Living in the dorms is the easy part. It’s finding an apartment that might be the hard part for some. From going to city hall to changing the address, to actually finding an apartment that welcomes foreigners, to having renter’s insurance, and having the money needed for the down-payment, this can be quite overwhelming for students. Thankfully, many students are assigned tutors to help, and there is Kagoshima University Co-op which can make the process for apartment hunting a bit easier.
It is important after you have found your apartment, to change your address at City Hall. The forms at City Hall are in Japanese and if you don’t have access to a tutor that can help you, you would have to do what we did and ask City Hall to provide us with someone who can speak English. Kagoshima City Hall actually employs a few foreigners to help out in moments like these when foreigners come. There are dozens of forms to be filled out and lots of information will be handed at once so a translator would help tremendously.
Another aspect of moving into a new apartment that is important is obtaining a comprehensive renter’s insurance, and this form, as well as guidelines are available at Kagoshima University International Student Office (The premium is ¥4,000/ 1 year and ¥8,000/2 years). Having an insurance will facilitate the requirement for guarantor that all apartment have in Japan. A guarantor is basically another person (Japanese person) whose name you will give to the landlord or realtor as the second person to contact in case they cannot get in contact with you in terms of rent or any other issue. Most often, we put our supervising professors as our guarantors since we see them every day and they would naturally be our first contact in Japan.
Many apartment contracts are for 2 years and if broken, there is a penalty. Some require you to let them know 2-3 months in advance if you’ll be moving out. At that time, they will also arrange an inspection day to decide whether the apartment is left in good enough condition to refund the initial security deposit, which is usually one month’s rent. Many will take out from that deposit what they deem necessary to make repairs or paint and clean the apartment.
Initially, some apartments require you to pay 3-4 months (sometimes even 6 months) worth of rent as a non-refundable deposit, along with a key cutting fee, and sometimes all this can add up to 200,000-300,000 yen depending on the place.
Our last apartment was a pleasure to rent! The landlord is a wonderful, sweet person that even allowed my friends from The Bahamas to stay in a vacant nearby apartment for FREE for a couple of days. How many persons would do that!? He came to visit me in the hospital when I gave birth to my daughter, and brought us fruits. He printed our names so that we can stick it on our apartment door. He even came one evening when we were trying to find a hospital for our daughter who was sick. He picked us up and carried us to a nearby hospital. Much thanks to his lovely wife for allowing him to come to our rescue, that evening.