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Have you ever experienced discrimination when trying to rent an apartment in Japan? If yes, what were the circumstances?


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Yes, routinely. In nearly every case, "This apartment doesn't rent to foreigners." One rental agency told me outright that they refuse to serve foreigners at all. I always eventually find a place, but I don't think I've ever had even a single apartment-hunting experience without at least one person discriminating against foreigners, and I've changed apartments several times as I've moved about the country.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

(1) as a caveat this was about 20 years ago. (2) to forestall the apologists, I am well aware of discrimination against potential renters that exists in (fill in the blank) country. I'm also aware that you have a friend who has had, or you have personal experience with, a foreigner behaving not ideally. Those people should rightly be called out and subject to the full extent of the laws in place.

Anyways, I assume that things have improved 20 years on? most of the trouble was with estate agents rather than landlords (in my experience). This was pre- Suumo or At Home so some of you will remember the routine: visit agent, make and receive fake smile, you select a place, agent calls and after the usual pleasantries drops the word "gaijin" or "gaikokujin" into the conversation, phone call ends and you get the batsu arm cross.

You ask why and the agent explains that he (landlord) or one of his friends had "trouble" with foreigners before so... (curious how Japanese trouble tenants never seem to be given the same treatment).

Then on to the next place in the mountain of paper on the agent's desk. This process, along with the extremely invasive questions asked during the application process were a real eye opener to my wife who had never seen that side of her homeland before. She was not best pleased to say the least.

Anyways, the very place we wound up renting for quite awhile I had 3 local agents look me straight in the eye and give me the "no gaijin" pantomime. The 4th knew the landlord, took me to meet him and we had the apartment that same day. Still, glad to have bought a place we like and not have to go through that anymore.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

One of the reason I chose my current apartment is because there was no need for a guarantor.

I passed every conditions (yearly income, etc...), but I still got asked to get a guarantor.

"If you were japanese it would all be ok, but because you're a foreigner, the owner asks that you get a guarantor" is what I was told explicitly.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Yep, same as above. Was about 15 years ago, young western couple moving to Japan (tokyo) for a year, financially ok etc.

most of the trouble was with estate agents rather than landlords (in my experience). 

It was exactly the opposite for me. Real estate guys were always kind & helpful (was often on my own as my partner had a ft job) and I still do believe, perhaps naively, that they all genuinely thought we were 'nice gaijins', i mean nice enough to live in a J-only neighborhood.

Landlords disagreed though. I still remember those 'let's confirm with the landlord' phone calls (usually at the apartment): first 5min - all good, then '-jin...ah, sumimasen...ah, sumimasen...". Post call debrief: him, sheepish look, "Ah, am so sorry ...". Me: "is it because we're gaijin, please tell me -san"..."hmmm, n...yes, am so sorry, i told him that you're good ppl, there would be no pbm & that you offered to pay 6 months rent up front but...." Quite a humbling experience i have to say.

We tried for about a month and finally accepted it was time to cut our losses & move into one of those dreadful, gaijin-only, prefabricated units (leo palace type).

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I remember going into a real estate agent's office in Shimokitazawa. The lady behind the counter took one look at me, crossed her arms in the Japanese "no!" gesture and said, "Gaijin, Dame!"

Was that discrimination?

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I have found Able to be successful in finding a place for me all three times I have moved over the years here, including recently. They have a capable English speaker who represented me well to the landlord and building owner. Heard the same qualms about having had trouble with a gaijin before over the trash rules (things are set out on the street on certain days). Of course, that implies that there have never been any trouble with the Japanese renters and the trash. I said I had lived before under these conditions, so no problem. Very much enjoying my new place now and am about to take my bag o'gomi out to the join its mates on the streets below. Not all rental stories are bad ones. However, on my own, I have been turned down for not being Japanese before, plenty of times.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I had trouble even buying a house. Only a certain few houses were available to me out of many that were for sale even though I had the money! Before buying a house I never had trouble renting because my wife mainly dealt with the rental agents. That said, our Japanese neighbors have always been atrocious. Loud noises at all times, throwing garbage out their windows, TVs at full volume, and throwing unwanted mail on the stairs and around the mailbox, and other acts. I don't know any foreigner here that causes problems for anyone at their apartment. What it comes down to is just pure racism.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I've never NOT faced racism when renting a place in Japan. It's literally happened every time - and I used to rent apartments for staff as part of my job, so I've gone through the rental process at least two or three dozen times.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Sad to say ‘yes’

However, it’s not surprising really as Japanese law does not provide redress for discrimination.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yes, of course! And what were the circumstances? Totally normal. I wanted to rent an apartment. I went to a real estate agent. He was very nice, contacted some landlords on my behalf. More than a few explicitly said they didn't want to rent to a non-Japanese national. It took a little while, but the agent finally contacted a landlord who wasn't so brazenly prejudiced. In Japan, these experiences as a foreign national just come with the territory when you try to go about finding a place to live like any ordinary Japanese citizen does. Why should there be any difference?

And before somebody inevitably comments that landlords also discriminate in America or Britain or wherever, FYI in my home country I could easily be mistaken for a non-citizen but my nationality has never been an issue when looking to rent an apartment.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I have been lucky in the 3 times we have moved here so far. As another poster said, Able is quite friendly to foreigners; though its possible they just screen out the ones that dont deal with foreigners when showing the places to me. But in most cases (while searching) i have found the place online, and came in to directly inquire about the place. I know their trick is to find two more places for you to look at, so you have a choice of three, followed by some pressure to pick one out of those that you looked at. I guess we made the real estate agent work for their commission, often looking at 10-15 different places before deciding.

I have even asked directly - do you have landlords who refuse foreigners... And they told me it used to be more common but very rare these days. But that is Tokyo, and i am looking in the eastern suburbs where there are high numbers of well-integrated foreigners (compared to perhaps shibuya or shinjuku where you get the 'fresher' ones looking to have a good time)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes. It was humiliating. My wife, son and I went to see an apartment with the agent. After expressing interest we were in the parking lot outside and he phoned up the management company which owned the building and after a short chat he got that pained expression on his face and broke the news to us: no foreigners.

Usually they'll avoid you the embarrassment by steering you away from places that don't allow foreigners before taking you out to see them but somehow this flew under the radar. I was so mad.

It ended up for the best for us, we ended up ditching the idea of renting an apartment ( we were just moving within the city since we needed more space) and bought a house instead, which was way better.

Ironically you face less discrimination in buying a property here than you do in renting one (provided you have PR).

4 ( +4 / -0 )


I remember going into a real estate agent's office in Shimokitazawa. The lady behind the counter took one look at me, crossed her arms in the Japanese "no!" gesture and said, "Gaijin, Dame!"

Was that discrimination?

No,she was just a bit scared.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

zaitoizugoodo - surprised to hear that you had problems buying a house as a foreigner. We looked at a number of places, the estate agent usually hesistantly asked if I had permanent visa and relaxed as soon as I said I had. The mortgage is also in my name rather than my Japanese wife's and the bank (Mizuho) was fine too.

Never heard of nationality-based problems from other non-Japanese buying houses either.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I had trouble even buying a house. Only a certain few houses were available to me out of many that were for sale even though I had the money! Before buying a house I never had trouble renting because my wife mainly dealt with the rental agents.

Why did you have trouble with buying? Was it with the banks or the owners? I didn't face any trouble in buying so long as I had PR, after which my purchase was treated exactly the same as for a Japanese national. Sellers don't care who buys since they'll never have to deal with you again (unlike landlords in a rental which explains the discrimination there) and the banks only care that you aren't going to leave the country (satisfied if you have PR and can prove income).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

JT users seem to consistently have negative experiences in this area. Maybe that's a sign that further investigation and dare I say, reporting, would provide a benefit to the people most likely to use the site and patronize the ads used to pay for it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )


In Kyoto, through a small local Kyoto-only agency. There were 4 places we looked at but the agent said clearly, "I'm going to call the landlords to make sure they're ok with foreigners" For all the calls he made, he mentioned I'm employed, with an employed Japanese husband (kon-in todoke all done proper) plus his dad as our guarantor, and a visa valid for a longer term than an initial renter's contract, but nope, three landlords said no outright and the reasons they cited were that foreigners=noise and trash. Then when we finally found a place to look at where the landlord was open to foreigners, my husband said we were going to wear our business clothes and speak only Japanese. I don't know if that helped or not but were finally able to get that room.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

At least my agent tried his best for me - he said "no it's not like that, he's not Chinese or anything, he's a good foreigner!"

but without success.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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