a Place to Live
housing situation in Japan is well-known: the commutes are long and
rooms often cramped and expensive. Everything you've heard is true.
It's a reality which is unavoidable, especially in Tokyo - the center
Sometimes renting an apartment can be difficult for foreigners. Many
places simply are not available to non-Japanese people. But there are
ways to make the best of the situation. Before you start looking for
housing, you should decide what's most important to you. Is it the location?
The amount of space? The key is to be clear about your standards for
selection and to focus your search on a particular area. A change in
the distance from the center of the city will mean a proportionate change
in the amount of rent you will have to pay.
The best way to begin house-hunting is to find agents who understands
foreigner's needs. A good agent will reduce the amount of time it takes
to find what you're looking for. And in Japan, even after you've signed,
a good agent will help by making sure your gas, electricity and telephone
are ready to use when you move in.
In your own country, your home is important, but when you are living
in a foreign country it is even more important to have a place where
you can relax and feel at home.
Useful words for house-hunting
Jyo : unit in tatami mats to measure floor area.
Tsubo : 1 tsubo = 2 jyo, unit to measure land area .
LDK : Letters standing for living room, dining room and kitchen.
ex) A 4LDK apartment will consist of 4 bedrooms, a living room, dining
and kitchen or a dining room.
payments of 2,3 months up to 6 months' rent will be required when signing
deposit of 2 month's rent. Refundable although sometimes cleaning costs
may be deducted from the amount when you move out.
you money" of 2 month's rent. A post war custom showing gratitude
for being provided a place to stay.
fee of 1 month's rent. Paid to the agent for introducing you a place.
are usually for 2 years after which you will be required to pay a contract
renewal fee (koshinryo). Foreigners signing a contract by themselves
will face is that those signing a contract themselves will need a guarantor
of Japanese citizenship. This is not necessary if your company is the
one signing the contract.
electricity, gas and water services, fill in the forms which you will
find in a bag on the floor when you move into a new place. For gas,
you will have to ask someone from Tokyo Gas to come and open a valve.
Water and electricity are usually available by the time you move in.
Electricity, gas and water are all metered. Gas and electricity meters
are read once a month. A note is dropped in your door or mailbox showing
the amount used. A few days later the bill proper will arrive. Gas and
electric bills look very much the same (red figures). Water meter is
checked once every 4 months and there are two two-month bills, each
one in two parts--for water used from the tap and water down the drain
the bills to a Japanese bank, post office or major convenience store
before the monthly deadline. No extra handling charge. If you have an
account with a Japanese bank you can arrange for the amount to be transferred
automatically from your account. Bills must be taken to the local gas
or electricity offices to settle the account if payments are overdue.
Utilities are sometimes turned off for repair work etc. A note to that
effect is posted a week before. When the water is turned back on it
is often cloudy for a while, so be careful with washing.
Make a note of the telephone number to call on each bill in case of
Lines and Service
order to start using a phone, obviously you have to have a line installed.
You can get one installed for around 78,000 yen. However there are some
places that offer cheaper prices. The major carrier is NTT. However
there are a lot of companies offering cheap domestic and international
calls. Shop around to find out which one's best. You can also rent a
phone for 2500 yen a month for a minimum of 6 months. Hello KDD Corporation
(0120-40-8640) also rents phones for less than 3000 yen a month with
certain restrictions. Here are some places you can start looking:
both domestic and international calls:
can be placed either through the operator or in some areas, directly,
by pressing the access code (001 for KDD, 0061 for IDC and so on), then
the country code, area code and phone number.
will come in the mail unless you have already arranged to have your
payments withdrawn directly from your bank account or arranged to have
it charged to your credit card. Bills can be taken to the post office,
bank or local convenience store. Calls made through other phone carriers
will be billed separately.
are those of you out there who have to be able to be reached anywhere
at any time. That would mean, you'd need a cell phone. Either that or
a PHS (Personal Handyphone System). You can go to any electronic appliance
store and see that there are an infinite number of phones to choose
from. If you don't mind paying a little extra, you can get one of the
newer models that have so many features, you probably won't use half
of them anyway, or if you don't mind having an "old" model
(only by about a couple of months), then you can find some that are
REALLY cheap. If you don't mind having a PHS, then you can get one for
free (registration fees are extra of course), or as cheap as 1 yen.
The difference between PHS and cellular phones are that PHS phones have
lower monthly fees, do not work when traveling at high speeds (like
on cars and trains) and their area is limited. Cell phones usually have
a nationwide network so you can call from anywhere and even if you're
traveling on a train or car.
Cellular and PHS phone carriers:
to the Internet
that you have your phone line all hooked up and ready, how about a connection
to the Internet to catch up on all the news from home and keeping in
touch with friends and relatives? Well, if you happen to be using a
computer from the US with a modem, then all you need is a phone line
to connect your modem to the phone jack and you're in business. Here
are just a few of the many Internet service providers that you might
want to check out.
with cheap monthly costs:
with overseas access points:
Out The Trash
that you have everything set up and ready to go, you must have ended
up with a lot of garbage. When you do throw out your garbage, make sure
you do the following:
- Make sure your garbage bag is one that is specified by the city. These
are usually the translucent ones available at most stores.
- Separate combustible and noncombustible garbage since they are picked
up on different days.
- Call the ward office to find out the number of the sanitation department
if you want large items such as TV's, furniture and the like collected.
This is usually done twice a month.
- Recycle what you can. Aluminum and steel cans, plastic bottles, styrofoam,
etc. There are collection boxes in some of the larger supermarkets as
is an earthquake prone country. Minor tremors occur frequently and there
is a possibility of a major one in the near future. In the event of
any earthquake make sure to do the following:
-Stay calm, extinguish all fires, turn off gas at the main valve.
-Find an exit, open the door or window but don't rush outside. You're
-Find cover; duck under a desk or table, cover your head.
-If you are in the streets, get into the nearest building. Buildings
are constructed to be earthquake resistant.
-Turn on the radio or TV (FEN, JCTV, NHK) for updates.
-There is a designated evacuation area to go to in the event of a major
quake. Make sure you know the one in your area.
-If you are driving when a quake hits, stop your car at the curb. Turn
off the engine, abandon the car, leave the key in the ignition. Get
away to avoid possible gas explosions.
-Avoid driving or using the phone during major disasters.
-Follow evacuation instructions at theaters, department stores etc.
Keep emergency food, water and supplies ready. It might also be good
to have a portable radio and cell phone as well. There are "emergency
sets" that can be bought at stores such as Tokyu Hands as well.
These sets contain things like flashlights, candles, matches, bandages
and the like.
During the Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, people trying to call their friends
and relatives caused much confusion. Although NTT provided emergency
phones, many public phones went out of service. Phone cards also proved
not to be as reliable as 10 yen coins.
There is now a service offered by NTT only in times of emergency. Dialing
"171" will give you access to a kind of message center where
victims can record messages and friends and relatives can call up and
listen to the messages and know you are okay.