Osaka is Japan's third-most populous city after Tokyo and Yokohama, and space comes at a premium. Expats looking for accommodation in Osaka will need to have a clear idea of their needs and wants. Proximity to work and schools, transport links and budget are a few of the main aspects to consider when renting in Osaka.
Areas and suburbs in Osaka
Osaka is divided into several distinct areas and suburbs, each with its own unique appeal. The bustling central area, known as Chuo Ward, is a hub for business and entertainment. This area is home to the famous Dotombori Street and is where most expats working in the city will find themselves.
Kita Ward, often referred to as Umeda, is another key business district with numerous shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. For families, the areas of Tennoji and Sumiyoshi are popular due to their family-friendly amenities, including parks and schools.
Minato Ward, located near Osaka's port, offers a slower pace of life. It's popular among expats due to its convenient access to the city centre and relative affordability. Lastly, those seeking a more traditional Japanese experience might consider the historic district of Osaka Castle Park, located in Chuo Ward.
See Areas and Suburbs in Osaka for more about the city's neighbourhoods.
Types of accommodation in Osaka
In Osaka, apartments are the most easily found type of accommodation and are a common choice among expats. Generally, the closer apartments are to public transport and the city centre, the more expensive they become. Newer housing is also pricier than older builds.
Most apartments fall into one of two categories: apato and manshon. Older buildings, usually no higher than two storeys and made of wood or light steel, are known as apato. Although cheaper, they are less comfortable than manshon, newer builds are made of more sturdy materials, such as concrete.
Some expats, especially young ones on a budget, opt to live in a gaikokujin house. This is a large house shared by several inhabitants, often foreigners. Setups can differ from house to house but typically comprise small individual flatlets or large rooms with shared common areas.
Finding accommodation in Osaka
As is the case throughout Japan, the rental market in Osaka is competitive. Doing research beforehand on the local housing market, including typical costs and desirable areas, can help expats to get a jump-start on the process before moving. Online property portals and expat forums can be useful sources of information.
When the time comes to begin the search, expats should go through a real-estate agent, as landlords are often hesitant to rent to foreigners. In addition, good agents can usually speak both English and Japanese well and have comprehensive knowledge of the local areas.
Renting accommodation in Osaka
Making an application
When making an application for an apartment, expats will need to fill out an application form provided by the real estate agency. This usually includes providing information about employment status and income. Expats should also prepare for a credit check. In some cases, a personal interview with the landlord may also be necessary.
It's important to note that expats may be required to provide a guarantor – a Japanese resident who agrees to cover the rent if the tenant fails to do so. Some companies offer guarantor services to foreigners for a fee if they do not have someone who can take on this role.
Leases, costs and fees
Rental leases in Osaka are usually for two years. While there's no legal limit on the deposit, it's typically equivalent to one to three months' rent. Another unique aspect of renting in Japan is the 'key money' or reikin, a non-refundable payment to the landlord which can be equivalent to one to two months' rent. This isn't always charged, but it's common in Osaka.
The rent doesn't usually include utilities or maintenance fees (for communal areas such as gardens and lifts). Tenants will need to pay these separately. In addition, real-estate agencies charge a commission fee, usually equivalent to one month's rent.
Lastly, tenants should be aware that when renewing a lease, it's common to pay a renewal fee. This is usually equivalent to one month's rent but can vary.
See Accommodation in Japan for detailed information on the rental process in the country.
Utilities in Osaka
Usually, utilities are a separate cost on top of rent. However, in some cases, the landlord might arrange utilities and include them in the rental price. It's therefore essential to carefully read the terms of the lease to see what is and isn't included.
Electricity in Osaka is usually billed monthly based on usage. When moving in, tenants can set up an account with the local electricity provider, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO). Costs can vary depending on the season, with usage typically higher in summer and winter due to heating and cooling needs.
Gas is used for cooking and heating water in most Osaka homes. Like electricity, it is billed monthly based on usage. Osaka Gas is the major supplier in the region. When moving in, tenants need to call the gas company to have the gas turned on and the meter read.
The drinking water in Osaka comes from the Yodo River and the water supply is reliable and safe to drink from the tap. It is billed every two months based on usage. To set up a water account, tenants need to contact the Osaka City Waterworks Bureau.
Osaka follows a strict rubbish sorting and disposal system, with different types of waste collected on designated days. Waste in Japan is typically separated into burnable and non-burnable rubbish, and as such, most households will have two distinct bins.
Burnable waste is usually collected two to three times per week while non-burnable waste is collected only once. Tenants are responsible for disposing of their waste following local guidelines. Failure to comply can result in fines.
Internet and telephone
There are many providers offering internet and telephone services in Osaka. Major providers include NTT, KDDI and Softbank. Packages can vary significantly in terms of price and speed, so it's important to compare options. Some providers may require a minimum contract term, usually 24 months, and early termination fees may apply.