House proud
From guesthouses to apartments to family homes, Tokyo’s real estate specialists will help you find the pad of your dreams

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Akasaka Real Estate
After going through the arduous process of buying a house in Tokyo—and discovering a complete lack of realtors that could provide complete and reliable information in English—Erik Oskamp took it upon himself to do the job instead. He founded Akasaka Real Estate, which focuses on helping foreigners purchase both primary residences and investment properties. The company also provides services like property management, help with obtaining financing, and organizing renovations. The website contains a wealth of information for the prospective buyer, with English translations of almost all Tokyo property listings, detailed statistics on the local market, and an archive of listings from the last couple of years. Now that temporary residents can borrow at attractive rates, there’s really no need to pay the high Tokyo rents anymore. And with rental yield of 6-10 percent, you can even start receiving regular income from your new property.

801 Calm Nogizaka Bldg, 9-6-27 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6379-9175 or 090-3358-0954. Nearest stn: Nogizaka. ,

Global Agents
Let’s face it, living alone in Tokyo can be a drag. Although everyone needs their own space, it’s also nice to have a shoulder to lean on or someone to discuss the ins and outs of city life with. For those looking to get off their island, Social Apartment offers rooms at three houses in and around Tokyo that are a step above typical accommodations: each features common areas, ranging from a luxuriously furnished living room to a pool-bar, where residents can find someone to talk to, have a drink, or spend some good old-fashioned quality time with. Residents at Social Apartment seem like family or friends rather than just roommates, making this a perfect home for expats lost in the jungle of Tokyo. For detailed information on room locations and availability, call the Social Apartment offices directly or check out their comprehensive bilingual website.

Tel: 03-5485 7377. Open daily 9am-7pm.,

Fontana is a leading source of affordable housing solutions for both foreigners and Japanese in the Tokyo area. The friendly staff speak English, German, Korean, Polish, Turkish and Japanese, and are ready to help guests find a convenient, comfortable place to live in central Tokyo. Be it a room in a guesthouse, a shared apartment or a private home, Fontana’s properties are always furnished, which makes for a pleasant and hassle-free stay. With guesthouses and apartments located all over Tokyo, it’s easy to find the perfect pad. Locations include Nakano, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi, Ikebukuro, Hiroo and Azabu. Rent for private rooms in a guesthouse start at ¥55,000 in the Nakano, Yutenji and Toritsu-Daigaku areas, with all utilities and internet included. If you’re looking for a private apartment, Fontana has units available in Nakano from ¥70,000; Shinjuku from ¥85,000; Shibuya from ¥120,000; Roppongi from ¥110,000; Ikebukuro from ¥85,000 or Hiroo from ¥85,000. No agency fees, key money or guarantors are required—just choose which apartment you like and move in. It’s that easy. Give Fontana a call, visit the website or walk into the office in Shin-Nakano.

1F Asahi Mansion, 3-31-5 Chuo, Nakano-ku. Tel: 03-3382-0151. Open daily 9:30am-7pm. Nearest stn: Nakano.,

Hikari Furnished Apartment
Hikari Furnished Apartment offers comfortable, convenient and economical housing in Tokyo, Osaka and Ashiya. With a 92 percent satisfaction rate among foreign customers, this newcomer to the real estate scene is one of the top picks for both short- and long-term housing in Tokyo.

Hikari offers a wide range of quality services and fully furnished apartments in central Tokyo. Short-term apartments are available in popular locations like Shibuya, Ebisu and Shinjuku, with none of the key money, deposit, agent fees, commissions or guarantor fees that suck most renters dry. Those looking for something a little more permanent can enjoy select locations such as Aoyama, at reasonable deposit and key money rates. There’s even a location in Ashiya for customers wanting to move to Hyogo.

Hikari’s experienced bilingual staff make the chore of finding your home sweet home a breeze, and they’re also happy to give tips about life in Tokyo. Check out Hikari’s website or visit their office in Omotesando.

SJ Bldg. 1F 3-9-8 Kita Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3498-8068.

Hiroo Planning
Looking for a luxury home in Tokyo? Whether it’s an apartment to rent or house to buy, Hiroo Planning can help find the best accommodation to meet your needs. Their vast property database includes everything from studio to four-bedroom apartments, as well as furnished and pet-friendly houses located in the popular areas of Hiroo, Azabu, and Roppongi.

Here’s just a sample of what’s available. For rent: studio apartment two minutes from Hiroo stn; 22m2, ¥120,000/mo; 1-bedroom in Shirokane, ten minutes from Hiroo stn, with one month free rent and a choice of new appliances or furniture, 44.14m2, ¥209,000/mo; 3-bedroom in Ebisu with a trunk room, pets possible, 82.35m2, ¥398,000/mo.

For sale: designer’s 1-bedroom in Yokohama, exclusive waterfront and Yamashita Park view, pet-friendly, 92.49m2, ¥96 million; 4-bedroom luxury house in Suginami-ku, living room and gym with a big roof balcony and 2-car garage, 205m2, ¥100 million.

Would you like to renovate your home? Hiroo Planning also offers a professional “reform” service at a low price. Call for an estimate—the friendly, English-speaking staff are waiting.

Contact the English hotline at 080-1274-6344, or email

HSBC Premier Smart Mortgage Solutions
As many foreign residents know, securing a mortgage in Japan can be an emotionally draining and confusing process. Further complicating matters is the fact that all forms and documentation are often available only in Japanese, and applicants either need a Japanese spouse or permanent resident status to qualify for a loan.

HSBC Premier’s new Smart Mortgage and Smart Investment Mortgage take the pain out of purchasing property for non-Japanese—regardless of residency status, martial status, and Japanese language ability.

The HSBC Smart Mortgage is designed for people who want to purchase a residential property, while The HSBC Smart Investment Mortgage has been developed for those seeking to finance a second property—for example, a winter holiday home in Hokkaido or a rental property for additional income.

HSBC Premier’s team of English-speaking Relationship Managers is on hand to provide support and step-by-step guidance throughout the whole process of securing a loan.

One of the unique attributes of HSBC Premier’s mortgage lineup is the “balance offset” feature, which can offer substantial savings on interest repayments by taking into consideration the customer’s bank account compared to the outstanding value of the mortgage. In other words, the more you save, the less you repay on your loan. For example, if someone has ¥10 million in their account and wanted to take out a mortgage for ¥50 million they would only need to pay interest on ¥40 million

For further information, contact HSBC Premier at 0120-89-2028 or visit your nearest HSBC Premier Centre.

Ichii Corporation
Part of the Ichii Corporation, one of Japan’s leading real estate agencies for expats, Japan Apartment (JAPT) eliminates the hassles that plague apartment- or guesthouse-hunters in Tokyo. With no key money, deposits or guarantors required, JAPT’s 600 properties in 80 locations get snapped up almost as soon as they become available. All residences are fully furnished, many right down to the cookware and linen that turn an apartment into a home. For those who can’t go a day without connectivity, internet access is arranged before move-in, eliminating the need for annoying bureaucratic hoop jumping; the properties also come with flat-screen TVs. JAPT’s bilingual website make navigating their huge variety of properties a breeze, and English-speaking staff make the process as easy as can be by helping customers with everything from the initial home search to the final move.

3-5-17 Nishi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku. Tel: 03-5437-5233.,

IFG Asia
In the jungle of real estate purchase, even the most efficient and prepared house-hunters need help understanding mortgage options and how to qualify for the best rates. Low central bank rates and a strong yen make this an ideal time for first-time buyers or investors to lock in some big mortgage savings. IFG Asia is dedicated to putting its knowledge and expertise to work for you, navigating the often confusing and complex landscape of home financing, and helping you to secure the best deal for mortgages on properties, both within Japan and overseas. IFG Asia will research the best options in the current market, including refinancing, switching loans to Japanese yen, and equity release loans. IFG has the experience and connections to help you with all your real estate financing needs.,

Leaf Court Shintoshin
Looking for the ultimate in sophisticated luxury serviced apartments? Then Leaf Court Shintoshin is your destination. Located safely out of the fray but still close enough to the action of inner-city life, these apartments offer easy access to all the important destinations: Shinjuku and Shibuya are both only a few minutes by train, and Roppongi is a short 14 minutes away. The scenic location is situated along a shopping street that runs from nearby Hatagaya station, offering both a charming place to walk and a convenient spot to buy daily necessities.

Rooms at Leaf Court Shintoshin range in size from 25-36m2, and they come fully furnished. Amenities include free unlimited internet use, room cleaning and linen exchange. Residents can also work up a sweat in the onsite gym, sauna and billiards room, all free of charge. If that wasn’t enough to perk up the option-hungry expat’s ears, Leaf Court Shintoshin also offers breakfast service, and the front desk provides round-the-clock support. No key deposit or guarantor is required, and rooms are available by the week or month.

2-3-4 Hatagaya, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3299-2800. Open daily 24 hours. Nearest stn: Hatagaya (Keio New line).,

Mi-Casa Asset Management
When you’re living in one of the most stylish cities on earth, why is it so hard to find an apartment that suits your style? Japan Rental Housing Investment Inc's chic living spaces are just the ticket. Located in the heart of Azabu, these maisonette-type apartments combine jaw-dropping design with the kind of functionality and convenience you’d expect from a state-of-the-art des res. They’re ideal for holding soirees with your (no doubt impressed) friends, and sufficiently spacious to accommodate a home office—guaranteed to enhance your creativity. All lie in a quiet area within ten minutes of Azabu-Juban station, in one of Tokyo’s safest and most cosmopolitan neighborhoods.

Tel: 03-3405-8881 (Hokuo Planning Co. Ltd).

N’s Court 139 Lego
When humans first set down their roots in the Kanto Plain, they sought out firm, stable ground with abundant clean water and fresh air along the Tama River. Although these ancient dwellings are long gone, the spirit of the area lives on at N’s Court 139 Lego, the new serviced residences from Tohto Co. The complex was constructed with security, safety and comfort in mind, with a choice of spacious studios and one-bedroom apartments available for periods of one month to two years. With fully furnished apartments, a concierge, dry cleaning services, a lounge and fitness area, N’s Court 139 Lego is the ultimate in comfort and convenience. Located near the river in scenic Fuchu, yet only 23 minutes from hotspots Shibuya and Shinjuku, this is the ideal location to enjoy the best of both worlds—in style.

Tel: 03-5429-1660.,

If you’re looking for a cozy or luxury home in Tokyo that’s a step above the rest, your search should begin and end at Oceans. This Tokyo-based realtor offers accommodations of all shapes and sizes—from luxury studio flats to five-bedroom houses, and rents ranging from ¥200,000 to ¥4 million. With locations in such foreigner-friendly areas as Azabu and Omotesando, as well as Hiroo, Roppongi, Ebisu, Shibuya, Aoyama and Yoyogi, they’re perfect for professional workers and expatriates who can sign lease agreements under a corporate contract.

The staff at Oceans proudly believe the old saying, “Customer is king,” poring through their database of over 90,000 rental properties to find that perfect expat abode. Updated daily, house hunters can access the database through Oceans’ website, which also features useful information for new Tokyo residents, like basic cable and satellite TV plans, internet availability, fitness clubs, international schools, shops, restaurants and bars. With top-notch support and a wealth of information at hand, Oceans is like one-stop shopping for your life in Tokyo.

Tel: 03-5766-7747.,

Sakura House
In Japan, the definition of a “guesthouse” can sometimes seem vague. At Sakura House, it means furnished monthly accommodation with a private bedroom and shared kitchen, dining and bathroom facilities, where you can meet housemates from all over the world. Since Sakura House opened its first guesthouse in Harajuku in 1992, facilitating cross-cultural interaction has always been one its objectives. Thanks to that winning formula, the number of its houses has grown to 200 throughout Tokyo, with a total of 1,707 rooms accommodating people from some 114 countries. Every night, hundreds of Sakura tenants share their experiences of Japan. Many residents pick Sakura House initially because it’s easy and cheap, but end up staying long-term for the sense of community.

For the latest information about properties and availability—new rooms open every month—visit the multilingual website or call the Shinjuku headquarters. The office is open until 8pm, so viewings can be arranged after work or school. Staff speak English, French, Chinese and Korean, and rent can be paid by Visa or MasterCard.

2F Nishi-Shinjuku K-1 Bldg, 7-2-6 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-5330-5250. Open daily 8:50am-8pm.

Tokyo Living (Premium Rental Apartments)
Trusted by over 500 corporate clients since its establishment in 2004, Tokyo Living is proud to provide its customers with quality products and services. The company offers a one-stop housing solution for both short- and long-term accommodation needs throughout the 23 wards of Tokyo. Its bilingual leasing consultants use their local knowledge to assist you in finding the housing solution that fits your needs here in Tokyo.

Tel: 03-6273-0181. Serviced and Rental Apartments:, Premium Rental Apartments:,

S.A.I. Recycle
Lots of us have unwanted furniture or electronic goods that just end up getting in the way at home. Maybe you’ve remodeled your apartment and that polka dot sofa doesn’t really fit in any more. Perhaps you’ve upgraded your stereo system, or simply decided that it’s time to bid farewell to the guitar or bicycle gathering dust in your genkan. It’s a common dilemma, further complicated by that nagging question: what exactly are you supposed to do with this stuff? Give it to a friend? Sell it at a flea market? Pay to have it collected on “oversize garbage” day? You could start by giving S.A.I. Recycle a call. This recycle shop, which opened in Shirokane, Minato-ku, in January, can offer competitive prices for all kinds of goods, especially designer furniture, consumer electronics and audio products. Whether you’re looking to get rid of a single chair or the entire contents of your apartment, call the shop’s 24-hour free-dial hotline or send an email and they should be able to help you out.

Estimates are provided free of charge, and goods can be collected from anywhere within the 23 wards of Tokyo for ¥1,000. This charge will be waived for Metropolis readers who mention their ad in the magazine.

1-1-5 Shirokane, Minato-ku. Tel: 0120-318-420 (24 hr, toll free). Open daily noon-8pm. Nearest stn: Shirokane-Takanawa.,

That Shikikin Feeling
We delve into the confusing world of apartment deposits—and how to get them back

You may feel like you’ve had to wrestle with all kinds of bureaucracy to land that perfect 1DK apartment, but the fun and games don’t end when the contract is stamped. Moving out can present a whole new world of hassle. For many tenants, both foreign and Japanese, the hard-earned shikikin (deposit) they paid when they moved in becomes nothing but a distant memory, as landlords have their way with the cash and return only the change to the renter.

Kazutaka Hayakawa works for the NPO Shinshu Matsumoto Alps Wind, a group that specializes in helping get that deposit back. Here he offers up the basics on renters’ rights.

What is shikikin for?
Shikikin is a form of deposit that was originally meant to cover unpaid rent during or at the end of a contract. Somewhere along the lines, landlords began to use the money for other purposes, known under the umbrella term of genjou kaifuku, or “returning the room to its original condition.”

So what does genjou kaifuku entail?
Genjou kaifuku is the maintenance done on the room to make it suitable for the next tenant. Everything from simple cleaning to re-wallpapering or replacing tatami mats is categorized under this term, and unfortunately, shikikin is often used to pay for the work. While this is not illegal per se, it’s debatable as to why a renter should have to pay for cleaning or renovations for the next tenant. To protect renters’ rights in this gray area, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport released a set of guidelines about ten years ago for the types of maintenance for which shikikin should be used, based on who is responsible for the damages.

While these remain merely guidelines for the rest of the country, Tokyo Prefecture enacted a law in 2004 (the Chintai Juutaku Funsou Boushi Jourei) that was directed at landlords and real estate agents, detailing the responsibilities of landlords and tenants in returning rental property to its original condition, as well as covering maintenance during the contract.

What to do if your shikikin is being used unfairly or unlawfully
While the balance of power between landlord and tenant traditionally doesn’t favor the little guy, times are changing and renters are finding it easier to defend their rights. Hayakawa has the following tips for those who smell something fishy:

• Know your rights: Familiarize yourself with the relevant laws, and never forget that shikikin is legally your money.

• Talk it out: Many landlords are open to discussion, and some don’t even realize they’re doing anything wrong. Show your landlord a copy of the government guidelines and try to work things out face-to-face.

• Recruit some support: Numerous organizations and businesses like Shinshu Matsumoto Alps Wind exist in all parts of the country, and are willing to work as mediators for a nominal fee.

• Last-ditch effort: Small claims courts offer special services for shikikin disputes, and they can work things out in the space of a few hours for a small percentage of the total disputed amount.

Hayakawa stresses that 99 percent of shikikin disputes can be resolved just by talking things through. Take photos of the apartment for evidence, ideally before moving in (though afterwards is fine too). Make sure the landlord provides copies of all receipts for work done using shikikin money. Sometimes real estate agents will also be willing to mediate disputes, but many provide little follow-up service to renters and will disappear from the scene after the contract is signed and they’ve received their cut. Agents who have long-standing relationships with landlords also tend to be a bit biased, so it may be best to recruit the help of a Japanese-speaking friend or special “Shikikin Dispute Mediator” (shikikin henkan dairinin) when entering into negotiations.

Division of responsibilities for maintenance of rental property

Landlord’s responsibilities
Responsible for: marks on flooring and carpets caused by heavy furniture; fading of tatami and flooring due to age and/or sunlight
Procedures: replacing tatami, waxing floors

Walls & Ceiling
Responsible for: nicotine stains; marks on walls left by fridge or TV; pinholes from hanging posters, etc.
Procedures: replacing wallpaper, filling holes

Fittings & Doors
Responsible for: glass broken due to earthquakes; naturally occurring cracks in reinforced glass
Procedures: replacing glass

Responsible for: lighting and other machinery that no longer works due to age
Procedures: replacing locks, disinfecting kitchen and bathroom, replacing water heater, etc.

Renter’s responsibilities
Responsible for: scratches on flooring caused by moving furniture; stains on carpet, tatami or flooring due to spillage or rain damage
Procedures: replacing tatami, carpets, etc.

Walls & Ceiling
Responsible for: oil stains on walls in kitchen; mold and stains due to accumulated moisture; corrosion of air conditioning unit; holes from nails; ceiling damage caused by lighting fixtures
Procedures: replacing wallpaper, filling holes, patching

Fittings & Doors
Responsible for: damage and stains caused by pets

Responsible for: damage due to lack of care or misuse

From the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s “Guidelines for Returning Rental Property to its Original Condition” (Genjou Kaifuku Wo Meguru Toraburu To Gaidorain)