So I am moving to a nicer place, bigger place, more green and less full of business men in suits place. FINALLY a place with a friggen grocery store.
Note to you: Living in the center of a business district = you will be eating at either a restaurant or a convince store the whole time. Good luck on your search for a super market.
Anyways. When you look for an apartment in Japan there are two ways. If you don't speak Japanese, I can't help you on that one. I have no idea about searching as a non speaker, I just know usually you will find sites linked to share houses, dorms, crappy, or home stay type often over priced stuff.
If you can speak Japanese you have two options, internet or go to the store. If you chose option internet, you still have to end up going into the store.
What store? You might be asking if you come from a country like Canada.
In Japan, landlords DON'T rent to you directly. They hire agents, called FUDOUSAN (不動産). It is like a real estate agent, but not just for houses, for both renting, buying a house or apartment.
Now I like to search for things on the internet because you can click options. Like the price range, size, if you want more than one toilet, if you don't want a place that is 100 years old etc. You limit your searches and then you can see pictures, a map layout and information all nearly written about this room. So good!
The thing you search for these things on is a KENSAKU SAITO 検索サイト (sometimes, the companies are NOT a fudousan but just a search site)
AT HOME, apamanshoppu, suumo, are common search sites.
So after you found the place you want to look at, you call the number (which leads to a company, not the landlord). They take you to see the house, then usually they take you back to their office and try to show you other houses.
Because you are a gaijin there is 1 big thing you have to be careful of. A fudousan that takes you to SHIT places.
It is a big stereotype that gaijin love to live in share houses or room share or with 1000 people in the same room. Thus sometimes, you might go to look for an apartment, and the company will say "well maybe the landlord doesn't let gaijin so let me show you gaijin friendly places"
BAM they whip out the worst places you can imagine,
"here how is this? it is above a Chinese restaurant, 40 years old, cockroaches, it is the size of a closet, you share a bathroom with 10 other people they are all gaijin how is it sound?".........
Note to you: NEVER live above or near a building that is attached to a restaurant. IT HAS cockroaches.
Anyways, if you run into the problem of the place you went to trying to give you other crappy houses, just leave and go somewhere else. There are plenty of FUDOUSAN in Japan, don't waste your time.
I recently went to look at some nice places, here are some pictures.
This is the first kitchen I looked at. IH cooking heater (induction heat) and a big sink. It was awesome kitchen. I liked it. It was on the 1st floor though. I don't really want to live on the first floor because I don't want people to steal my underwear (not that I care about pervs having my underwear, it is that
I just don't have that many pairs :/)
This next picture is actually a different place. I only rent IH cooking heaters because I wont use gas. This one was newer. I like how it also had the little oven to cook fish. BTW Japan has no ovens. Oven = easy bake oven, don't expect a normal stove like they have in Canada. Japanese kitchens are for cooking Japanese food. Thus the different items used to cook.
This is me in the background yay! and the OFURO (bath area). This one was the new model. I liked this because the bath was extra big and this type of new model is really easy to clean since it doesn't get moldy fast.
Anyways some things you need to know about Japanese apartments before going. They don't have fridge, lights or blinds. Those you have to buy yourself. Some places don't have stoves, so you also have to buy that yourself.
They also don't have laundry rooms or laundry machines in them. Laundry in Japan is a very personal issue. People do it in their house, even if they live in apartment. In Canada apartments have laundry rooms, in Japan they don't. There are laundry mats, but those are usually in the long run more expensive than buying your own laundry machine...I don't even know WHO uses them because having a laundry machine is one of the most normal things you need in Japan. I never had one in Canada and I am used to washing clothes by hand, so when I first rented a place I told my friends I will do that and they said WTF! laundry machine is most common, everyone needs this, NEED. Kinda pressured me into buying it lol. They are right I guess.
Anyways. Japanese apartments rental start day is unlike Canada. Anytime is ok. When you look for apartment it is emptied out because the person who lived there before already moved. Unlike Canada where you usually have to track into someones house while they are still there :O You also get the apartment right away when you find it, after you pay usually max 3 days (unless some other real good reason). Which is interesting because in Canada usually people start looking 2 months or at least 1 month before they move, because you have to give 2 months notice that you are moving to landlord.
EDIT : MORE INFO!
I missed a few points. When you go to visit a house to take a peek inside to see if you actually like the place, the worker will give you slippers when you enter the house. They carry around slippers for the customers to use when they reach the house.
When you rent an apartment in Japan you don't get the place so easily. You have to have a guarantor who can't just be some friend of yours. It is usually your family. Sometimes a company can sign for you, but sometimes companies are denied because they want your family. Why? Well Japan has a really big shame culture, so if you skipped paying rent or destroyed the place and had to pay, they want to make sure your family takes care of it and so you don't escape so easily (you can run from your boss, but not daddy)
So if your family is retired or passed on, or if there is no one else to help sign for you. There are companies that their soul business is signing as a guarantor for people.
Another thing I missed, when you go to a FUDOUSAN, they will offer you tea in their office. This is Japanese custom. In Japan when you enter someones house and sometimes business as a guest, they treat you with hospitality. So when you are in these types of businesses where you usually have to sit down and fill out papers and spend some time there, you often get tea. (you also may get tea at the hair salon too ^^)
There is something in Japan called 礼金 REIKIN which is like bribe money (which is illegal to ask for and give in Canada btw) however perfectly legal in Japan. It is common, especially in the past but slowly there are less and less places that have this. When you use the search website you can see which places have it and which are completely free. This is not a deposit, this is money you don't get back. It is a present for the landlord for letting you in and a thank you for them preparing this house for you. Some people mistake this for a fee for them "cleaning" the place for you before you enter, but this isn't true, and sometimes you have to pay extra for cleaning on top of this. The average price for this starts between half a months rent up to 2 months rent. More than that is less common but it isn't too strange if they ask for 4 months rent.
Also a warning. Not only do you have to pay to rent the place, last months rent, sometimes reikin but you have to pay the FUDOUSAN! Thats right...wtf right! I mean, in Canada you directly contact the landlord so you don't pay some kinda company for showing you the place. However in Japan you also have to pay them most of the time (sometimes the landlord pays). The price is often the same as your months worth rent...depends on situation though.
I made a video to help you search in Japanese long ago. The video is a little old, but check it out!