Housing in Japan holds a big part in Japanese society. To rent an apartment in Japan, the renter has to visit real estate agents located in every neighborhood and browse through copies of apartments for rent. These usually have the layout of the apartment for rent and the costs to rent this apartment. If the renter is interested in a particular apartment, the agent contacts the landlord to see if the apartment is still available and whether a visit could be arranged. The first thing one must do is look for a good location. It is no different than in any other city; location is the most important part of looking for an apartment.

Typically, a renter cannot rend an apartment on her or his own, but is required to have a guarantor who promises to pay the rent if problems arise. Almost every renter needs to find a guarantor. This is a person who will provide “insurance” to the apartment owner if you do not pay your rent.

Traditionally, Japanese landlords collect both a damage deposit and “key money” before the renter takes occupancy, and the real estate agent is also paid a month’s rent for services provided. Key money is a non-refundable payment to the landlord. In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, key money is often a major investment in itself: up to six months’ rent in many cases. In recent years many landlords have begun demanding smaller amounts of key money, equal to two or three months’ rent or none at all. An industry of no-deposit apartments, called monthly mansion and weekly mansion, has also sprouted up in major cities: these generally charge higher rents than traditional leases, and may offer some hotel-style amenities such as linen service.

In Tokyo, a typical rental agreement is for one year. Each year, this agreement is re-negotiated, and the renter pays an additional month’s rent as a fee. In many other cities, however, the one-year agreement is regarded simply as a minimum length of stay, and the rent does not change over the years.