From figures released by the Ministry of Justice in 2018, there are more than 2.6 million foreigners living in Japan. Though this figure increases every year, it can be difficult for them to assimilate into Japan because of the language barrier. What problems can arise from this?
To find out about the difficulties and reality of finding a house in Japan, we spoke to 5 non-Japanese who have been living in Japan for more than a year. Thankfully, there were more positive comments than we expected!
1. There are so many quiet and safe places. It's perfect for my first experience living abroad
“I live along a river, and there are tortoises living in the river, it has such a natural feel. More than anything, it’s a quiet and peaceful place.” (England, female, 30s)
“Even though I rented a house in the city center, it’s very quiet on weekends. I expected Tokyo to be noisier and less peaceful, but I can live here with ease.” (Malaysia, female, 30s)
“It’s a little far from the train station, but I live in a very quiet place. It’s easy to find quiet areas when looking for a house in Japan.” (England, female, 20s)
One reason for why people felt that it was a good decision to come Japan is its safety. No matter where, most places are quiet and safe. Many commented that back in their home countries, they must be very careful when searching for a house, but with so many safe places in Japan, they don't feel like they have to worry too much.
2. The trains and convenience stores make life so easy!
“As the city center is very well-connected with train services, it’s very easy to get around when I go out. I don’t even need a car! It’s easy to go to the supermarket or convenience store, living here is a breeze.” (Malaysia, female, 30s)
“It’s very convenient that the apartment I managed to rent is within walking distance of the station and convenience store. There’s a park and hospital nearby too. In Slovakia, you’d definitely need a car.” (Slovakia, female, 30s)
Hearing from these non-Japanese people living in large cities such as Tokyo or Osaka, the convenience of having so many train services is a commonly shared opinion. It seems that no matter where you go, you won’t need a car, and especially for those who come to Japan alone, it makes it easy to live here.
Besides this, there are convenience stores everywhere in Japan! Our interviewees said that even if something happens, there’s always a convenience store nearby, which puts their mind at ease. The best place for living alone without a car does appear to be the big cities in Japan.
3. The aircon is great! And short-term housing has everything you need
“As I’m not here for the long-term, I got a house that already had electrical appliances and furniture. I don’t need to buy anything, and it’s been a real life-saver.” (USA, male, 30s)
“I thought that even in Japan, you’d have to buy it on your own, but I was able to rent a room with the aircon provided! I was really lucky!” (England, female, 30s)
Normally in Japan, you would have to get your own furniture and electronics. However, depending on the type of apartment you’ve rented, they may all be provided as well. Though the rent is a little higher than normal apartments, you don’t have to get everything on your own, which is very convenient. Some commented that in some countries, it can be difficult to find a fully furnished place to rent, so it’s great that there are many places that provide furniture in Japan.
4. The real estate agents are so kind! It barely took any time to find a place
“As I’m not a Japanese, I thought that it would take a little longer for me to find a place. But the real estate agent worked fast, and found a place in about two weeks.” (England, female, 20s)
“The real estate agent found the ideal house for me. I’ve only used them twice, but both times they handled my case thoroughly.” (Slovakia, female, 30s)
“I used a real estate agent that has experience with helping non-Japanese, and I signed my lease in two weeks. It was really fast!” (Malaysia, female, 30s)
"The real estate agents were incredibly friendly, but sadly there were a lot of places that would not accept foreigners. It took a bit of time to find a nice long-term apartment." (Britain, female, 20s)
Recently there has been an increase in the number of real estate agents catering to foreigners, providing foreign language services and other services targeted at foreigners, making it easier for them to find a house. In some cases, in just two weeks you can view the house and sign the lease, it’s so fast!
5. The toilet and bathroom are separated!
“I prefer the toilet and bathroom to be separate, and it’s great that you can find separated ones easily.” (England, female, 30s)
“Having a separated toilet and bathroom is definitely better. The real estate agent managed to find a place like this for me, it really helped.” (Slovakia, female, 30s)
“I absolutely will not compromise on a large kitchen, and I really wanted a separate toilet and bathroom!” (England, female, 20s)
As many homes in Japan are small, you’d think that most homes for one person to live in will have both the toilet and bathroom together as a unit. However, it’s easy to find a house where they’re both separated.
6. Easy on the wallet! The rent is definitely cheaper than the west
“I was surprised while looking for a house in Japan, the rent is really cheap. Even though I’m renting a house in the heart of Tokyo, it’s cheaper than in England, which has been a huge relief.” (England, female, 20s)
“In London, I usually end up in a home share situation, and it costs three times of the rent in Japan.” (England, female, 30s)
“Even when I rent a fully furnished apartment, I’m still shocked by how cheap the total rent is.” (USA, male, 30s)
If there’s one thing many foreigners can agree on, it’s the low rent. Comparing the rent in London to Tokyo, the difference is very clear, with Tokyo being decisively cheaper. Europeans and Americans, in particular, find the rent in Japan to be cheaper. On the other hand, Southeast Asians find the rent expensive! The opinions on this topic differ from country to country.
7. Sometimes the landlord won't rent to foreigners
“In the place where I’m living at now, there was once when a person was turned away from staying there, because they were a foreigner. But my real estate agent worked very hard to convince them, which is why I can stay here now. It’s my ideal place, so I’m really happy” (Slovakia, female, 30s)
As Japan heads towards the 2020 Olympics, it’s slowly starting to globalize. You can see more and more foreign visitors walking the streets of Japan, and the number of foreigners working in Japan has also increased. However, there are still some that are unable to get used to non-Japanese, and there are instances when people have been refused services for not being Japanese. If anything happens, the assumed inability to communicate in Japanese can pose an issue.
Hopefully this will slowly become less and less of a problem as time goes on!
8.No matter where you're from, people feel that Japanese homes are small!
“The price and environment are great, but that’s just one part of it. The size of the house is less than half the size of a house in America, it’s such a squeeze!” (USA, male, 30s)
“Houses in Japan are really small. Be it apartments or landed property, they’re all small, and it was a bit of a shock.” (England, females, 20s)
“I really like the place I’m living in, but it’s very small.” (Slovakia, female, 30s)
“It’s convenient and near the city center, but it’s too small.” (Malaysia, female, 30s)
Though many people are happy with the houses in Japan and the surrounding environment, pretty much everyone has something to say about the small size. Be it the east or west, they all feel that houses in Japan are small!
Despite the small land size, though, there are many people living the capital and major cities of Japan. As such, the houses get smaller and smaller. But other than this, many said that they are satisfied with the housing situation in Japan.
More than the Olympics and shrinking population, Japan is starting to accept more foreign visitors than before. When thinking of an environment that is easy for foreigners to live in, it’s nice that many more foreigners are thinking that Japan is a great place to live in.
Written by Fujico
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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