Destination Guide | Tokyo Japan


Tokyo is a metropolis consisting of 23 separate districts known as wards, or "ku" in Japanese. The neighborhood you live in will probably be just as important as your individual residence. Every neighborhood has its own unique feel. The locations Tokyoites tend to find the most convenient, and hence are the most expensive, are within the confines of the JR (Japan Railway) Yamanote line, which circles central Tokyo. This is where most expatriates live, and where the most westernized neighborhoods are typically found. Statistically the most popular "ku" in descending order are: Minato-ku (which includes Azabu, Hiroo, Akasaka and Roppongi), Shibuya-ku, Setagaya-ku, and Meguro-ku.

If you want to live the urban life in a fairly international area of Tokyo, then look for a home in Azabu, Roppongi, Aoyama, Hiroo, and parts of Shibuya. In these areas there are many foreign restaurants and English is spoken in many shops. These areas include most of the diplomatic missions in Tokyo and four international food stores (Nissin, National Azabu Supermarket, Meidi-ya and Kinokuniya).

Temporary Serviced Accommodation

Availability of Temporary Serviced Accommodation number is limited in Tokyo and almost impossible to be found outside Tokyo. Most of them are located in the city center like Roppongi and Akasaka as they target short stay business people mainly. Therefore, larger units for families are limited. A 3 bedroom apartment is the largest temporary serviced accommodation.

There are also non-furnished apartments without services and the minimum lease term is 7 days.

Santa Fe has contract with most of temporary accommodation service providers and we receive special rates for our clients.
Please give us a call at (03) 3589 6666 for details of our booking service.

Long Term Accommodation

In most cases, a move to Tokyo will mean adjustments from a house with a garden and possibly a pool to apartment living. Although there are many houses available within the Yamanote circular line, they are smaller, more expensive and have very little or no outdoor/garden space.

Tokyo's selection of apartments far out-numbers the supply of houses. Tokyo apartments have been built with the expatriate market in mind satisfying Western tastes. They are spacious. In lieu of a garden, many have large balconies, offering large kitchens with modern Western appliances and advanced security systems, playrooms, family rooms, dens or offices and accommodation for house help. Western apartments tend to be substantially more expensive than typically smaller Japanese apartments.

In choosing a residence, think carefully about what is most important to you and your family. Clearly define your requirements and priorities. These priorities include: budget, location and proximity to places mostly frequented: home, work, schools, clubs, recreation facilities, public transportation. One should also consider the general character of the neighborhood. Be aware that utility costs are high, so ask if they are included in the rent. (Interestingly, water utility costs will vary not only according to the volume of water consumed, but also to the diameter of utility pipe servicing the apartment. Please ask your agent to check with the management company. Bringing your pet(s) to Japan may limit your housing options, although some lease agreements that prohibit pets can be negotiated.

For convenience, try to choose a residence within a 10-minute walk of the nearest train or subway station. It is a good idea to compute your travel time to your office as well. If you are commuting by car, ask the real estate agent to drive you to your office during commuting hours and get a realistic idea of traffic conditions. Be aware also that traffic worsens on Friday, and days ending in 5 or 0. A door-to-door commute of 30 minutes is desirable; 45 to 60 minutes is not uncommon. If using a bus, travel time should include walking to the bus stop and office, as well as, as well as the bus ride during heavy traffic periods.

Many families manage to find a home within walking distance from schools, however most children commute to schools on public transportation or on a school bus. From within the Yamanote line the commute generally takes about 45 minutes, but it can take as long as two hours in heavy traffic.

If you come on a look-see trip, visit as many properties as possible, and be prepared to make a deal while you are here. While you are visiting, be sure to be shown the parking facility, your parking space, walk to the nearest train or subway station, and check on the costs of utilities and extras.

You may need to find temporary housing while you wait for your furniture to arrive or for your new home to become available. Several options include hotels, temporary serviced accommodation or rent-lease furniture. There are several leasing companies and department stores that can provide you with basic furnishings, linens, appliances and kitchenware.

Rental Deposit

Landlords will usually request 4-6 months of the rent as security deposit in advance. The deposit is 100% refundable when you move out or at the end of the lease, but cleaning costs or repairs will be deducted.
Without the confirmation of initial payment included deposit, the landlord will not give you the keys. Initial payments include: advance monthly rent (1-2 months ) and security deposit (4-6 months rent ). Also, you will be required to pay letting agent fee. The agent fee is fixed at 1month of the rent plus 5% of consumption tax.

Before Signing Your Lease – things to consider

When you have selected the property that most suits your requirements, spend some time in the place at different times of day and night to see what needs changing. Some things that we suggest you check or consider are:

  • Adequate lighting inside the home and the presence of external night-lights.
  • A security system.
  • A suitable water pressure and flow.
  • Presence of an installed phone line and the kind of line.
  • Whether foreign language cable TV and internet connections have been installed.
  • Whether the owner will allow for the use of a dish to receive satellite services, and whether one can be successfully installed.
  • The proper functioning of the central air-conditioning and the absence of mould in the air-conditioning unit.
  • The coloring, condition and materials of all floor and wall coverings. Ensure that previous damage is recorded so that you are not liable for repairs at a later date.
  • The direction the home faces in terms of sunlight.
  • Noise from either the surrounding streets or neighbors above, below or beside you.
  • The proper functioning of all installed appliances and user manuals in a language that you understand.
  • If the home has traditional Japanese tatami (woven reed flooring) or shoji and fusuma (sliding paper window slides and doors). Check that these will be replaced or renewed. This is traditional with new tenants.
  • If the home does not have curtains, negotiate to have them included. You may prefer to take measurements and buy them elsewhere before you move.