants to live in a modern apartment complex, where the building is equipped with everything that is needed for the tenants to live in good conditions. Definitely the building elevator is important if it has more than three floors and if there live elders or people with disabilities. Therefore, besides having a modern elevator, the building administrator should resort to a professional elevator mechanic to maintain it.

If someone wants to rent an apartment, he should do some research about that apartment building, about the owner and about the living conditions. If the building is too damaged, the owner should repair it first and afterwards to lease its apartments. For instance, the sheet metal roofing in Minneapolis offers services to homeowners and business owners. Because most of the time the roof represents a serious problem, the building owner should resort to such a specialized company for its expertise and its services.

Apartments are always more affordable than houses. A house is larger, this is why it is more expensive to buy or to rent. But no matter what type of living conditions someone has, he should be a diligent homeowner, taking care of that space well and organized. For instance, a house or apartment must be inspected once at two years for gas leaks. There are people who resort to the best services on the market, like the ones offered at http://actionairplumbing.com/gas-leak-detection/ to check their homes, but others don’t do nothing. These homeowners should change their behavior and start taking care of their homes.

Either you want a house or an apartment, the prices are all high because the demand is all high. Therefore, it doesn’t matter where you live as long as you are pleased with your living conditions. To rearrange a certain apartment or a house doesn’t take too much time for a creative homeowner or a tenant. With these handmade decorative items for home anyone can create an amazing indoor space. There are decorative products for the entire house, from the kitchen to the bathroom.

Wherever someone lives, in a house on the ground or in an apartment building, he should make that space intimate and cozy. There are homeowners who like to have a lot of light in their homes, not only the natural light in the middle of the day, but also at night. Some of them buy quality products from the Jacksonville lighting store to upgrade the lighting system. This is only one simple home improvement made to customize the living space. Thus, every homeowner or tenant should change something in his house.

Almost every homeowner has a TV cable because he wants to be connected with the exterior through the cable and internet bundles and also through the phone service. But even though one has a great offer, he shouldn’t spend too much time in front of the TV. There are many things to do around the house and also many hobbies to discover.

The indoor air quality can influence the price of an apartment because it is prefect normal for people to want to breath fresh air every day. There are some indoor gases, like radon, which are very toxic to human health. In this direction, there are superior radon solutions to other services, which can mitigate and eradicate the problem once and for all. If it is possible, every tenant or future homeowner should resort to such services before he rents or buy a certain apartment.

Everyone wants to live in a modern apartment, no matter if he is the owner of that apartment or he is just a simple tenant. But, some home improvements can not be done if the entire apartment isn’t checked and modified. For instance, most of the time in an ancient apartment, the HVAC system must be replaced because it is too old or it was wrongly used. A professional worker, like the HVAC contractor in Jacksonville FL will know exactly what to replace, change and improve to make the HVAC system work properly.

Anyone who lives in a rented apartment would like to make some changes, to personalize it for his needs and aspirations. Sometimes just a few, minor changes are enough to transform an entire living space. For instance, these oriental rugs in Nashville are sold in all sizes and shapes. One rug will make a huge difference, for sure!

When someone wants to buy an apartment or to rent it, he should check some things first. Even a permanent homeowner should check these things, like the indoor air quality, mold presence, pest problems and others. There are companies which offer indoor air quality testing, to see exactly the situation from the house. These property owners should often resort to such services, because they are very useful to human health and they don’t cost too much.

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