Renting an apartment anywhere can be expensive, what with deposits, agency fees and moving costs, but renting an apartment in Japan comes with an added expense: key money. Key money, or reikin, is an extra fee that is paid to the landlord on top of deposits, brokerage fees, maintenance fees, fire insurance, and moving costs. It is often referred to as a “gift” since you never get it back. Sort of a thank you since, apparently, in the world of Japanese real estate, words or jars of homemade plum wine aren’t enough. How much will this “thank you” cost? Key money can cost anywhere from 1 to 3 times the rent.
Unsurprisingly, many foreigners say “nani kuso!!!!” to key money and, when relocating, look for a real estate agency that caters to Westerners. “No key money” is plastered across the advertisement. Sometimes brokerage fee. Sometimes deposit. And somehow, we still manage to say “thank you.” There is a reason they have words for that in every language, you know. Thank you.