How to search for a rental house in Japan -challenges and tips-

Hi, I’m Sherri, currently working at a real estate company in Japan. I used to live in America and Finland, and know that it is difficult to find a room in a foreign country.

So today I will like to write about the difficulties of searching for a house in Japan and also some tips for it.


Overview of room search in Japan

Following is the general room search flow in Japan.

Basically you first look for rooms available for foreigners and go take a look at the room, and then if you like it you apply for it. The tricky part is that there is also a screening process after your application. Even if the room accepts foreigners, some may be rejected during this screening process.

After you get accepted, you will have to pay the initial fee and sign the contract. The usual length from application to the starting day of the contract is about 2-3 weeks. Some agents rush you to move in just 10days-2weeks.

So total span of room search to moving is usually about a month.

The good thing is that nowadays some companies can give online room tour so that you can choose your room before coming to Japan.

Barriers for foreigners

There are mainly three big barriers for foreigners when renting a house in Japan.

1, Nationality

The first barrier is the nationality. Some owners of rooms simply don’t accept foreigners. I personally think this is really not cool, being so exclusive. But unfortunately some owners are still like this.

2, Japanese level

The next barrier is the Japanese level. Many owners expect the applicants to be able to somewhat communicate in Japanese, at least daily conversations. If not, the owners will be afraid that it will be difficult to discuss with you if any issues occur.

3, Japanese emergency contact

This may be easier to solve than the first 2. In many cases, owners expect you to have a Japanese nationality, Japanese speaking emergency contact. So it will be better to find one beforehand.


How much of the rooms become unavailable due to the barriers?

I haven’t conducted an official research, but from my experience of searching for a foreigner’s room, about 50% of the rooms don’t accept foreigners.

And what about the other 50%?

Another 40% don’t accept entry level Japanese speaker. Which makes up to about 90% of the regular open rooms unavailable.

So there will be about 10% “possible candidate rooms” left, which also can’t be guaranteed until you pass screening.

In addition, you probably have your own requests for the room too, like I want the toilet separated from the shower room etc. and also a hoped budget. This will even more complicate your search.


“We understand that it’s tough to find a room, but we need a room!” Is probably what you are thinking.

So now I would like to share some tips to get the best room for you.

Practice Japanese before you come to Japan

If this is possible, this will be the strongest solution for you. If you can speak at least some daily conversation, chances of being accepted gets much higher.

You can’t change your nationality but you can change your Japanese level. No need to learn complicated stuff. Simple daily life conversation is enough.

Basically you have to persuade the owner that you understand them and will obey the rules that you must follow.

If the owner is persuaded that they can communicate with you and trust you, they will take your application.

Find a Japanese nationality, Japanese speaking emergency contact

This one is really simple. Just try to find someone that meets this condition and is willing to become your emergency contact.

This also relieve worries from owners’ minds.

Have a good understanding of Japanese residential culture, especially about following instructions for garbage.

Many owners worry that foreigners might not understand/ follow garbage instructions. So you can simply tell them that you have a good understanding of the garbage culture and will throw garbage away according to the instructions.

Use an agent specialized in searching houses for foreigners

Many of the normal real estate companies, first of all, don’t have English speaking staff. And even if they do, due to the above listed reasons, it may be tough for them to find an available room for you.

In that case, you may want to try specialized agents for foreigners.

For example, this website might be helpful:

Wagaya Japan:

※”Wagaya” means “my home” in Japanese



As an English speaking real estate company staff, I have helped out several foreigners to search for their houses in Japan. Within the process, I found out the 3 main barriers that exist for room search of foreigners, which were nationality, Japanese level, and Japanese emergency contact.

In other words, if some of these issues are cleared, there is more possibility of finding a house in Japan.

And also I have suggested using a specialized agent for foreigners as well. Maybe that will help you out finding a good place.

Anyhow, it is sad that Japan is still so exclusive, and I’m hoping the situation to change soon.

Hope this helped for your room search!