Living situation varies greatly among JETs and Wisconsin ALTs, even within the same city. Some people may have a small, one-room studio apartment, while some may have a two-story house. Often people live in the same residence as their predecessor, but some people live in a new apartment. How this is decided varies by contracting organization.

Renting an apartment

Real estate companies and landlords in Japan have various policies/fees that are strange and unusual from the mindset of someone who rented an apartment in the states or another part of the world. Hopefully this explanation will provide you with an adequate start to understanding real estate company and landlord policies in Japan and what you may be expected to pay when you first arrive and throughout your stay in Japan.

1st Year ALTs
Upon arrival you will may into the apartment of your predecessor, so please check with him/her about the cost of rent and utilities. If your apartment is owned or rented by your CO, your CO may have already paid for your signing rental contract fee (kenrikin 権利金) when your apartment was originally signed. This initial payment directly to the real estate company who showed and sold the contract. Rental contracts usually last for two years.

Before making the apartment your own, there are a few payments you may need to take care of and note that all fees vary according to the landlord and real estate company your apartment is under. To be safe, please be prepared to pay these fees:

Up front you may need to pay two months rent for security deposit (shikikin 敷金). This is refundable at the end of your stay in Japan and covers any major damage (not regular wear and tear) to your apartment. In addition to shikikin you will be asked to pay reikin (礼金) which is gratuity paid to the landlord, often known as key money. So, when originally coming to Japan you should be prepared to pay 4 months rent in full, 2 of which will be refundable if you take good care of your apartment and 2 of which will not be refundable. All of this money goes to your landlord.

3rd and 5th Year ALTs
Like stated above, real estate contracts last two years. However, after two years of living in the same place, tenants are often required to pay koshinryo (更新料), a contract renewal fee. This fee is one month’s rent paid to the landlord. In some cases, in addition to koshinryo there also is koshintesuryo (更新手数料) which as a renewal fee paid to the real estate company. Therefore JETs/WI-ALTswho are moving into their 3rd or 5th years may be required to pay koshinryo and/or koshintesuryo. Please check with your supervisor and/or with your landlord.

Useful Vocabulary Terms:
yachin (家賃) - monthly rent
reikin (礼金) - gift/key money
keiyaku (契約) - contract
shikikin (敷金) - security/damage deposit
tetsukekin (手付金) - down payment
chukai asenryo (仲介斡旋料) - realtor's fee
kenrikin (権利金) - maintenance fee
fudosanya (不動産屋) - real estate agency
bukken-harigami (物件張り紙) - cards advertising rentals in realtor's windows
manshon (マンション) - apartment block
shujin (主人) or ooyasan (大宅さん) - landlord
koshinryo (更新料) - renewal fee
shakuchiken - (借地権) owning a property on rented land; leasehold

Information found about real estate companies in Japan:

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If you want to move to a different apartment, you may encounter resistance from your CO. This is because it is a lot of paperwork and hassle, especially if the apartment is rented or owned by the BOE or the city. Your supervisor may be too busy with other work to deal with finding you a new apartment, ending contracts and payments on the old one, and helping you move. However, JETs and WI-ALTs have moved apartments so it can be done. If it is necessary for you to move apartments, consult your supervisor.

Note: Your supervisor, CO, BOE, school, and PAs are NOT required to help you with any part of finding an apartment or moving in and out. Many COs and schools do help out because they are kind and dependable people, so make sure you show your appreciation to the people who help you and don't expect a certain level of treatment from anyone.

For more information about the procedure for moving between towns/out of Japan, see the Moving In/Out/Around Chiba page.
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Taking care of your apartment

Entryway (玄関 genkan): Take off your shoes in the entryway and leave them there or store them in a shoe box.
Tatami (畳)
  • Do not wear shoes or slippers
  • Keep clean and dry: vacuum with the grain or wipe with a damp towel
  • Very expensive to replace
Futon (布団)
  • Fold in thirds accordion-style and store in closet when not in use
  • Air outside on sunny days
Bath (お風呂 o-furo)
  • Wash yourself in the open floor area, then soak in the tub
  • Use bathroom fan to dry the room and prevent mold
  • Get rid of mold with Kabi Killer (Brand: カビキラー kabi kirā): wear gloves and turn on fan, then spray and leave for 30 minutes, then rinse with cold water.
  • No garbage disposals! Drain water in mesh bag/plastic container (三角コーナー sankaku kōnā) and throw organic garbage in burnable trash
  • If you have a gas stove, turn the gas off when not in use
Bugs (虫 mushi)
  • Keep bugs out by sprinkling white powder (Brand: ムシ退治 mushi taiji) around outside of house
  • Cockroaches (ゴキブリ gokiburi): kill with spray or use sticky traps (Brand: ゴキブリホイホイ gokiburi hoihoi)
  • Mosquitoes (蚊 ka): keep windows closed after dark, use electric room spray (Brand: アースノーマット āsu nōmatto)
  • Spiders (クモ kumo): chase outside or use cockroach spray
  • Ants (アリ ari): kill if only one; if in a line, follow line and plug hole

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This is an abbreviated list taken from the Welcome to Chiba Guide and the How to Guides on this wiki.

電源 (dengen) power  
入on, 切 off
スタート start, 止 stop

流す (nagasu) flush
小 small 大 big
姫音 flushing sound

Air Conditioning Remote (エアコン eakon aka air-con)
冷房 (reibou) air-conditioning (cold air)
暖房 (danbou) heating (hot air)
防湿 (boushitsu) dehumidifier
停止 (teishi) off
上下風向 (jouge fuukou)point fan up/down
温度 (ondo) Temperature up/down
風量 (fuuryou) Fan strength
タイマー(入)(taima-) Timer (turn on in # hours)
おやすみ(切)(oyasumi) Sleep Timer (turn off in # hours)

Washing Machine (don't forget to turn on the water valve!) *exact words may vary by machine type
残り (nokori) Time left
スタート (suta-to) Start, 一時停止 (ichiji teishi) pause
予約 (yoyaku) Timer: 1時間 (ichi jikan) 1 hour, 30分 (sanjuppun) 30 min
水位 (suii) Amount of water
標準 (hyoujun) Normal
お急ぎ (oisogi) Quick wash
念入り (nen iri) Heavy duty
ソフト (sofuto, soft) Delicates
コース (ko-su) Course
毛布 (moufu) Blanket
ドライ (dorai, dry) Permanent Press
槽洗浄 (fune senjou) Clean tub
カラッと (karatto) Dry
行程 (koutei) Cycle length
つけおき (tsukeoki) Pre-wash
洗い (arai) Wash
すすぎ (susugi) Rinse
脱水 (dassui) Spin

TV Remote **full list with pictures here
電源 (dengen)= power
番組 (bangumi)= program
画面 (gamen)= screen, image
表示 (hyouji)= (to) display
表 (hyou)= display, chart
音量 (onryou)= volume
消音 (shouon)= mute
選局 (senkyoku)= tune/channel change
入力 (nyuuryoku)= input
切換 (kirikae)= change/switch
ツール (tsuuru)= tools
戻る (modoru)= go back

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