When you are thinking about moving, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the price ranges of the place you’re looking to move to. There a few things to consider when looking for something within your price range. This is extremely important when looking for places in the city compared to the countryside in Japan. The city is usually more expensive when you initially look at prices. Usually, the closer to any station, the more expensive it will be. The apartment could be one of the smallest ones you’ve seen, but if it is within a ten-minute walk, it can be overpriced simply for the convenience. Speaking of convenience, the amount of stores that are within a short walking distance greatly impacts the price of the apartment as well. The closer to the station, the more stores will be around, and the more expensive it gets. If you want to try to get the cheapest housing, you should use the local listing boards. They have all ranges of prices for whatever situation you find yourself in. These will require you to have a good amount of Japanese under your belt though. Most of the listing is from Japanese landlords that most likely know little to no English.
If you have Japanese friends, or hire a Japanese translator, you will have an easier time with this. This also affects apartments, and houses, in the countryside. It’s less about how close train stations are, and more about how close things like convenience stores, department stores, and other places like that are. Most people will have to drive to get their necessities, so it becomes a little easier to find well-priced apartments. You will run into far fewer people that speak English in the countryside as well. Most of those places don’t have many foreigners and most people there have little to no use of the language, so Japanese is needed.
Apartment size is something that will affect pricing as well. You also have to remember that there isn’t much room in the city, no matter which city you are looking to go to. Tokyo is the best example, with its large amounts of single-person apartments all over the cities. Some of them are placed well and keep the prices down to reasonable, or very good. Single occupant housing is also the easiest to get, as you only have yourself to move and worry about. There are buildings specifically made with families in mind, and those have their own set of standards and pricing.
You can usually find these in more populated areas, or communities that have easy access to schools, shopping, and other things that benefit families. The amount of furnishing affects this too. Some apartments come completely furnished, from furniture to appliances, and it causes the price to be higher than normal. If it’s not, then the initial moving costs of appliances and other necessities will be high, but then you can use those things even if you move later. In the countryside, many of these things are the same. This usually concerns actual houses and less about apartments. There are usually more full houses available to families than in the city. Apartments in the countryside usually run by the same rules as the city. Though I have seen people get large apartments for a fraction of the cost of a single room apartment in the city. Most people drive out there as well, as most places are not near trains, or use buses heavily.
It can make things difficult when trying to find an apartment where you will have a roommate. The biggest difficulty is finding an apartment that has either enough rooms or that has an adequate amount of space for two people. If you are coming from a country like the US, you will need to think smaller when looking to move. Downsizing is very important when preparing to move and with apartment hunting. You may also have trouble if it is you and a friend, and not a family member or significant other. Some landlords will not rent to friends trying to live together and will only let family members live together in their apartments. The first time I encountered this was in Tokyo, so that is another thing to keep in mind when looking.
Depending on what you are looking for, you can find short term and long term housing. Share houses are a good way to get around this, as they usually offer both options to everyone. They usually have full English booking and online support. Some places only rent to specific genders, or only to students at universities. This allows them to keep rent low, and provide a cheap alternative to that demographic. You can find lots of places that will have specific conditions, and it will change the pricing of the apartment greatly. In the countryside, there is usually less of this particular kind of apartment specifications. Usually, you will only find long term housing, with the short term being closer to the more populated areas.
Now, as for actual pricing, you can expect to pay around 60,000 yen a month for a normal-sized apartment, which is about ten to fifteen minutes from the nearest station. This is typical pricing as they will usually have easy access to stores. Translated into US currency, it’s about 600 dollars a month, much like the typical price of apartments in the US. Just like in the major cities in the US, the cities in Japan will usually cost more. When looking at apartments close to stations, you can expect to 100,000 yen or more, which translates to around 1,000 US dollars. Depending on what part of the city you are looking at, you could end up paying double the amount or more for the same sized apartments. Some places go between 35,000 and 50,000 yen as well. These usually have conditions or may have some things missing, like no washer hookups, or only a toilet and no shower. Some places are just a room and would require you to go to an onsen for bathing and toiletries. You will have to look and see what you are willing to do without if you want to try and keep the price as low as possible.
In the end, the pricing of places in Japan is very close to the pricing in most western countries. You just have to look at the right places and have a good idea of what suits your budget best. I recommend using real estate companies that have English speaking assistance, or else you’ll need to practice your Japanese to get the best deals in the country. Finding the best place is possible, you just have to take the time to look for it.