Living in Japan:
Guest Houses & Things to Watch Out For

By far one of the most challenging aspects of living in Japan is finding suitable accommodations.If you have to find your own accommodations in Japan, there’s a lot you need to know before you go.

There are basically two options available to you for long-term stays. You can live in a “gaijin” (foreigner /guest) house – by far the simplest and cheapest option in the short term or rent a private apartment - a tedious and expensive one.

Accommodations in Japan – “Gaijin”/ Guest Houses

The most hassle free ways of living in Japan, (short of staying in hotels,) are gaijin houses. These are either shared or private accommodations for foreigners.

Most big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya etc. will have them. Large cities will have many vacancies so finding a place to stay usually isn’t a problem. There really isn't anything such as a "typical guest house." Regarding furnished guest houses, you'll find that they vary greatly.

Not only in size and condition but in amenities offered
as well. Some will have beds others won't. Those that don't have beds will have futons.

Some will offer high speed internet connections and televisions with small microwaves. Others will have none of this.

No matter what, expect the refrigerators, tables and microwaves to be more along the lines of what you would expect to find in your typical college dormitory. So it goes without saying that if you're going to try living in Japan in a guest house, that you ask specific questions about amenities offered.

And most definitely, don't put down any cash without seeing some pictures of where you'll be staying. After all living in a nasty guesthouse will make your stay in Japan... well.... down right nasty.

If you're not sure if living in Japan in a guest house is the right thing for you, check out our page on Japanese apartments to get the low-down on what to expect for typical heating and air-conditioning, bathrooms, furnishings and more!

Advantages to hanging your hat in a guesthouse while you get situated are:

  • They offer long and short-term leases. (Often monthly and weekly.)
  • Most exclude agent fees and key money. (This can amount to thousands of dollars.)
  • Furnished and unfurnished are available.
  • Expect to pay only one month of rent as a security deposit. (Read the fine print!)
  • Shared guesthouses provide an excellent chance to start networking and find work.
  • Often located just off of train and bus lines.
  • Private and shared accommodations are available in most large cities.
  • Many will accept reservations by phone with just 1 or 2 weeks notice.

Guest Houses – Things to Watch Out For

  • Security deposit -this may or may not be returned in full.
  • Linen fees. If they charge them, they’ll be in the neighborhood of 30,000 yen ($240 U.S.) This is a one time non-refundable fee.
  • Minimum stays of a month or longer are often required.
  • Often don’t accept credit cards.
  • Utilities often aren’t included.
  • Some require a Japanese guarantor. (Usually for long-term private and furnished apartment.)

Private Guest Houses
What you can expect to pay while living in Japan

Prices for accommodations will vary depending on location, size, furnishings and whether they’re private or not. On average you can expect to pay the following for a private apartment in Tokyo. Again folks, these are just averages. You will find cheaper apartments if you look around and you'll definitely find more expensive ones.

Furnished and Private: 25 square meter size 1 bedroom with bath and kitchen 130,000 yen per month ($1040 U.S.)

Unfurnished and Private: 25 square meter size 1 bedroom with bath and kitchen 100,000 yen per month ($800 U.S.)

Survival Tip
Even a modest increase in size (5 square meters) will add hundreds to your monthly rent. So if you’re single, look for accommodations with the least square footage. It will be tough to find private and furnished accommodations for under 90,000 yen. Also, remember you’ll be required to show your passport and a valid visa before they’ll accept your application.

Shared Guest Houses
What you can expect to pay while living in Japan

If private rental prices are a little too steep for your pocket book, you can slash your rent bill by living in a shared guesthouse.

These are usually furnished and are semi-private in that you have your own bedroom. Your bedroom will typically be about 3 tatami size or 4.96 square meters. Communal areas are the kitchen, living room and bathroom. Furnishings typically include a futon, linens, kitchenware, utensils and other simple furnishings like a study desk, bookcase and chairs.

Prices swing a lot. I’ve seen them for as cheap as 48,000 yen per month and as high as 102,000. Expect to pay around 60,000 yen per month ($480 U.S.) for shared accommodations.

Survival Tip
As far as living in Japan is concerned, choosing a guesthouse, shared if you can take it, is probably the fastest and cheapest way to get situated so you can find a teaching job and build your network.

After a few months you’ll have a good idea if you want to stay longer and make a career out of teaching English as a second language in Japan. If you do, you’ll probably want a more permanent living situation. If so, you’ll need to take the next step to living in Japan long-term. Renting your own private apartment.

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