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Housing practices in Japan can be incredibly confusing to the novice tenant. Don't be overwhelmed with all the different "fees" being thrown your way. Find out from your supervisor exactly what you are obligated to pay.

There is no "standard" housing situation in Japan, particularly amongst JETs, but this information should help you figure out just what you're paying for. It is recommended that you go through the following list with your supervisor before you move into your new home.

For each of the fees below you will want to know:
  • How much is it?
  • When is it due?
  • How do I pay?
And in some cases:
  • Can this fee be taken directly out of my account?
  • Can this fee be paid in installments?
Rent (yachin )
This is the same as at home - the monthly fee for living in the apartment.

Deposit (shikikin )
This is a security deposit for the proper maintenance of the apartment and to cover any delinquencies in the payment of the rent. It is often one or two times the amount of your actual monthly rent. Normally most or all of this money is returned to you upon termination of your rental contract.
Note: If your school offers to pay this, then your school gets the money back!

Key Money (reikin )
The direct translation of reikin is "thank-you money." It serves as a "gift" for the property owner for letting you live in his/her apartment. This gift is usually equal to two or three months rent and is not refundable.

Maintenance Fee (kanrihi )
This is usually a small monthly fee used for the upkeep of the building and grounds. Sometimes this fee is included in the rent.

Real Estate Agents Fee (chuukai tesuuryou )
This fee may be necessary if you are renting a newly built apartment or if a large company owns the building.

Neighborhood Fee (jichikaihi )
This fee goes toward supplies used for cleaning the drains and other general neighborhood upkeep. This money may also go toward occasional neighborhood activities and parties.
In addition, consider the following:

  1. Get a copy of your address in both Kanji and Romaji.
  2. Make sure that you have your full telephone number, including the area code. When you give this number to people in your home country you can drop the first "0" of the area code. For example, if your number is (0748) 27-1234, dialing from outside Japan your number is (748) 27-1234. For more information please refer to the section on telephones.
  3. Have the rules of your lease thoroughly explained to you before you sign.
  4. You may need a small gift for your landlord and neighbors. Ask your supervisor.
  5. Find out how garbage disposal is handled in your area. Most cities normally require that your garbage be separated into categories and taken out on a specific day depending on the category. You will need to get a copy of the neighborhood disposal schedule, and if necessary, the proper bags required for your area for different types of garbage (burnables, bottles, tins, plastics). These things can be obtained at your city or town hall. Also be sure to find out where you can place your garbage out for collection in your neighborhood.
    Sound confusing? Refer to the page on rubbish disposal for more information.
  6. Find out if your gas needs to be "turned-on" before hot water heats in your kitchen or bath, and how to do so. In addition, if you live in an older apartment you may need to find out how to turn on the hot water heaters themselves.
  7. Find out where the fuse box is.
  8. Have someone show you how to use your air conditioner/heater unit. It can be very complicated so you may want to actually ask your supervisor to translate all of the Kanji on the remote control.
  9. Get a list of emergency phone numbers for your area, including your supervisor, school, fire department, police, ambulance, doctor, and landlord.
  10. Locate the fire extinguisher in your apartment building.
  11. Find out where you can park your bike and/or car (even if you don't have a car, you may have guests someday who do).
  12. Be sure to get a map of the area surrounding your apartment that includes good shops, your bank, the post office, train station, and all of the other things that you will need to know the whereabouts of in order to live a comfortable life.

The following are some items that you probably didn't have at home but you may either find in your apartment here, or want to consider aquiring.

Kotatsu: A small coffee table with a heater attached to the underside. In cold weather, a quilt is placed between the table and the table top, and you sit with your legs underneath it.

Suihanki: (Rice Cooker) Throw in the washed rice and water, push a button and you'll have cooked rice in 20-40 minutes. Some of them come with a timer so you can have the rice ready in the morning or when you return from work.

Denki-poto: (Electric Pot) The japanese alternative to the tea kettle. Fill it up, plug it in and you'll have hot water that will stay hot for as long as it's plugged in.

Sekiyu sutobu: (Oil Heater) These heaters run on kerosene (which can be purchased at the local gasoline stand) and are, by far, the cheapest way to heat your house or apartment in the winter.

BS Tuner and Satellite Dish: If you are living in a newer apartment building, you may have a satellite hook-up jack (look for it next to the antenna jack). If so, you may want to purchase a BS Tuner, which will enable you to tune in to two extra NHK channels, which have daily English programming. If you don't have a satellite hook-up, you can purchse your own satellite seperately. Some televisions are BS ready and therefore don't require you to buy a tuner seperately. If you want even more "English TV" you can subscribe to WOWWOW for which you will have to purchase a decoder and pay a monthly fee. BEWARE: NHK may come fee-collecting for the use of these two extra channels.
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