When moving to Japan, worrying about your visa, passport, job, living space, and airplane ticket all take up valuable brain-space Many people who move to Japan just opt to rent a furnished apartment.
If you plan to stay in Japan for only a year, I would suggest renting a furnished place. If you are planning to stay in the same place in Japan for a while, it may be more cost-efficient to rent an unfurnished Japanese apartment.
Since I recently moved to an unfurnished place in Japan, I drew up this list of five appliances you will need if you choose an unfurnished Japanese apartment.
Recommended sites for buying inexpensive appliances:
Craigslist: It costs money to throw away items in Japan. Throwing away appliances and other large items is especially expensive. Thus, many people who move from Japan have “sayonara sales.” They try to sell their items for cheap or give them away on the Craigslist website. I’ve had a lot of success getting cheap items this way. My favorite way to furnished an unfurnished Japanese apartment.
Amazon: If you can read some Japanese or have a friend who can, the Amazon.com website is a great option. English navigation is also available, but some item descriptions are only in Japanese. Items from Amazon usually arrive within one or two days, particularly if you are living in Tokyo.
Kakaku: A Japanese website that compares prices of items from different online stores. Only available in Japanese.
Recommended Japanese stores for buying inexpensive appliances:
Don Quijote: Very inexpensive, a little gaudy, but often the go-to store for non-Japanese or younger people here.
Bic Camera: A huge box-store that sells electronics. They also have a good selection of home goods.
Recycle shops: There are tons of second-hand stores in Japan. Interestingly, I’ve found them to be more common outside of Tokyo. You can also sell your items to these stores. You might not get much money, but it’s more eco-friendly and cheaper than throwing the item away. Some well-known Japanese recycle shops that are good to fill your unfurnished Japanese apartment are Hard-off and Don Family.
JPY to USD: As of May 2013, the conversion has been about 100 Japanese yen to 1 US dollar.
5 Essential Appliances for Unfurnished Japanese Apartments
1. Ceiling Light
Description: A light for your ceiling. Naturally. Circle-type LED lights are the most popular, but hanging lights are also available.
Cost: From 3,000 yen to over 20,000 yen
- Decide what type of light you want (LED, circular, hanging, dimming, with remote, etc.) Keep in mind that hanging lights are harder to clean.
- Check what kind of socket you have. Most lights and sockets are the typical two-pronged type.
- Install. You’ll probably need a ladder! Usually with circle-type lights, the circular plug connector piece goes in first. Then you put the LED light component, followed by the plastic shade. Other lights may install differently.
My experience: I went three weeks without a ceiling light. This probably contributed a lot to me getting a serious case of the blues in my lonely, unfurnished Japanese apartment. You may want to consider buying this item first. I tried buying one off a Craigslist, but I was sold one that was missing a component. I ended up borrowing a coworkers aquarium light. He was apparently pretty hard-core into keeping fish; this light was really bright. After a week of aquarium-living, I finally bought an LED circle light off of Amazon for about 4,000 yen. I’m a very happy person now.
2. Washing machine
Description: A machine to wash your clothes. Most people in Japan dry their clothes outside, but combination washer/dryers are available, as well as separate dryers.
Cost: From 15,000 yen to over 50,000 yen
- Decide what kind of functions you want for your washing machine (for example, washing, rinsing, load indicator, timer, scheduled wash, dryer, etc.)
- Check the size of the area for your washing machine.
- Purchase a washing machine.
- Make sure washer comes with these items: water intake pipe, four-screw faucet connector for the water intake pipe, water output pipe, washing machine connector for water output pipe, connecting elbow pipe between water output pipe and drain, connector tie for elbow pipe.
- Check about transportation. Washers are actually relatively light, but may be too bulky to carry alone up stairs.
- Connect washing machine water intake pipe to faucet. Then, connect water output pipe to drain, Last, plug in washing machine. Enjoy nice-smelling clothes.
My experience: I bought a 1,000 yen washing machine off of Craigslist. It is leaky and has some of the buttons worn off, but… it was 1,000 yen, and it is currently washing my whites. I can’t complain. I paid about 10,000 yen to transport the washer and gas stove. My unfurnished Japanese apartment felt a little more furnished after the washer came.
3. Cooking stove
Description: A kitchen counter-top machine run on electricity or gas that heats up to give you delicious food.
Cost: From 15000 yen to over 30000 yen
- Check size of area for stove.
- Determine what kind of stove you need: city gas, LP gas, or electric. See this site for details.
- Determine what you want your stove to have (one or two heating elements, grill, etc.)
- If gas stove, make sure gas stove comes with hose to connect to gas line and connector snaps.
- Also buy a metal wall protector to protect surrounding area from splatters.
My experience: I bought a 1,000 yen gas stove off of Craigslist from the same guy who sold me the washing machine. I paid 10,000 yen to have the gas stove and washer taken to my unfurnished Japanese apartment, which is about 45 minutes away from the pick-up location. The gas stove is a little, well, crusty, but works just fine. Plus, I can’t cook, so whatever.
Description: A cooling machine to keep your perishables fresh. Usually comes with a freezer.
Cost: 8,000 yen to over 30,000 yen
- Decide what kind of fridge you’d like (freezer, no freezer, mini, full-size, ice-cube maker, etc.)
- Measure the space you have for your fridge.
- Buy a fridge, keeping in mind weight and how you’ll transport it. This is a big concern for refrigerators since they are heavy and since not all apartments have elevators.
My experience: The cheapest refrigerator I found was for around 3000 yen on Amazon. However, it doesn’t have a freezer. But since I always eat ice-cream within 1 hour of buying or receiving it, I don’t need a freezer.
Description: A heating and cooling machine that ensures you don’t die of frostbite in winter or heat stroke in summer. Many people get away with just a fan in summer and heater in winter, but most use A/C. Also, since most people move at the end of the fiscal year, around March, you can usually get away with not buying one until June, depending on where you live.
Cost: over 15,000 yen (usually over 50,000 yen new)
- Determine where your A/C will be installed.
- Check the A/C area for size.
- Buy your A/C unit.
- Schedule transportation and installation (should be installed by a professional).
- Bask in the modern luxury that is conditioned air.
My experience: I actually don’t have an A/C unit yet. I’m coasting along by using my heater for the chilly May nights. We’ll see what happens when summer comes.
These are the five appliances that I think are most essential to buy for your unfurnished Japanese apartment. Honorable mentions go to microwave ovens, toasters, TVs, and futon-dryers, which will probably be the topic of the next post.
Are there any other essentials? Where did you buy your furnishings?