Here's where I rant about the hoops you need to jump through to get an apartment in Tokyo. Don't worry, it ends shitty!
So first off, recognize that you will be dealing with a lot of people. There are more players than you are used to if you are from America. Everytime I rented back in Cali, you just paid some dude 1st and last month's rent and you were good. Not the same.
Break it down!
Real Estate Company - Fudosan - 不動産
When you rent an apartment, you do it through a real estate company, rarely direct from the owner. These companies are everywhere, especially near the stations.
Management Company - Kanri Gaisha - 管理会社
The company that... manages stuff. Not sure, but they probably maintain the grounds and security and what not. If you, the tenant, have a problem, you go to the real estate company. I guess they go to the management in turn. Whatever. It's some dudes who take a cut.
Guarantee Company - Hoshonin Gaisha - 保証人会社
This is some old bullshit going on, so let me explain it. If you are a foreigner, or a woman, or young, you need to have someone co-sign your place. Fair enough. But they have to be Japanese, and usually rich, and usually a relative. If you can't pay rent, they are liable. Since most poor people don't have rich family, you can pay a guarantee company, like an insurance policy.
Owner - アスーホル
This is the guy who actually owns the place. He can take a backseat the whole time, and usually does. Just some guy collecting a check, maybe living in the same building. You don't deal with them directly. Sometimes the owner subleases to another owner, who then rents it out to you. This is the homeboy who get's your reikin as well. The no-explanation gift-money that only exists in Japan.
When I first started looking, I was yet to be homeless, and very casually expressed interest in a room in Higashi-Nakano, a few minutes train from busy Shinjuku station. I dragged my feet at all the expenses; the gift money, the real estate fee, the 2 month deposit. When I became homeless, I quieted the stingy little man inside and said, 'Whatever, I just want a room. I'll pay.' Money talks, bullshit walks.
So... first month's rent is $1000, yachin, 家賃. Fine. Deposit, shikikin, 敷金, is another $1000. Ok. $1000 for the real estate company, chukai tesuryo, 仲介手数料, and $1000 for the owner's gift money, reikin, 礼金. This is normal. Now, $500 to the guarantor, hoshokin, 保証金 (?). Not bad, I thought it would be a whole month's rent. Like I said, I don't really care, I just want to move. I'll think about all the cool stuff I could have bought with that cash at a later date.
Then came the hoops. My visa renewal had been OKed, but since my passport was stolen, I needed to wait for that to arrive before I could get the new visa. Also my Alien Card shows that I have overstayed my legal welcome in Japan. So the Alien Card is waiting on the visa stamp, which is waiting on the passport, which is waiting on the American embassy. And, I don't have a stable address, so I'm relying on my work address. A job that I am now on summer holiday from. Every one of these steps requires roughly half a day of riding trains and filling out forms. And every one of the aforementioned companies is confused as hell as to what is going on, so I'm trying to explain to them the situation on a daily basis.
Then came more hoops. All the aforementioned companies want proof that I can pay. The fact that I'm about to give them like $7000 up front isn't enough, they want my tax slips from last year. Proof of income. Which is normal, but remember, all my stuff was stolen. That includes paperwork. So now I have to go to my job and request some papers. More time. Oh, I have 4 sources of income. More time times 4.
I actually don't mind wasting time on this stuff. But in the summer, I go away for almost 2 months to work at summer camps, far away from Tokyo, and don't have internet. My dream was to get the ball rolling, then be able to move the day after I got back. I was working from 9am until 9pm, and didn't get cell reception anyways, so I was out of any sort of loop that might exist between all these people who want my money.
Then the waiting game. A week later, standing on the top of a mountain in Izu (only place with cell reception near my camp), I got word that the guarantor gave the go ahead. Later still, the management company decided that I was worthy. Then, a week after that, the owner himself chimed in.
No reason. Just rejected.
The place had multiple vacancies, so your guess is as good as mine. I'm trying to stay away from the 'He must be a xenophobe' angle, but I can't think of any other possibility. Fucking racist. Maybe?
So now I'm jumping through hoops, again, with a different room. And going back for another couple weeks of summer camp.