Finding an apartment to move into as a foreigner in Japan can be a difficult and infuriating process at times! There are a lot of hurdles and a lot of tricky hoops to jump through, some of which can be just plain impossible.
Typically, when you are looking to move into a new apartment the first challenge is finding one. There are a few housing agencies with English websites and staff who are willing to help you in English, but even with this help it can be very difficult! The first problem is that lots of landlords quite simply will not rent to a foreign tenant.In Kyoto in particular it can be hard as lots of landlords are very traditionally minded and only like to rent to Japanese people. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about this, it’s not everyone but a lot of landlords are nervous about foreign tenants as they feel they might not be as reliable or may be harder to deal with. If you are a fluent Japanese speaker this is less of a hurdle as for many landlords they simply want to know they can communicate with the tenant if need be so make sure your housing agent knows if you are a Japanese speaker as it makes it more likely a landlord will accept you.
The next big hurdle you’ll find is that lots of landlords require you to have a Japanese guarantor, when I looked in Kyoto it had to specifically be a guarantor who lived in Kyoto in a lot of cases. As a foreigner living here that was impossible to obtain and even for Japanese people it can be hard if there is no family member willing to do it. In some cases you can pay a yearly fee to a guarantor company to act for you but only some landlords are happy with this. One way you can get around this in some cases is to offer to pay a bigger deposit but again it’ll only work with certain landlords.
If you do find a place and you manage to get permission to move in with a lot of places you also need to pay key money, basically a gift to the landlord for letting you move in to the apartment. This can be as low as half a months rent up to nearly 6 months worth depending on the property!
I spent a few months looking for a new apartment when I wanted to move out of the apartment my company had provided when I first moved to Japan and eventually, I came across a few companies that made life massively easier! There are companies who specialise in renting to foreigners with a number of apartments and sharehouses around Kyoto. Kyoto Apartments and J stay. I found my new apartment with J stay and it was so easy! No key money, no guarantor and a deposit of only 30,000 yen. After months of looking with the usual housing agents with J stay I was able to move into the new apartment a couple of weeks after finding it. Usually with the apartments, bills and internet are included as well which makes your life much easier! Also, as they have a number of apartments and a mix of Japanese and foreign residents they sometimes organise social events so you can meet the other tenants from around town.
If you need to find somewhere to live in Kyoto you should definitely check out their websites.