There's No Place Like Home
  The Fine Art of Apartment Hunting in Kyoto
  Finding an apartment in Japan can be a fairly difficult process. Japan has a unique real estate system involving a lot of special terminology, and a great expense required for moving in. Moreover, some landlords may be biased against renting to foreigners. It is important to do some research ahead of time, and make sure you thoroughly understand your housing contract before moving in.
  Searching for Accommodations:
  The Kyoto International Community House KICH lists properties on their message board and offers a free online housing search service at
  Real Estate Agents. A real estate agent will give you information and show you rooms free of charge. You may want to bring a Japanese friend along to help.
  Housing Magazines. Bookstores sell housing information magazines with descriptions of properties that are managed by real estate agents.
  Internet. See page three for a list of links.
  Student Affairs Office. If you are an exchange student, try asking a counsellor at your school for assistance.
  Tips for Choosing a Property:
  Rent: To be affordable, rent should comprise about a third of your monthly expenses.
  Location: Consider the length of your commute to school or work when choosing a location.
  Facilities: A separate bath/toilet, private kitchen, air conditioning and so forth may be more expensive.
  Sun exposure: Make sure to check the sun exposure of the room (is it blocked by surrounding buildings?), noise level, ventilation and so forth.
  Environment: Is there a nearby train station, supermarket, and so forth? Familiarize yourself with the surrounding area.
  Applying for a Property
  If you decide to use a real estate agent, they will show you listings for various properties. Choose the ones you are interested in, and the agent will take you by car to view the properties, until you find one you are satisfied with.
  Once you have decided on a property, you will fill out an application and pay a non-refundable "contract deposit" fee. The real estate agent will explain the points of the contract to you when you apply. Along with the contract deposit, you may need to pay the following fees before you can move in :
  * 1-2 months rent in advance
  * A housing deposit of 1-3 months rent
  * Nonrefundable "Key" money (typically 1-3 month's rent)
  * The real estate agent's commission fee (1 month's rent)
  * Fire insurance (\10,000 yen per year.)
  The fees will vary depending on the property. Some properties may not require key money, so shop around until you find a price you are satisfied with. You will need the following paperwork to enter a contract: your guarantor's seal and statement of employment, renter's personal seal (hanko), renter's resident alien card, or some other form of ID. A contract will typically last from 1 to 2 years, with a renewal fee of 2 months rent if you wish to extend the contract.
  Finding a Guarantor
  It is necessary to have a guarantor in order to apply for an apartment. Japanese people will typically use a parent, but an employer, older friend, professor, etc. may be used as well. If you are an exchange student and have difficulty finding a guarantor, you can apply for the Exchange Student Guaranty System which allows you to purchase renter's insurance for \7,500 per year, which lessens the burden of responsibility on your guarantor. If you cannot find a person to be your guarantor, you can apply for a joint guaranty through the Consortium of Universities in Kyoto (you must be enrolled in the Guaranty System to do so), in which case the organization will sign in lieu of a guarantor. For more information, please consult the Office of Foreign Students Affairs at your university.
  Ending a contract
  If you decide to end your contract ahead of schedule, inform your landlord at least one month in advance. You may have to pay a fee if you leave your contract early. Before you leave, pay your remaining utility bills (gas, electric and so forth) and thoroughly clean your room. Return your key to the landlord or building supervisor. Repair/Cleaning fees may be deducted from your deposit depending on the condition of the room. You may have difficulty getting your deposit returned, since some landlords will use the money to install new flooring or walls for the next tenant.
  Applying for Public Housing
  Public housing is an alternative for people living within Kyoto Prefecture that is less expensive than renting privately. Call the Municipal Foundation Consolidation Public Corporation Kyoto Office for more information: 075-255-0499
  To apply for public house, you must have a foreigner registration card, live or work within Kyoto City or Kyoto Prefecture, and meet the income eligibility requirement. A guarantor is necessary. For inquiries: Municipal Housing: Kyoto City Housing Public Office 075-681-0541Prefectural Housing: Kyoto Prefecture Housing Provision Public Office: 075-432-2011. For further help and advice about apartment hunting, contact the Kyoto International Community House at 075-752-3511.
  Some Useful Words:
  保証人 ほしょうにん hoshonin :guarantor. This is a person who can vouch for you and will accept responsibility in case of a problem.
  契約 けいやく keiyaku :contract. This is the housing contract that will be created by you, the landlord and your guarantor.
  不動産屋さん ふどうさん屋さん fudosanyasan : real estate
  家賃 やちん yachin: rental fee
  礼金れいきん reikin : Key money is a fee that is paid to the landlord when the contract is made. This money will not be returned.
  敷金 しききん shikikin: Deposit. This is a sum of money held by the landlord in case the renter does not pay rent or there is damage to the property.
  仲介手数料 ちゅうかいてすうりょう chukai tesuryo : Agent's comission. This is money paid to the real-estate agent as compensation for helping you find an apartment.
  共益費 きょうえきひ kyoekihi :"common use fee" this is a fee to pay for the electricity and maintenance of common use areas in the building such as hallways, stairs etc. In some cases it's included as part of the rent, in other times it's charged separately.
  契約の手付金 けいやくのてつけきん keiyaku no tetsukekin : Contract deposit. This is money that serves to "reserve"a property before the contract is finalized, and is eventually included with the key money. In the case that an application is cancelled, this money will not be returned.
  更新料 こうしんりょう koshinryo : Renewal fee. If you wish to extend your contract after the initial period, this additional amount must be paid.
  解約引き かいやくひき kaiyaku hiki :Cancellation of contract. This amount is decided at the time the contract was made, and the corresponding amount taken from the deposit when the renter decides to leave before the contract is finished.
  アパート apato. : A wooden building under two stories.
  ハイツ haitsu: A building constructed from a lightweight steel framework.
  マンション mansion: A steel frame concrete building over three stories tall.
  LDK: L stands for living room, D stands for dining room, K stands for kitchen. There is a number written before "LDK". 2 LDK indicates two rooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen.
  US: stands for "Unit Bath" in which bath, toilet and sink are included in one room.
  セパレート Separate: Bath and sink and toilet are contained in separate rooms.
 Ver. Korean    Ver. Chinese
Japanese Sweets in Kyoto
March: 引千切り Hichigiri

  In Japan, people celebrate the Girl's Festival (ひな祭り) on March 3rd of every year. Generally speaking, families with daughters will display beautiful dolls in their homes dressed in the costumes of the Imperial Court wedding ceremony. There are various celebrations that have been passed down through the years in each region of Japan. As the seat of the Imperial Palace for 1,000 years, Kyoto has a unique type of wagashi that is eaten around the time of the Girl's Festival. This sweet is called Hichigiri(引千切り・ひちぎり) which literally means "pulled apart", and originated as a simple "pulled-off" piece of rice cake. Hichigiri can also be written with the kanji「引契り」 which means a "marriage knot" expressing a desire for children.
   Hichigiri used to be made at an annual ceremony at the Imperial palace so it was available only for wealthy families. These days anyone can buy this wagashi at certain Japanese sweet shops in Kyoto. Though this sweet will vary slightly according to the shop, hichigiri tends to be made from a ball of azuki bean jam placed on a piece of gyuhi(求肥・ぎゅう) rice powder kneaded with water, sugar and glutinous starch syrup) or a rice cake in the image of a rice scoop or a snail with a "pulled" tear drop shape. The rice cake or gyuhi is seasoned with Yomogi(蓬・よもぎ mugwort) an herb that comes into season at this time of year. Hichigiri is made only during the Girl's Festival season and must be ordered in advance from certain Japanese sweet shops in Kyoto.
-A. Kanitani
Designed by S. Marui (HP Volunteer)