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Even though Japan didn’t go through the kind of lockdown that other countries experienced during the pandemic, many of us have spent more time at home than we would’ve liked. だから、この家にちょっと飽きてきた (Dakara, kono ie ni chotto akite-kita, So, I’ve grown kind of sick of my place).

So, is it a good time to 引越し (hikkoshi, move house)? People in Japan tend to move apartments in February and March as students and workers prepare to start new schools and jobs. If you want to get ahead of them, plan your 引越し early, and start reviewing your vocabulary today. Common words such as 不動産屋 (fudōsan’ya, real estate agents), 契約書 (keiyakusho, contract) and 敷金 (shikikin, deposit) have popped up previously in The Japan Times, so let’s see if we can learn some other terms.

Apartment hunting is often done online these days thanks to real estate websites such as Suumo, Homes and Chintai. To navigate these sites, you may need to know a different set of vocabulary.

When looking for a 物件 (bukken, property) online, you must understand the 条件 (jōken, conditions/terms) that will help you narrow down what’s on offer. This includes 賃料 (chinryō, rent), 広さ (hirosa, floor space), 設備 (setsubi, facilities like verandas and bathrooms) and 立地 (ritchi, location). The 不動産屋 use the same kinds of databases as the websites do, so whether you visit one in person or do your own search from home, these words should come in handy.

When speaking of 賃料, or 家賃 (yachin, rent) as it referred to in conversation, it’s good to know how to use the terms ~以上 (~ijō, above/over) and ~以下 (~ika, below) to make your requirements clear. If you’re looking for a place below 7万円 (nanaman-en, ¥70,000), for example, you could say, 家賃7万円以下の物件がいい (yachin nanaman-en ika no bukken ga ii, a property for ¥70,000 or less in rent would be good).

Or, use words like ぐらい (gurai) or 前後 (zengo) to indicate “around”: 家賃9万円前後の物件がいい (Yachin kyūman-en zengo no bukken ga ii, a property for around ¥90,000 would be good).

When using a website, it’s also good to know the terms 下限なし (kagen nashi, no lower limit) and 上限なし (jōgen nashi, no upper limit).

Another important detail to clarify when looking for an apartment is size. In Japan, floor space is usually measured in 畳 (), which can also be read as “tatami,” the woven straw mats that are traditionally used as flooring in the nation’s homes. The size of a tatami mat varies depending on the region, but on average one mat is 176 centimeters by 88 centimeters in the Kanto area. According to Chintai, a 6畳 (roku-jō, six-mat) room is big enough for one person with minimal furniture, and is usually the size of a student dorm room. (That figure doesn’t include 設備 such as a toilet, kitchen space or entryway.)

Let’s take our example sentence from earlier and modify it by including 広さ.

6畳以上の部屋で、家賃7万円以下の物件がいい (Roku-jō ijō no heya de, yachin nanaman-en ika no bukken ga ii, A property that’s more than six tatami mats [in size] and ¥70,000 or less in rent would be good).

An additional requirement to factor in when looking for an apartment, especially in the city, is 立地. This refers to the property’s distance from a train station or other mode of public transport. In this case, you can use 圏内 (ken’nai, within range of) to indicate the general area of where you want to live.

6畳以上の部屋で、家賃7万円以下、池袋駅から徒歩15分圏内の物件がいい (Roku-jō ijō no heya de, yachin nanaman-en ika, Ikebukuro eki kara toho jūgo-fun kennai no bukken ga ii, A property that’s more than six tatami mats [in size] and ¥70,000 or less in rent within 15-minutes walking distance from Ikebukuro Station would be good).

Replace 徒歩15分 (toho jūgo-fun, 15-minutes walk) with 2キロ (ni-kiro, two kilometers) if you want to use distance instead of time.

As mentioned earlier, it’s also important to establish which 設備 you’ll require as these vary from one place to another. These can also be referred to as your こだわり (kodawari, requirements) and they include a キッチン (kitchin, kitchen), バス・トイレ (basu toire, bath and toilet), セキュリティー (sekyuritī, security) and ネット環境 (netto kankyō, internet connectivity).

To express your こだわり, use the term ~が良い (~ga yoi/ii, I prefer~/~would be good), which we’ve been using in our example sentence above. Remember that while “良い” can be read as both “yoi” and “ii,” the latter pronunciation is used in casual conversation. When connecting two sentences, however, use the former pronunciation.

お風呂とトイレは別が良くて、オートロックが付いている方がいい (O-furo to toire wa betsu ga yokute, ōtorokku ga tsuite-iru hō ga ii, I’d prefer to have a separate toilet and shower room, and [a place with] an auto-lock [at the entrance] would be good).

Now, if only we could all get the exact apartment we wanted! Since that’s not likely to happen, it’s good to know how to make simple compromises. You can suggest what parts of your dream apartment are negotiable by using the terms ~てもいい (~te mo ii), which indicates something you can make a concession on, and ~方がいい (~hō ga ii), which points out something that is of higher priority.

部屋は小さくてもいいので、駅から近い方がいい (Heya wa chiisakute mo ii node, eki kara chikai hō ga ii, I don’t mind a small room, but it’s better to be near a station). 古くてもいいので、広い部屋がいい (Furukute mo ii node, hiroi heya ga ii, I don’t mind if it’s old, but I prefer a large [wide] room). A note on Japanese phrasing here, 部屋 (heya, room) is used for both individual rooms or referring to your apartment as a whole, maybe because some apartments in Tokyo are small enough to be individual rooms.

So what am I looking for before I move out the house? Well, in my case, キッチンは狭くてもいいので、コンロは二つあった方がいい (kitchin wa semakute mo ii node, konro wa futatsu atta hō ga ii, I don’t mind a small kitchen but I’d like two burners on the stove).

Once you decide your 物件, the easy part might be over. Then the 引越し process really gets under way, starting from 契約を結ぶ (keiyaku o musubu, drawing up a contract), then the 荷造り (nizukuri, packing) and 荷ほどき (nihodoki, unpacking), and finally 家具を買う (kagu o kau, buying of furniture) and so on. Hopefully, after all this, you’ll be nesting nicely in no time.


Money talks when you’re moving

Moving house can be costly. Here’s a few terms you may want to know:

  • 敷金 (shikikin, deposit) — You’re entitled to get this back after you leave, but it will be used when repairs are needed.
  • 礼金 (reikin, key money) — While you might get a refund for your deposit, key money is nonrefundable. It’s like a gift to the landlord.
  • 管理費・共益費 (kanrihi/kyōekihi, management fee/service charge) — This monthly fee is used to maintain the common areas of an apartment and pay for administrative procedures.
  • 仲介手数料 (chūkai tesūryō, brokerage fee) — This is the money that you pay the real estate company for finding the property. The amount is usually equal to a month’s rent or so.

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