Real Estate


Securing your Home Against Burglary

Although a very safe country to live in generally, not even Japan is completely free of crime.  It is easy to let one’s guard down living in a safe and comfortable city like Nagoya, but continued awareness and vigilance will ensure the safety of your home and family.

The goal of this article is not to frighten you, but to acknowledge that crime and burglaries happen, even in super safe Japan,  and to outline for our clients and readers simple methods available to prevent you from becoming a victim of burglary in Japan.

Home Burglaries in Japan

Home burglaries are an unlikely possibility in Japan, but  it is important not to let one’s guard down as they do occur. As a matter of fact, Aichi Prefecture has earned the unfortunate distinction of being the prefecture with the highest number of home burglary incidents five years in a row (2008-2013).

Although the number of burglaries varies significantly from year to year, the number of incidents remains high overall in Aichi Prefecture when compared to Japan as a whole. The Meito Ku Police Department reported 226 incidents of burglary in 2012; a 3.7% increase over 2011’s total of 218. As a whole, both Nagoya City and Aichi Prefecture saw a slight decrease in incidents between 2011 and 2012 (a 12% decrease from 4,159 to 3,660 and a 12.8% decrease of 13,121 to 11,441 respectively).

The most significant increases in burglaries were the 25.5% reported by Showa-ku (home to the Yagoto area) and Meito-ku’s 3.7%. Coupled with the overall decrease in incidents, these numbers suggest that burglars are becoming more strategic, targeting more affluent areas.

The graphs below illustrate the increase in burglaries that Meito-ku experienced between 2011 and 2012 despite relevant declines in Nagoya City as a whole. Even one burglary incident in the expat community can be very shocking, with word of mouth traveling quickly. But rather than succumbing to free-floating worry about the possibility of a break-in, we would like to introduce some of the many preventative measures you can take to protect your home.

* According to the Aichi Prefecture Police

Preventing Home Burglaries in Japan

The good news is that there are many simple measures you can take to protect your home from falling victim to home invasion. As you can see from the below graph, the methods criminals commonly use to break and enter are actually quite simple. This is good news because it means simple precautionary measures can greatly reduce the possibility of your home being robbed.

* According to the Meito Police Department

Taking These Preventative Measures Against Home Burglaries

Burglary prevention doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming; the most effective measures are often the simplest. Police in Japan advise the use of common sense, and to:

  • Lock all doors and windows even when you are going to be away from your residence for only a short period of time.
  • Use double locks on your doors and windows if they exist, or look into purchasing door jams and additional stoppers for sliding doors and windows.  A simple stick placed in a sliding door jamb will suffice.
  • Talk with your neighbors about your regular day-to-day schedules and inform them if you are going to be away for long periods of time.
  • Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions when planning to be away for long periods of time and have your neighbors collect your mail at regular intervals, or have your mail stopped at the post office for up to 30 days with this form (in Japanese)
  • Leave lamps, stereos, etc. on when you know you are to be away in the early morning or evening. If your Sky Perfect TV system is linked up to an amplifier, one simple thing to do would be to leave the sound of BBC or CNN on to create the illusion of voices coming from inside.
  • Purchase timers to place on your lamps, radios, etc. and set them to come on and off when you are not around or are asleep.
  • Don’t leave valuable items on the seat of your car or close to windows in your home.

Buying Simple Security Equipment

While exercising simple precautions will do much to help you avoid break-ins, for additional peace of mind you may be interested in buying some added security equipment. There is a wide variety of home security items available for purchase throughout Japan. Here are just a few examples of items you can purchase to better protect your home. These types of items can usually be purchased from home centers, electronic stores, or life-style stores like Tokyu Hands.

  • Timers: Automatic timers are a great way to have lights, TVs, radios or other appliances turn on at specified times to give potential thieves the impression that there is somebody at home. There are a good variety of timers available on the Japanese domestic market.
  • Security Lights: Security lights are an effective deterrent. Typically installed on the outside of the property, motion-activated security lights can be a great way to scare off a thief on the prowl. There is a large range of security lights available on the Japanese domestic market, and many of them  require only a minimal amount of effort to install.
  • Simple Alarms: There are some good simple alarm systems that you can employ easily without having to invest in a security company to install and maintain. Some alarms systems will even call or mail your mobile telephone when activated.
  • Window Film: Window film is a very cheap, and effective theft prevention measure. As seen in the above the crime statistics, breaking a glass door or window is by far the most common method of entry. Window film can be used to easily protect against this. Placing the film on windows in areas close to locks, burglars are restricted in their ability to make holes in the glass to reach in and “flick up” door catches. While window film may not completely block entry into your home, coupling it with sliding door locks and other simple deterrents creates much more work for burglars trying to enter a home.
  • Door Jams: These are very effective Western-style homes because one of the sliding doors is typically fixed in place. Simple door jams such as timber measured to fit the door are highly recommended. For Japanese-style homes, however, door-jams are not effective, as both sliding doors move and it is difficult to successfully jam both. For Japanese style homes we would recommend the following alternative.
  • Sliding Door and Window Locks: Although a little more expensive, these are a  better alternative for securing sliding doors and windows. Locks for both sliding doors and windows are very cheap and there is very little difference in price between the purely screw type and the ones that actually have locks and keys

Buying or Renting a Home Security System in Japan

SECOM is the most widely used security company in Japan. Once installed, your residence would be monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a week by infrared sensors within your residence and sensors on the doors and windows. SECOM offers lease systems that can be fitted without making any holes in walls. These are perfect for rental homes and the system that we highly recommend for superior security.

As SECOM really does provide the highest quality security available in Japan, we recommend their services to anyone seeking protection “above and beyond.”  As of the writing of this article, SECOM provides the following sample fees as an approximate estimate (in JPY):

*The above figures are provided for reference only. Actual costs vary.

In addition to the standard SECOM security package above, SECOM offers a variety of other items including safes, camera surveillance, biometric identification systems, etc. You can find out more about the services offered by SECOM by visiting their homepage.

Renter’s, home owner’s or “contents” Insurance Policies

We have shown you a wide variety of options at your disposal to prevent burglaries at home. However, no method is 100% foolproof and to prepare for the unexpected, we suggest that you purchase a reasonable amount of additional insurance coverage “just in case.” We say additional because, as you might already be aware, tenants in Japan are required to enroll in housing insurance upon signing a lease contract. It is important to note that this mandatory housing insurance is for liability purposes (to protect against damages to another apartment should your water break, for example), and such policies offer very minimal coverage for other damages such as theft or fire.

If you are interested in learning more about additional insurance protection for your self or your family, please contact us.  Our Partner, Hoken Sogo Kenkyujyo Co, Ltd (HSK), can answer any questions you might have or help you enroll in a policy that offers an appropriate level of protection for your needs.


Measuring Room Sizes in Japan

2LDK Apartment Example

Some of us have been brought up on feet and inches, while the younger of us know only meters, centimeters and millimeters. However, if you live in Japan, you need to develop a “third sense” when it comes to measuring area. Japan has its own unique measuring system brought down from ancient times.

This starts with the Tatami Mat. Anyone who has been in Japan for a period of time knows about tatami (woven straw mats), and probably know that it is how Japanese people communicate space (or lack of it) in a house or an apartment. A 6-mat room or “roku-jo no heya” in Japanese, is the standard sized room; 4.5 mats would be considered small or slightly cramped, where as an 8-mat or 10-mat room is generally considered to be quite a large room. Contrastingly, an 8-10 mat room would probably the standard size of a bedroom in a western-style home. The tatami mat and its “counter” – jo, are not used only for bedrooms however, but for each individual room including the living / dining / kitchen (known as LDK). A 20-jo LDK would be considered very spacious in a Japanese apartment, where as the standard would probably be 10-15-jo.

You can easily see the use of tatami mats as a counter of room area by taking a look at the floor plans displayed at local real estate agents such as “Mini-Mini”, Apaman-shop, Nissho, etc. Quite often they are referenced by a “J” for the counter “-jo”. For example, the LDK might read 13.0J and the bedrooms 5.5J and 6.0J respectively.

So, how big is a one-jo (ichi-jo in correct Japanese!). Well, it depends where you live in Japan! The standard is close to 1.8 meters x 0.9 meters in a good part of Japan, but due to space constraints in cities such as Tokyo, often tatami are slightly smaller (and this is not an advertised fact- owners are very cunning in populate cities!). Standard Tatami sizes in Tokyo are 1.76 meters x 0.88 meters.

While tatami are used as the “size indicator” of rooms in Japan, it is not so typical to express the overall size of a particular apartment or house in “so-many tatami”. ie. It is not common to add up the tatami count of all the rooms to express the total size. Total size is expressed in either square meters or “tsubo”. Where does Tsubo come from you ask? Well, historically 2-jo = 1 tsubo.


Renewing or Terminating Housing Lease Agreements

Like so much in Japan, every prefecture and region in Japan has different rules, requirements, and most importantly customs in regards to housing and real estate. Like politics, all real estate is local.  In addition to this, any given contract will have variations.  The particulars of yours will be stipulated in the contract you signed.   If you have forgotten the details you should refer back to the contract paperwork for clarification.

Extending or Renewing a Housing Lease

Renewing a housing contract depends heavily on the contract itself, but there are two types of contract common in Japan that you should be aware of.   Your real estate agent is required to point out the type and details of your housing contract, in excruciating detail, when you sign the lease.  If you have forgotten the details of your specific housing contract you should refer back to your contract paperwork; it will be spelled out there.  Most likely, it will be one of the two following types of contract.

Automatically Renewing Contract

The first type of housing lease contract is a 2-year agreement in which the term automatically renews every 2 years unless a cancellation notice is submitted.  The contract simply be renewed for another 2 years with no requirements placed on the lessee (tenant), and no paper work to be done.  You will wake up one morning under a new contract, like magic!

In some cases, the renewal may require the tenant pay a fee at renewal time, usually between a half and a full month’s rent.  If a fee is required it will be stipulated in the contract and the lessor (landlord) will contact you with a bill.

Automatic renewal contracts are the most common type of contract in Japan generally,but  are uncommon in either Tokyo or Yokohama. If a contract in Tokyo or Yokohama IS an automatically renewing, it will almost certainly require a renewal fee.

In contrast, nearly all contracts signed in Nagoya WILL be automatically renewing, and will NOT require a renewal fee.

Fixed Term Contract

The second type of housing lease contract is a fixed term contract. Extending an agreement with a fixed term is a bit more involved.    Fixed term contracts have a “hard stop” at the expiration date, and when the tenant is nearing the end of the agreement a renegotiation of the contract will be required (initiated by the tenant) to extend it; likely for another fixed term.

If the tenant and  landlord agree on new terms, the tenant will need to sign a new housing lease agreement to renew their contract.  In some cases, the renewal may require the tenant pay a fee, usually between a half and a full month’s rent.

These types of contracts are very common, if not the standard contract, in Tokyo and Yokohama.   One exception to this is the high end market, say over 400,000 yen per month in rent, where automatic renewals are more prevalent.

All this, and potentially much more, will be stipulated in the contract you signed.   If you have forgotten the details of your housing contract you should refer back to your contract paperwork.

Terminating or Ending a Housing Lease Agreement in Japan

In general, 2-year leases, whether fixed or automatically renewing, can be cancelled at any time with 30 days’ notice within either the first or subsequent lease term.  There is usually no fee associated with terminating a lease early if the proper notice is given in this case.  Other arrangements are out there, but they are far less common.

Tokyo is a notable exception to this general rule in Japan.  Tokyo contracts tend to require 60 days notice of intent to vacate, again either within the first or subsequent lease term.  There is still generally no fee associated with terminating a lease early with proper notice.

Changing Tenants within an Existing Housing Lease Agreement

For corporate HR supporting an expat in Japan, there is often an interest in simply rolling over an existing lease agreement signed for an outgoing expat to an incoming expat who is taking their place.  This may be possible, but only if the housing lease agreement is signed by the company and the lessor allows the change in tenant.

A change of tenant, where the Lessee name on the housing lease agreement actually changes is not permitted, as this would require a whole new housing lease agreement, review, etc.

If the housing lease agreement is signed by the company, there are a number of possible scenarios depending entirely on the details of the contract.  If there is a restriction, it will be noted on the housing lease agreement. If there are no outright restrictions, relevant clauses may still exist that must be considered.

The following scenarios may be relevant:

  • No restrictions written on the housing lease agreement, hence changing of tenants is not an issue (as long as the property is not used as short term housing for many tenants)
  • No tenant change restriction, but notice is required. In this scenario details (i.e. copy of passport and copy of housing insurance certificate) for the new tenant will be required. While the Lessee (the company who signed the lease) is required to provide documentation on the new tenant, no further documentation will be provided by the property Management Company / landlord regarding the change.
  • Written consent is required from the Lessor to change tenants.  After making an application the property management company / landlord would approve or reject the tenant using their own internal criteria.
  • Tenant changes are not permitted.
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