There are plenty of options for student accommodation in Japan, but they might not all be right for you. Before searching on your own, be sure to contact your university’s international office to talk about what type of housing is best for you. Many international programmes offer affordable housing for students and will assist you in your search if you ask.
Types of accommodation
Dormitories, or dorms, are provided for students by the university. Rooms are usually shared between two or three people, with a communal kitchen and bathroom shared with the rest of the floor. Dorms are a great way to get to know people that attend your university, as the only people that live in dorms are university students. Dorms are often the closest option to a university, so you may end up saving money in transportation costs (depending on the size of your institution).
While dorms are a great fit for some students, they usually have additional rules – like a curfew – that some students do not like. This type of accommodation, as well, usually serves undergraduate students and may not be the best choice if you plan on bringing your family with you.
Students that live on campus usually pay an additional amount of money directly to the university. At times, this can be the cheapest option because there is no need to buy furniture or appliances, as dorms come with basic furniture, and sometimes meals are included in the price. Check with your institution to see if you are eligible for campus housing.
Certain programmes offer opportunities to live with a Japanese family. This allows students to work on their language skills and assimilate into Japanese culture and even gain their own 'Japanese family'! If your programme offers this opportunity, you will normally pay the institution directly for the accommodation just like with a dorm. Like dorms, homestays may also have additional rules that you would be expected to follow because you would be living in another person’s home. Homestay accommodation can often be the most culturally enriching, so why not consider it!
You always have the option of finding your own accommodation, which is often popular among the more independent students, or mature students. This is also the most popular option for Japanese students, as around 70% of all students live off campus, but it can get competitive because space is limited. If you choose to rent your own house or apartment, you would be solely responsible for your finances and, often, for furnishing the apartment.
Additionally, if you choose to rent your own home you may need to find a guarantor, which is a Japanese person that will be responsible for your actions and payment. Universities will sometimes provide a guarantor to students, but be sure to check with your international office. Your institution may also be able to provide resources that help you find private accommodation.
If you are planning on staying in Japan for a limited amount of time, this may be the best option for you. These houses are usually less expensive than renting your own apartment, although they may not be as modern, and can be rented for weeks or months at a time. Sometimes gaijin houses provide rooms for rent with a shared bathroom and kitchen, but single apartments are becoming more and more popular. Check with your institutions international office to see if a gaijin house is the best option for you.
Tips for finding accommodation
Know your budget. Housing can become expensive, so make sure you know how much you will have to spend each month on living.
Be aware of additional expenses. If you rent your own home you will have to pay for you own food and transportation, among other costs.
Look around. Finding your own accommodation is important, so you may not want to commit to the first place you find. Keep looking for the option that fits you best.
Begin looking early. It can be very stressful to try to find accommodation at the last minute, so make sure you start looking as soon as you think you’ll be living in Japan.