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Finding a Place to Live Utilities
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Finding a Place to Live

The 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 of action.
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 room
and kitchen or a dining room.

Signing a contract
Extra payments of 2,3 months up to 6 months' rent will be required when signing a contract.

Extra payments :


Security deposit of 2 month's rent. Refundable although sometimes cleaning costs may be deducted from the amount when you move out.

"Thank you money" of 2 month's rent. A post war custom showing gratitude for being provided a place to stay.

Agency fee of 1 month's rent. Paid to the agent for introducing you a place.

Contracts 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.


For 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 (sewage).

Take 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 an emergency.

Telephone Lines and Service

Installing a line
In 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:

For both domestic and international calls:
Japan Telecom

For international calls:

For domestic calls:
Tokyo Denwa

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.

Paying bills

Bills 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.

Some useful numbers:
NTT 116
DDI 0077-777
Japan Telecom 0088-88 / 0088-82
IDC 0066-11
Tokyo Denwa 0120-719-019
KDD 0057

Telegrams 115
International telegrams 3344-5151
Directory Service 104
Current time 117
Telephone repair 113

Cellular Phones

There 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:

NTT DoCoMo (cell phone) and NTT Personal (PHS)





DDI Pocket

Connecting to the Internet

Now 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.

Providers with cheap monthly costs:
Neweb 0070-800-870-415
AT&T WorldNet Service 5561-5789
Dolphin Internet 0426-36-6000

Providers with overseas access points:
IIJ4U 5205-4444
IBM Net Passport 0422-42-8625
Asahi-Net 3569-3500
InfoWeb 0120-5442-54
Global Online Japan 5334-1710
DTI 0120-830-501

Throwing Out The Trash

Now 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 well.


Japan 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 safer inside.
-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.

Copyright by IMA Co., 1999