Anime Blog
Neverending New Beginnings: info for living in japan (tokyo area)

16 Mar 2007


Posted by

高橋栄佳

info for living in japan (tokyo area)

(view the original article at dannychoo.com) (Images belong to there)
(part 1 - Buying property in Tokyo)

Why he decided to buy?
  • Apartments for rent are generally of poor quality - the walls are thin and materials used in general are dirt cheap - this is so that the landlord can make as much money profit as possible. The most rent I have payed is 220,000 yen per month and the walls in that place were so thin, you could hear the people next door. This is the main reason why I decided to buy - I just cant stand other people making noise for me to listen too!

    We tried different types of rented apartments - mansions, apartments and terrace houses - all literally made of paper and noisy as hell.

  • As long as you continue to rent, you will eventually have to move to another place whether its for work reasons or whatever. Looking for somewhere to rent in Japan as a foreigner is an unpleasant experience. Many landlords don't want to rent out to foreigners. When you go into an estate agent, you will be given a book of property leaflets to go through and occasionally see the "No Foreigners" checkbox ticked off. Some leaflets may have "No foreigners or pets"...
    The worst experiences are the ones where you are taken to look at a place and after you decide that you like it, the estate agent will call up the landlord in front of you and ask whether they are keen on renting to a foreigner. Some landlords just don't know how to say "no" and say "oh, if they want the place, they have to pay an extra 25,000 yen per month for a parking space" and they say this after being told that you don't have a car. Once, I said that I'll take the parking space to see what the reaction of the landlord would be and surprise surprise, they said no in the end. This is one of the most humiliating experiences you will have living in Japan.
    After going through this experience a few times, what I did was to make the estate agent call the landlord *before* we went to look at the apartments - this will save you a lot of time - but you still get the humiliation as the estate agent calls the landlord in front of you.

  • Another thing you cant do when renting is make any form of hole in the walls - you cant put up shelves and if you want to put up a satellite dish or install an optic fiber connection, you have to go and beg the landlord.

  • The best thing (not) about renting in Japan is that you have to pay something called "key money" - in Japanese this is called "Reikin" (礼金) which means "gratuity money". This sum of money which can cost anything from 2x to 3x the monthly rent, is paid to the landlord as a form of gratuity thanking the bastard. Did I forget to mention that you don't get your key money back?

    Apart from the key money, you usually have to pay anywhere from 2x to 3x the monthly rent as a deposit. This deposit is used to clean up the apartment after you leave and the landlord usually makes any excuse to keep a good amount of it. I had 60,000 yen charged for a small scratch on the wallpaper near the bathroom when I moved out an apartment once.
    Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that you have to pay the parasite estate agent a months rent for introducing you to the apartment - in Japan, you have to thank the estate agent AND the landlord!
    Now to add insult to injury, you have to pay another one months rent in advance too! so when I moved into that lousy apartment where I was paying 220,000 yen per month, I had to pay 1,540,000 yen upfront!

Why not to buy?
  • The average life span of a house in Japan is 25 years which is just one of the reasons why folks don't make these sort of purchases as an investment. Generally speaking, when people buy property in Japan, they usually plan to live there until their time is up.

  • The price of land in Tokyo varies and you could find yourself paying 1,417,000 yen per square meter in Chiyoda-ku (千代田区) or as little as 291,000 yen in Edogawa-ku (江戸川区) (Prices as of 2004. stats from Tokyo Metropolitan Government). Given the high price of land, its no wonder that most folks in Tokyo prefer to rent - most dont even think about buying a house. If you want a decent amount of land in decent area with good commuting routes, you are looking to dish out at least 45,000,000 yen for the land alone.

  • A "mansion" is a term used in Japan to refer to an apartment in a cement building. You can pick up a room in a mansion for cheap and I've seen prices starting at 15,000,000 yen. But be knowist that in general the value of the mansions drop by 10,000,000 yen the day you receive the keys! I do not recommend buying a mansion at all - once you have made the purchase thats it - the end. You cant do anything drastic in terms of layout (if you have your own land you can just knock down the house and rebuild) and you have to join the mansion committee where all owners of each apartment in the mansion have to get together to make decisions on common areas and crap. If you end up with a noisy neighbor then you are really finished.

  • I didnt buy for an investment and just wanted a place of our own. The price of land in our area has been increasing steadily since we moved in though which is nice ^^. The current plan is to move out within 5 years to a bigger place - need more space for all the toys n figures ^^. My goal is to get to my destination within 5 years form now meaning that we would be able to afford a bigger place. Nothing wrong with this house but we kinda want more space...

Where to buy?
  • This really depends on what you are looking for - somewhere close to work, somewhere near a park, somewhere with good transportation connections, somewhere near a store, somewhere cheap etc. Lets say you have a budget of about 70,000,000 yen and you are looking for a new decent sized house and dont mind traveling up to 45 mins to work (1 hour is the acceptable norm ) - I would suggest the west side of Tokyo. During the time I have stayed in Japan, I have always lived in the west and find that it is generally cleaner and safer on this side. Its also easy to get about as its well connected. I did go looking in the east as the price of land is way cheaper but some areas in the east can be quite rough.

  • Areas I personally recommend are Setagaya-ku (世田谷区) and Meguro-ku (目黒区) - nice areas with good commutation. Price of land in these areas average from 488,000 yen to 600,000 yen per square meter.

Where to look?
  • These are an example of the types of property on sale and you can find more sites like this by doing a search.

  • You can also get yourself along to your local convenience store to find magazines filled with information on new properties.

  • Alternatively, you can just get yourself along to an estate agent and tell them what you are looking for. If you arrived at a decent estate agent, they will have access to a national database called REINS (Real Estate Information Network System). Most properties for sale are registered in REINS and it is likely to have what you are looking for. The only people who can access REINS are evil estate agents so most people end up having to pay the estate agent fees - in our case it was bloody 3,000,000 yen.

What to buy?
  • Well I've mentioned a bit about buying a mansion - don't do it! So you basically have a few choices....

  • Buy a new house with some land attached. This is the quickest option if you are in a rush and want to start off with something new. This type of purchase is called Tateuri (建て売り) where you purchase a bit of land that comes with a new house built on top. The seller obviously wants to make as much of a profit as possible so you will find that some of the materials used for a Tateuri house can be a bit cheap. The seller will add useless features like floor heating (Yuka Danbou (床暖房) - just like what we have in our house. My fart can warm up the room to a temperature higher than the the lousy floor heating.

  • Buy a second hand house. When you are buying one of these - you are essentially paying for the land and getting the house for free as it will generally be worth next to nothing. Do your research to make sure that you are paying just for the land and a few yen on top for the house - the previous link to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government page is a good place to start. A few people I know buy second hand houses, live there for a while then knock down the old place and build a made to order house - Chumon Jutaku (see below).

  • Buy some land then build a house to order. This is the best option if you are not rushed for time and is called Uri Tate (売り建て). What you do is to buy a bit of land then work with an architect to build your house to your needs. Chumon Jutaku (注文住宅) is the word to describe a built to order house. The only "drawback" is that you are already repaying the loan while you wait for your house to be built - so every month, you will be paying rent at the place you are staying and the monthly loan installment.

    The process of designing a house is fairly straight forward - tell your architect how much money you have to spend and she then goes away to come up with a plan which makes you go "Wooo!" But then you find out that she went above your budget and that its going to cost you an extra 5,000,000 yen which then makes you go "You crazy #$&$!" What happens next is that you start to remove bits from the plan to bring the costs within your original budget. Typically, houses are made of wood and for a 3 story house with 60 square meters on each floor, you are looking at anything from 10,000,000 yen upwards.
Building regulations
There are rules and regulations restricting you to the type of design you want. Here are some of them...
  • Kitagawa Shasen (北側斜線) - is a restriction put in place to prevent buildings blocking out the sun for smaller dwellings. This means that depending on the location of your house - you may be imposed to have a diagonal roof. This is one of the reasons why you may have noticed that many buildings in Japan look like they have had a diagonal slice taken out of them

  • Kenpei Ritsu (建ぺい率) - is a restriction to prevent one from using up 100% of their land to build something. Without this restriction, given the lack of space in Tokyo, folks would use up 100% of their land meaning that there wouldnt be any open space! (no spaces between houses). We actually own half of the road in front of our house - without this restriction in place, if I wanted to be a right wanker, I could use up my bit of the road so no traffic could pass. The Kenpei Ritsu for our property is 60% meaning that I can only use up 60 square meters of our 100 square meters to build something. Kenpei Ritsu varies by location - you learn this value when you are looking at land to purchase.

  • Youseki Ritsu (容積率) - is a restriction to prevent you from building the tallest building in Tokyo. The Youseki Ritsu for our land is 200% meaning that we can build something that amounts to 120 square meters (we can only use 60% of our land because of the Kenpei Ritsu - amounting to 60 square meters. 60 X 200% = 120 square meters). We have 3 floors that roughly add up to 40 square meters each but we could build a 4 story house but the total floor space has to still amount to 120 square meters and given the Kitagawa Shasen (diagonal roof restriction), we'd end up with a pretty strange shaped impractical house.

  • Zettai Takasa no Seigen(絶対高さの制限) - is a restriction in place to prevent one from building anything over 10 or 12 meters high.

  • Nichiei Kisei (日影規制) - is a restriction to ensure that the surrounding buildings get a certain number of sunlight hours. For example, A building within X meters has to receive X number of sunlight hours per day during the winter season. This restriction also affects the height and shape of the sort of house you can build.

How big/small?
  • I've mentioned it a few times but the land of price is on the expensive side - 60,000,000 yen (for example ;-) for 60 square meters of land is not exactly a bargain. The building restrictions could mean that you end up with a property smaller than you initially hoped for. If you are willing to travel further out of Tokyo - you could obviously get a bigger place compared to Tokyo.
    I guess you will have to get used to the idea that the more land you want, the more limbs you are going to have to part with.
Loan and stuff
  • Applying for a loan and the zillion documents involved in the whole house buying process is just overwhelming. If you are a foreigner in Japan - on a working permit and don't have a Japanese spouse, then you will be glad to know that you can get a mortgage with Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank (MUFJ). At the time, Mitsubishi Bank was the only bank I knew of that loaned to foreigners in Japan who didnt have permanent residency. Mitsubishi UFJ do have some hefty conditions though - you can see all the documents you need to apply for a loan at MUFJ's site which include yearly income statement, seal registration certificate (this sort of seal), passport, health card etc. And you also need docs regarding the property you want to buy including certificate of purchase, schematic layout of property and a ton of other crap.

    Our estate agent offered to apply for the loan for us but we decided to apply ourselves - always better to try to go through these type of experiences yourself - no matter how painful. It doesn't cost extra to have the estate agent apply for you - they just probably get a kick back for introducing your application to the bank.

  • If you are deciding on getting a second hand house, bear in mind that the interest rate will be higher - banks are interested in property they can sell at a high price incase they have to evict you when you cant make the monthly payments. The interest rate in Japan is very low - we got our mortgage at 0.95% for the first 3 years and then 2.75% for the remaining 17 years. We took out a 20 year loan but aim to pay that back within the next 7 years - within 7 years we plan to move to somewhere bigger - at least 3 times as big judging by the rate of this place getting filled with toys n figures ^^;
Other hints and stuff
  • You can knock off a few million yen from the original price of the property and a certain amount from the estate agent fee. Make sure you dont forget to do this!

  • If you are going for a new house, the chances are that the net windows (allows you to open the windows without letting in pesky insects) are not included. Make sure these are included in the price or you will be charged extra for them - they are not cheap either. Our net windows cost a poxy 160,000 yen. Laundry pole racks are not included either (they should be) so make sure they include these too before you decide to buy

  • Ari san are the folks you should choose to help move in your stuff - have a look at the video clip to see why.

  • If possible, talk to some of the people living nearby to get a sense of what the area is like - are their any Bousou Zoku (暴走族) - folks who go around in packs on motorbikes and generally like to make as much noise as possible at 4AM (many in Yokohama).

  • check up to see if the house is in an area where you can get decent internet connection. Most central places in Tokyo can be set up with an optic fiber connection by NTT (the phone company) - some places in the sticks could only be ADSL or cable - make sure your place will get a decent speed.

OK, enough talk - lets look at some pics.
This is us taking a look at something that the estate agent thought fitted our needs. What usually happens is that s/he will find about 6 - 10 places that fit your needs/budget and then try to convince you that the graveyard in front of the property is a sign of good luck.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
(Click image to enlarge)

These are the floor plans that the estate agent will fax you. If you dont have a fax handy, insist that they mail them to you. One of the things I still find quite surprising in Japan is how many industries still rely on faxes.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
The estate agent is your friend for the next few weeks and you will find yourself calling him everyday about the pages of documentation that you need to sign and write your address on.
After the ordeal is over, you can put the agent on your hate list.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
Some of the places that you may be taken to look at are unfinished places like this one. I really don't recommend deciding on something when its looking like this and the chances are that many others wont either. If you like the area, wait a bit more when the building is ready to enter and go back for another visit.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
Here are some pics of our place a year on after moving in.
Starting off with the spare room which is also the guest room.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
Third floor by night. Added a ton of shelves for the toys n figures recently.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
Third floor by day.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
In most cases, the steps are going to be really small! Most stair cases in Japan are not wide enough to fit stuff like sofas or refrigerators which is why they are brought into your house through the windows.
Dining area. One of the annoying things about buying an out-of-the-box house is that you will find things in very strange places - we have a phone socket in the stairway, air conditioning sockets where there isn't enough space for an air conditioner, etc etc.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
More dining. The kitchen area in the back comes with whats known as a "system kitchen" which is basically "kitchen appliances which fit together nicely." Our one comes with a dish washer which is 3 times smaller than the one we had in Seattle. Sometimes it can be quicker to wash by hand than spending time cramming everything into it!
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
Entertainment area.
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)
Our plasma has survived two international moves and has been alive for about 4 years now - who said that the plasma life span is short?
Tokyo Property Purchase (click to enlarge)

(Note: Some stuff are edited out. Edited out stuff include how a gundam figure would look like at a place and how crazy the property agent/landlord is. The same applies to the below.)
(Part 2 - Ikea Japan)
(below is from another article from the same website)

Soon after relocating to Japan, you'll want to get some essentials like figures. After that you'll probably want some furniture.
For most of the years spent in Japan, I got a lot of my furniture from Tokyu Hands - the department store that sells just about everything under the (rising) sun. Tokyu Hands have many stores in Tokyo so its convenient to buy stuff. I think could be because they have a hefty rent bills to pay that they sell everything at retail price.

Muji and FrancFranc are other places that I get stuff from and the online store Rakuten is another good place to look.

It wasn't until recently however that Ikea decided to give Japan a try and enter the market. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about and heard many including Roy complaining about the service. My wife had driven down to Ikea in Yokohama many times and convinced me to make the trip.

Despite getting there early there were a ton of people lining up to get in!
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
(Click image to enlarge)

If you are used to Ikea stuff then the new stores around Tokyo will come as a welcome relief. It was only when I made the trip when I realized why Ikea is so popular - the stuff is dirt cheap and quality is quite good - some of it is crap though.
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
This wall mountable shelf was 9,900 yen - dirt cheap! I suppose you can adjust the shelves and put in bigger figures though.
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
Did I mention that people in Japan love to form queues? Take something to fidget around with (NDS, PSP, Figure etc) when you are in Japan as queuing is a way of life.
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
Got fed up of the tables on the third floor and decided to get new shiny ones. Throwing together a leg - each leg cost about 3,000 yen.
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
Room with the previous tables removed. Dont you just love wires?
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
This is what the room currently looks like - for comparison, it used to look like this.
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
We got two sheets of glass - each costing 8,000 yen - total of 28,000 yen for the lot. Each measured about 150cm X 8cm. Kept one old table and decided to chuck the other.
In Japan, you cant just throw big stuff away and need to first contact your local ward office and let them know what you want to get rid of. They will tell you how much it costs and arrange for a time to come and pick up your unwanted stuff. You then get your booty along to your nearest convenient store, buy a Sodai Gomi(粗大ゴミ) (Bulky garbage) sticker to stick on the side of your trash and chuck it out on the day and time arranged between you and the ward office.

If you want, you can be a good citizen and stick out your unwanted table/TV etc nearby your house and leave a note saying "please take." If nobody takes it because your table has brown smelly skid marks on it, you should continue to be a good citizen, bring it back to your house and deal with it as described above.
This is the reason why some of your friends may tell you that they find free electronic goods and furniture lying around the streets.
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)
Just thought I would show you what that shelf of figures currently looks like - I need another shelf somewhere.
Ikea Japan (click to enlarge)

(Part 3 - Work in japan)

1. Look for employment with a company that is likely to expand its operations to Japan or already has offices here.
Depending on the type of company and position, there could be the possibility of an international transfer. If you are being asked to come over, make sure you get a good package. You should look for things like a moving bonus to cover any misc expenses that are incurred ( like selling your dog or something ).
You should expect things like Key money to be paid (read about Key money for apartments) for your apartment, corporate housing while you are looking for a place to stay (even better if the company pays your rent), car rental etc. Regarding moving expenses, usually you will get an air and sea shipment. Stuff that you really need when you touch ground in Japan ( like a bunch of figures ) should obviously go by air – stuff that you don’t need straight away ( like clean clothes to change into ) can go by boat. If you have Airguns like I did – chuck them in with all the toys.

2. Look for opportunities in Japan
This was the path I took with Nature. I found the job listing at a recruitment company that specialized in English and Japanese speaking persons. I was interviewed in the UK and then sent to Japan for a week of interviews and tests. I got the job and went back to the UK to hand my resignation into Japan Airlines, packed and got the hell out of that dump! Joke. Its not that bad in the UK – its just not where I want to build my career/live/play. Your company should sort out the visa for you if you choose this path.
The site was London based People First - crap website but legit company.

3. Apply for the JET program.
The Japanese Exchange Teaching program is run by the Japanese government. Each year, they take English speaking persons and ship them to Japan to teach English in schools throughout the nation. While you are not going to get rich quick ( annual salary of roughly 3,600,000 yen ), it is a good way to get in to Japan. Many people I know who were on JET looked for other opportunities while they were on the programme. One of my university colleagues came to Japan on JET and went on to become the CEO of a top recruitment firm in Tokyo within just a few years. He just recently bought a house for about 90,000,000 yen to house his newly born baby (expensive baby). He is a good example for those who do intend to initially come over on JET and move on to other things - I hope his story keeps you focused if you choose this path ^^.
And if you are wondering, you dont have to be an English native speaker. I know a few Malaysians and HK folks on the program.

All the people who I know who are still on JET want out. Many don’t want to make a career out of it. Some of the folks I knew had to leave Japan when their time was up - JET don’t keep you in Japan forever. JET may also stick you in the middle of nowhere like some small suburban town far far far away from Akihabara ^^;
What I advise is to look for opportunities when you are on JET. Always keep your options open (which you should do where ever you are.)

English schools like NOVA also ship persons over to Japan but I hear that they treat you like something that you wipe off the bottom of your shoes after a brisk stroll through a pig sty. A friend of mine came over on a Nova visa but was offered a job from another company when he arrived. He gave Nova the bad news and they threatened to sue him! This guy now runs his own company conducting tours in Japan.
I believe you get some sort of teaching visa through JET or other schools like NOVA.

4. Start your own company in your home country and then set up a branch JP office.
JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization ) have guides on how to set up a business in Japan. If you Parents have a business, get them to set up office here and ship you over. Once this is done you will be able to apply for a business visa.

5. Start off as a student.
Some folks who I know came over to take an economics course (or something) at university. I have no idea what the cost is but once your course has been officially confirmed, you can apply for a student visa.
A Korean guy I know came over as a student and ended up working part time for me as a perl programmer. He went on to work for a net related translation service and is doing rather well for himself (he just had a baby too ^^). Have a look at the links at Meikai University or Waseda University for pointers.

6. Take a Japanese course at university in your home country.
Many courses involve staying for a full year in Japan. While you obviously have to go back to your home country to finish the course, the time spent over here will be invaluable and give you a taste of what its like to live over here. You may hate it after all (unlikely though ^^). Network as much as possible while you are here in the area that you are interested in working in.

7. Come as a tourist and overstay.
This is not an option and if you do it once then you probably wont be allowed back into Japan.
A ton of asians do this and give the rest of the asians who are over here legitimately a bad image. The info showing which nationality is the worst at overstay is at the Immigration page but I cant find it.

8. Look for jobs on the net and then come over for a few weeks to attend interviews.
Job Dragon.com, Daijob.com cover a lot of jobs available in foreign capital companies over here. Have a look on those sites and apply online. If you have a glowing resume then you could potentially come over for interviews. If your resume glows so bright that one would need sunglasses to read it then the potential employer may pay for expenses or arrange for you to interview at one of their branch offices in your home country. If your resume glows so brightly that one is at risk of going blind from the sheer quality of your skills then contact me - I can put you in contact with the right recruiters to place you ^^.

It costs a company nothing to sponsor your visa. The immigration needs to see your company’s brochure and some document available from the local ward office to prove that the company you are going to work for is legit. Other things needed are a letter of employment and a statement showing how much you earn (I think – I forget). But that’s generally it.

How much will you earn?
Well that obviously depends on the type of work that you are coming over for and the company that you are joining. The national average wage in Japan per person is 4,094,000 yen ( stats from Ministry of internal affairs statistics bureau - figures from 2004 ). But that doesn't exactly go far when you have expensive hobbies like figure collecting ^^;
The numbers below are what I have personally experienced as a hiring manager at Amazon and Microsoft and through friends in related industries.
Disclaimer: I am not saying that these are the numbers that you will receive in either AMZN or MSFT.
Visa stuff
Depending on the type of visa you receive, you are usually given a year the first time round. To get your extension, you need to be working ( but not necessarily at your original place ) full time. You should try to stay in employment with your first employer for at least a year and then you will get a three year extension. I hear that if you quit jobs within the first year that you will only get a one year extension (can anybody confirm?). In my case, I stayed with Nature for about a year and a half. When I left Nature, I still had a visa sponsored by Nature but that does not matter as long as you go to report to immigration that you have changed jobs. You should also go to the ward office to report changes to your visa status too.

Things can get a bit dodgy for you if you remain unemployed on a working visa for more than 3 months.
Once you reach five years of fulltime employment in Japan, you are entitled to apply to naturalize to be a Japanese. Alternatively you can wait for ten years and then apply for permanent residency.

Once you are over here, you may want to buy a house after a while...

1 comments:

Taya Smith said...



Great Loan Offer of only 2% interest Rate


We are a private financial lender that offers unsecured loans with a 2% interest rate ranging from 6 months to 20 years which you can pay in installments.
We offer loans of $5,000 - $5 million. Contact kiva_finance@outlook.com contact us with the following details and proceed.

Full name:
Gender:
Social status:
Occupation:
country:
Contact Address:
Monthly income:
Loan required:
Loan Period:
phone number:
The reason for the loan: