The housing situation with respect to living space has improved considerably over the decades, even though you can still find many very small apartments mainly in the large cities and in central Tokyo, in particular.

Most rooms come with tatami floors or wooden floors, while fully carpeted rooms are rare. Some apartments come with both, tatami rooms and wooden floor rooms, while others do not contain any tatami room.

LDK is an abbreviation frequently used in the world of Japanese real estate to describe apartments. It stands for Living, Dining and Kitchen area, and is preceeded by the number of rooms. Some examples are:

  • 1K = one room apartment with kitchen
  • 1DK = one room apartment with dining and kitchen area
  • 1LDK = one room apartment with a living, dining and kitchen area

In addition, most apartments come with a bathroom, a toilet room and an entrance area (genkan) where the shoes are taken off.

The following are the repeating fees associated with renting an apartment:

  • Rent (yachin)
    The actual rent is paid monthly, usually through automatic bank transfer. It is due before the start of a new month.
  • Utilities
    In case of conventional apartments, the cost for utilities, such as gas and electricity, is not included in the rent. The opposite is sometimes true in case of companies that specifically target foreigners.
  • Maintenance fee (kanrihi/kyoekihi)
    In case of some apartments, a small monthly maintenance fee for expenses shared by all tenants of a building may have to be paid.
  • Insurance
    Some landlords may require you to insure your apartment.

The location and age of the building and the size and position of the apartment are the main factors that determine the cost of the rent:

Location: Apartments located close to city centers are most expensive. The difference in cost to apartments in the suburbs or even neighboring prefectures can be very large. Furthermore, the distance from the apartment to the nearest train station is crucial.

Age of building: Old buildings with small apartments are called apato ("apartment"), while modern buildings with larger apartments are refered to as manshon ("mansion"). Needless to say, manshons tend to be more comfortable and expensive.

Size: The size of rooms is measured in square meters or tatami mats (jo), even in case of rooms without tatami floor. One tatami mat is roughly 180 cm x 90 cm. Also in common use is the unit tsubo, which corresponds to the area of two tatami mats.

Position of apartments: Apartments that face to the south and receive a lot of sunlight tend to be more expensive.

Please visit also our page about how to find an apartment.


Moving in

Before moving into a new apartment, contact the utility companies' nearest offices in order to get the supply started on the day you move in.


Cities, city wards, towns and villages are generally responsible for water supply and sewerage. Tap water is safe for drinking. A water main valve can usually be found outside the apartment.


A circuit breaker switch is located inside the apartment. If you use too much electricity at once, the circuit breaker switch will automatically turn off. In that case, turn off some electric appliances and turn the circuit breaker switch back on. Read more about voltage and plugs.


Gas is used for cooking, hot water and gas heaters. There are various types of gas depending on the region and supplier. If you acquire a gas appliance, make sure that it is compatible with the type of gas in your apartment.

Gas is dangerous. In case you smell gas, turn off the gas valve, extinguish open fires, open all windows and doors, and do not turn on any electrical appliances until you find the cause of the problem. If you cannot find the cause, inform the gas company. It is recommended to use gas leak detectors. Switch off the main gas valve after big earthquakes.

Bill payment

Utility bills can be paid at the utility companies' offices, banks, postal offices, convenience stores and through automatic transfer from bank accounts.

Moving out

Before moving out, inform the utility companies to stop the supply on the day you move out.