With the arrival of our new baby, the time has finally come to move to a larger apartment in Tokyo. Some of you may also be thinking to move, so I thought I’d share with you some of the things we considered when looking for a rental apartment.
1. Kids OK
Not all apartments in Japan allow children, so it is important to think about this when doing your search. If children are not allowed, it will usually be written as 「子供不可」 in the apartment description. If children are okay, it will be written as 「子供可」 or it will be left blank. If you’d like to check you can always ask the real estate agent.
There are many things to consider when thinking about where you’d like to live – not only for work but also for your baby as he/she grows older and starts needing space to run around.
For us, we were looking for the following:
– Not too far from the city (about 15 min train ride)
– Close to work
– Close to train station
– Close to park
– Supermarket nearby (for doing grocery shopping)
– Convenience store nearby (for buying milk or bread when we need it)
3. Building type
There are 3 general types of building styles:
– Mansion – large apartment buildings that usually have more than 2 stories, with steel frame and concrete walls.
– Apartment – smaller buildings that are about 2 stories high, often made with a wooden frame and plaster walls.
– Free-standing house
We were looking for a mansion apartment where the building was sturdy with a steel frame for safety during earthquakes and with concrete walls to drown out any noise our baby may make (so we don’t annoy our neighbours!).
Ground level apartments are convenient and sometimes have a cute garden where your children can play, however we chose to look for an upper level apartment for the following reasons:
For 2 adults and a baby, we worked out that we needed an area of at least 45m2 to live comfortably. This would allow at least a 1LDK or a small 2LDK. In the end we found a 3DK apartment that was 55m2.
Need at least one separate bedroom (depends on whether you plan to co-sleep with your baby). We found an apartment with 3 bedrooms – one we will use as a lounge as it opens onto the kitchen, and the others will be one bedroom for us and one for our baby when he grows up.
8. Open plan
It’s nice to have the kitchen opening onto the lounge/dining for socialising and also so you can keep an eye on your baby while cooking etc.
Try to find a sunny apartment – apartments located on the side of the building with windows on each side are ideal (although usually a bit more expensive). Also try to find an apartment where the windows are facing south （南）, to get both morning and afternoon sun.
10. Balcony safety
Some balconies have wide gaps in the rails which a toddler could climb through, so we were careful to look for an apartment that had a safe balcony that our baby could play on safely.
If you are looking for an apartment on an upper floor, important to think about access with a pram.
I personally prefer flooboards, as they look good and are easy to clean. Tatami can also be fun for a baby or if you are sleeping Japanese style on futons.
13. Things to avoid
– Designers mansion – often are split-level with stairs that have no rail. This is very dangerous for your baby once starts to crawl and walk. Also hard to keep cool in summer and warm in winter with the high ceilings.
– Weird shaped apartments – difficult to use the space effectively.
There are three types of costs when you move into an apartment in Japan:
Reikin（礼金）- Key money (non-refundable payment to the landlord)
Shikikin（敷金） – Damage deposit
Chukaitesuuryo （仲介手数料） – Commission for real estate
It is possible to negotiate these costs down if you are moving out of season (as the owner is eager to get someone in as less demand). The peak season for people looking for an apartment is March-April. So if you start looking towards the end of April it may increase your chances of being able to negotiate the price.
There are three things you could try to reduce when negotiating:
– Reduce the key money (from 2 to 1, or from 1 to zero month’s rent)
– Reduce the rent
– If the contract states you need to give 2 months notice before you move, try to have this reduced to 1 month.
As a guide, 4 x rent money is usually the minimum you will have to pay when you move into a new apartment (1 mth rent + 1 mth key money + 1 mth damage deposit + 1 mth commission).
15. Here is a list of real estates that we used when we searched online for our apartment: