To begin, I must say that finding a place to live in Tokyo is a chore. I am not exactly sure how it is in other countries, but compared to the US, it is really troublesome.
There are many different options to live in as a foreigner in Japan, here is a list:
- Dorms: Some are mixed, some are not. It is always all boys or all girls. Some you will have prepared meals, shared facilities, and a nice public bath. There are also ones that are like individual studio, with kitchenette and bathroom. Cons: Usually have a curfew(and they WILL lock you out), need to report whenever you are not coming home, hit or miss when it comes to the managers.
- Guesthouse: In short, it is a room in a house with shared facilities. There are guesthouses with only Gaijin and ones that are mixed with Japanese people. In general though, majority seem to be Gaijin only. Pro: cheap, big kitchen, possibility of having interesting housemates, and most of the time it is furnished
- Apartments:AKA Usagigoya(rabbit hutch). These range in size and in price. In Japan apartments are referred only to buildings with 2 floors. There are furnished and unfurnished
- Mansions: Unfortunately, it isn't what you think...the Japanese refer to it as apartment buildings that are taller than 2 floors. Often they have secured front doors so it's safer. Nicer facilities, and are usually newer buildings. Cons: usually very very expensive
If you manage to get that in order. Not only are you obligated to contract for a year or two,you have to pay a ridiculous amount of move in fees. Which can add up anywhere between 3-6 months worth of rent in advance. There is the deposit, commission, managerial , and gift fee(which is absolutely preposterous, it's money you give to the owner...i guess to thank them for letting you stay there?)
The deposit you never really get it all back, they will always find a reason to keep most of it. One is the cleaning fee which about $200-$300. No matter how much you clean it(which you need to) they will send in professionals to clean it after you anyways.
I've lived in a dorm and apartment personally. I pay more for my apartment in total, but I lived in a new well lit apartment.
My personal recommendations for people staying less than a year, and wants to not worry about additional costs is to look at furnished room on these sites:
If you are currently located in Tokyo, there are free magazines that you can get at HMV and Tower Records called METROPOLIS and BULLETIN BOARDS. These both have classifieds as well as addition useful information.
Good luck house hunting. You are welcome to questions and comments!