Survey: What’s been your experience of trying to rent an apartment in Japan?

We asked foreign residents to tell us about the hurdles they faced when trying to rent an apartment in Japan. The following is a selection of their responses.

Country of birth: Spain
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Working visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) March 2015, Kawaguchi (Saitama Prefecture)

2) I contacted a real estate office after finding online an apartment that fit my needs. I visited them, and they insisted on showing me other apartments as well. One of those other ones looked pretty good, so the agent phoned the landlord right there, in front of me. I could hear what the agent said but not what the landlord said. She told him that there was someone interested in renting his property, and that I was not Japanese. The landlord then asked her where I was from, she replied, and after that I saw the agent’s face turn into disappointment. She then hung up and informed me that the landlord strongly preferred renting to a Japanese person.

I had no problems with the apartment I was originally interested in and ended up moving there, though. Maybe it helped that the landlord for this apartment spoke quite good English and traveled internationally for work frequently.

All interactions with the real estate agent were in Japanese (I had already passed JLPT N2 by then). I was (and still am) employed by a Japanese company.
I speak Japanese fairly fluently so I was by myself.


Country of birth: Costa Rica
Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino
Visa status: Student visa
Age: 30-39
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) It was in 2015, in Okinawa.

2) Japanese.

3) In none of the cases I dealt with the actual owners of the apartments, only with their real estate agents, and in both cases I was told that the owners did not want to lend to foreigners. Plain and simple.


Country of birth: Poland
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Student visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.

I went to the real estate agent and while I was browsing the offers I was told that several places do not accept foreigners. I speak good Japanese (N1), study in Tokyo University and have a guarantor with very high income so I don’t think these were a problem.

Actually I wasn’t denied rental, I was not allowed to chose some apartments in a first place. Agent was very nice person and helped me find a good place, but landlords who make such a condition are unacceptable.


Country of birth: Japan
Ethnicity: Other
Visa status: Permanent
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.

1) A few years ago in Osaka.

2) Japanese

3) Funnily enough, I was initially denied until they found out I was half Japanese. The Japanese ability was also used as a way of convincing the landlord to take me on.


Country of birth: Malaysia
Ethnicity: Asian
Visa status: Student visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
2-3 years ago, when I reached Tokyo Japan for approximately 5 months, I decided to move out from my school dorm. I visited about 10 company and 9 company refused to rent me room because:
1. I haven’t reached adulthood.

2. I have no work or part-time job.

3. I’m still currently learning Japanese, the owner assumed that my Japanese language is not good.
4. I’m a Malaysian Chinese, but people would assume that you are from China and reject you immediately without asking where you came from. But luckily the last company was willing to communicate and learn more about me and the owner is friendly to foreigners.


Country of birth: New Zealand
Ethnicity: Other
Visa status: Working visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: More than 10
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
“No gaijin” “gaijin dame” “no no no” all. Conversations took place in real estate agent offices. I speak fluent Japanese and by the way, all in Tokyo area.


Country of birth: Canada
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Permanent
Age: 30-39
How long have you lived in Japan: More than 10
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
I am currently looking to rent a house and have been denied a few times already in Kyoto.

It seems that the only places people are willing to rent me are dirty old buildings that no one else wants.


Country of birth: Japan
Ethnicity: Asian
Visa status: Other
Age: 30-39
How long have you lived in Japan: More than 10
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
My husband, who is French, and I were looking for a new apartment in Tokyo. We made an appointment to visit a house through an agency, but when we arrived at the real estate agency they were shocked to see me (Japanese) with a foreigner. They only talked to me on the phone. Then the agent called the owner of the house, and the owner of the house said, “no gaijin.” We couldn’t even see the house! I was the one who would be signing the contract but it didn’t help.

The agent then tried to show us other apartments, but every time he called the owner to see if we can see the room, he always mentioned we are gaijin, as if it’s something he would need to tell every time.

In the end, we could only see two rooms, and as we liked one of them, I asked the agent to get back to me on some questions after checking with the owner before applying. He never called me back. Both the owner of the house we wanted to see, and the agent, were judging us based on being gaijin.


Country of birth: United Kingdom
Ethnicity: Other
Visa status: Other
Age: 30-39
How long have you lived in Japan: 6-10 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) Flat hunting in Nakano Ward, Tokyo.

2) Two years ago.

3) My mother is Japanese and my Japanese is perfect. Even still, I have been told that certain flats that I was interested in renting wouldn’t rent to foreigners (even though I am Japanese).

I was just told that the landlord of the property wouldn’t accept foreign tenants. I told them that I am Japanese and it’s illegal to discriminate in this way, but since I was speaking to the agent and not the landlord, this didn’t lead anywhere.


Country of birth: Canada
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Spouse visa
Age: 30-39
How long have you lived in Japan: 6-10 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) Before I was married in 2012 in Tokyo.

2) I used a rental agency that specialized in helping foreigners find apartments so they used Japanese to communicate for me.

3) No reasons given just that they wouldn’t allow a foreigner. I was denied more than once and one time they refused to even let me view the apartment listed because I was foreign.


Country of birth: Chile
Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino
Visa status: Spouse visa
Age: 30-39
How long have you lived in Japan: Less than a year
Have you ever been denied a rental due to being non-Japanese?​ Yes, I was told that this was the reason.
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) Osaka
2) Japanese language
3) The only reason they said it was neighborhood residents and apartment owner complain if foreigners live close to them. We felt completely discriminated and disgusted. It’s a shame this happens in Japan.


Country of birth: Spain
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Working visa
Age: 30-39
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
Two years ago, after visiting two times a house in Ikebukuro, when we agreed with everything, they suddenly changed their mind.

Our real estate agent speaks Japanese and she didn’t explain that we were foreigners, so maybe landlord didn’t know at first.

Contract will be signed by a Japanese company, so communication would have never been an issue.

We called from another agency and they explained that they didn’t want foreigners.


Country of birth: France
How long have you lived in Japan: 6-10 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
This year, I tried to rent an apartment and was told foreigners weren’t authorized to live there.

The communication took place by mail in Japanese.

Five years ago I was told by an agent that my name, with which I signed the email, was a fake name (a foreign name in katakana)


Country of birth: Japan
Ethnicity: Other
Visa status: Permanent
Age: 40-49
How long have you lived in Japan: More than 10
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) These two places when I was in Japan for about two months. I was apartment hunting and the real estate office was showing me apartments. I picked several that I thought were good and then they checked and found that several don’t accept foreigners, so they excluded those.

2) Japanese

3) They said explicitly that those places didn’t accept non-Japanese


Country of birth: Canada
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Working visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
I was looking for a place when I was moving to Tokyo. I found a agency that helped foreigners in English. The only problem is the only apartments they would show me were LeoPalace. Whenever I asked if about the other apartments they had listings for I was told that since I don’t speak Japanese that it would just be easier with LeoPalace since they had English services. Even with that I only get notices or service calls from them in Japanese. Looking back on it I think they use the “Japanese apartments won’t rent to foreigners” as a way to sell their tiny apartments.

I went through a company I saw online and they did translate my meeting at the LeoPalace office.


Country of birth: United States
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Working visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
I looked for apartments in downtown Tokyo after living in Japan for over three years, speaking the language fluently, and working for a Japanese company in Roppongi-Itchome. I was told multiple times that apartments I was interested in, while I was at the rental company, “didn’t allow foreigners.” It was often written on ads, and sometimes the realtor I was working with would call and ask and I would hear the phone conversation. I was often told it was because the owner was concerned that, if there was a problem, they “wouldn’t be able to communicate with me.” I pointed out that I spoke Japanese and had even gone to the trouble of asking a close Japanese friend’s family to be my guarantor in the event of an emergency, but was still denied from multiple apartments.


Country of birth: Spain
Ethnicity: White
Visa status: Student visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) After leaving the university residency in 2014

2) A Japanese friend came with me to the real state agency. Communication with the agency was in Japanese.

3) After visiting some apartments recommended by the agency, I decided on one of them. The agency communicated the owner that I was interested and the owner inquired about me. After learning I was foreigner, he ask for a guarantor. My university offers a guarantor service. But the owner said that, because I as gaijin, I had to used the guarantor he said (much more expensive) and I gave up that apartment.


Country of birth: Switzerland
Ethnicity: Other
Visa status: Working visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 1-5 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
1) June 2016

2) A close friend who is Japanese served as an interpreter for me.

3) The agent told us upfront that about 70% of properties do not allow foreigners, and of those that do, it depends heavily on the nationality (ie race), gender and age of the foreigner, in that order. I was told that I shouldn’t have to worry too much because I was from a “good” country (I’m Swiss), female (not likely to be dangerous or violent) and not too young (noisy) or too old (hard to deal with, not adaptable).

It was indirectly hinted that foreigners of Asian heritage (Chinese, Korean) or who were dark-skinned (POCs, South Asians) would have had a much harder time. In the end, the agent made a phone call to the owner, informing her of my nationality, gender and age, and received the final OK to proceed. My friend was very shocked by the whole revelation and process, but I was expecting as much and was just glad to have found a place so quickly.


Country of birth: Malaysia
Ethnicity: Asian
Visa status: Student visa
Age: 21-29
How long have you lived in Japan: 6-10 years
Please describe your experience of house-hunting, including 1) roughly when and where it took place; 2) the language(s) you communicated in; and 3) any reasons given for being denied rental.
I was in Osaka for house hunting during my fourth year of staying in Japan. I met the house agent, we spoke in Japanese. I liked the house, which was about 50k yen that time. They were processing my datas, details and etc. And it took for about two hours of waiting before being declined.

I was being told that I do not have enough income to rent the house. I had a full-paid scholarship with the same amount of a working fresh-grad, and a part time teaching job that I do to pass the time. Until now, I do not know how much income is enough for me to rent that house.

I speak well (not perfect enough, maybe) Japanese that I passed my JLPT N1 in the first eight months I came to Japan.

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