2018-12-13

Year’s End Closure Announcement

December is in full swing, and the holiday season is upon us!
 

Our office will be closed from December 22nd and reopen on January 10th, 2019.

We are wrapping up a bit earlier this year to allot our hardworking staff some extra quality time with their families, and are so thankful for all of our wonderful clients and developments this year.

We look forwards to once again providing our very best when we return in the new year!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

2018-11-27

A Brief Overview Of Investment Property In Japan

In recent years, Japan has stood out as an attractive region to consider purchasing investment property in for many foreigners, with interest continuing to grow.  In today’s article, we’ll discuss what makes Japan so appealing, where to consider investing and how to work around the main barrier to purchasing for foreigners.

 

  1. Choosing To Invest: Why Japan?
  2. What Areas Are Ideal For Investing In?
  3. Housing Loans In Japan: The Notorious Obstacle To Buying
  4. The Recommended Entry Route For Property Investors
  5. Managing Rentals From Overseas

 

  1. Choosing To Invest: Why Japan?

Likely one of the largest reasons for investing is market price.  Although Japan tends to have an image of being extremely expensive (particularly Tokyo), upon conducting some simply research many foreigners are pleasantly surprised to find that most housing is surprisingly affordable, especially when compared to the steep pricing in other affluent and urban regions such as parts of the United States, Hong Kong, and Europe. (The weaker yen conversion rate in recent years is certainly a contributing factor as well.) Although the price ratio for square meterage remains high in Japan, due to the compact style of apartments the list prices are generally lower and thus offer a more accessible entry into property investment.

Tokyo’s massive population and constant flow of newly incoming residents ensures that demand to housing remains high for steady returns.  In addition, Japan’s residents have a longstanding positive reputation for being clean, quiet, and timely with rent payments, making them ideal tenants for a prospective property owner.

 

  1. What Areas Are Ideal For Investing In?

Tokyo naturally comprises the largest housing market within Japan, but amongst the immensely diverse range of neighborhoods it possesses there are specific areas which are more likely to consistently attract renters.

Centrally-located areas, particularly around Shinjuku, are desirable to renters who are keen to optimize their city commutes, as well as for being convenient, exciting areas to live in.  Minato Ward (which includes highly coveted neighborhoods Roppongi, Azabu-Juban and Hiroo) also remains extremely in demand and stands out as being preferred by many expats, and thus commands a noticeably steeper market price than most other areas.

For lower market prices still coupled with favorable returns, investors may also consider purchasing housing in neighboring prefecture Kanagawa, which is a popular commuter zone for families.

 

  1. Housing Loans In Japan: The Notorious Obstacle To Buying

Despite the overall appeal of housing investments in Japan, when it comes to actually purchasing property most foreigners struggle with the availability of housing loans—or sheer lack thereof—that they may quality for.

The rental screening process in Japan typically demands that applicants earn at least three times the monthly rent, with only domestically earned income being considered.  Similarly, loans follow some sort of domestic income ratio as well (naturally, this rules out any prospective purchasers from overseas).  But even in the case of foreign expats already living in Japan, the requirements have become increasingly strict and difficult to meet over the years. 

To make matters worse, a recent scandal earlier this year (look up “Kabocha no Basha scandal”) involving widespread misuse of housing loans has resulted in banking institutions heavily locking down on the loan screening process.  As a result, it has currently become extremely difficult for even Japanese residents to successfully be approved for a housing loan.

 

  1. The Recommended Entry Route For Property Investors

The simplest workaround to this situation: simply make all purchases fully with cash on hand.  Naturally, this limits the budget with which individual investors have purchasing power for—which brings us back to the initial statement that market pricing in Japan can be relatively inexpensive to purchase in comparison to other countries. 

Smaller single-occupancy 1K apartments in particular stand out as ideal initial property investments for Japan for their relatively affordable prices—in fact, many of these are listed on the market while already occupied.  It is not uncommon for investors to purchase one or two such properties to start, and then gradually build up their property portfolio within Japan over time.

 

  1. Managing Rentals From Overseas

Once the investment property has been purchased, overseas-based investors then entrust local management to a domestic company—typically this simply defaults to the real estate company that assisted with the purchasing.  The property management handles incoming inquiries and conducts screening for prospective new tenants, and in some cases takes care of general onsite maintenance as well. 

Unfortunately, many companies take advantage of the limited and disjointed amount of information available to foreigners by charging management fees extraordinarily over fair market rates—this tends to be particularly rampant in the areas outside of Tokyo where the demographic is less international.  Interested buyers should thus be sure to take note of standard market rates for property management services ahead of time.

 

For more details on purchasing property within Japan (plus how you can manage rentals through FREA), please visit our Purchasing page here.

2018-11-22

Area Spotlight: Yokohama & Kanagawa

With the launch of FREA’s Corporate Housing Solutions recently, we have seen an increase in property searches directed in the Yokohama area!  Most our clients to date tended to stick to the inner 23 wards of Tokyo, so our staff have been actively expanding their reserve of locational information with each subsequent viewing.

At FREA, we have always believed that area location along with the local neighborhood atmosphere are two understated yet highly influential factors on a resident’s overall living experience.  Below are introductions to several noteworthy neighborhoods in Kanagawa prefecture and some defining characteristics of each to help newcomers to Japan narrow down their area selection. Afterwards, we’ll also share some general pointers for making the most of your Kanagawa/Yokohama housing search.

 

  1. Yokohama
  2. Tsurumi/Kikuna
  3. Kawasaki
  4. Effectively Selecting Your New Home Neighborhood Part 1: Location & Commute
  5. Effectively Selecting Your New Home Neighborhood Part 2: Lifestyle Essentials

 

 

  1. Yokohama

Coming in right after Tokyo as the 2nd most populated city in Japan, Yokohama has a wide range of shopping and entertainment options while managing to be considerably less congested than the nation’s capital.  The area surrounding Yokohama station itself is quite commercial and packed with large malls, restaurants and corporate offices.

The Minato Mirai area is one additional stop down and has a charming “coastal town” feel that is highly rated by inhabitants of the greater Tokyo area—as you wander away from the station this segment is peppered with quaint restaurants/cafes and other attractions such as the large neon Ferris Wheel and a modest waterfront theme park.

Looking to stretch your rent budget?  Properties located even just a few stops away from Yokohama Station itself will often slightly dip in pricing, while still being convenient for coming out on weekends to enjoy everything the downtown area has to offer.

 

 

  1. Tsurumi/Kikuna

Tsurumi is a mostly residential neighborhood located midway between Tokyo and Yokohama. Depending on the property location, you may be closer to either Tsurumi Station (JR Keihin Tohoku Line) or Kikuna Station (Tokyu Toyoko Line). 

Both stations offer direct access to the major hub station Yokohama, and being express stops also boast very reasonable travel times into Tokyo—this makes the area an attractive option for expats who are seeking a short commute into Yokohama while also being keen on regular weekend and/or evening trips to Tokyo.  (The JR Keihin Tohoku Line offers rapid service Shinagawa/Tokyo/Ueno stations on the east side, while the Tokyu Toyoko Line takes as little as 20 minutes to reach major western hub Shibuya and provides through-service to Shinjuku/Ikebukuro.)

 

  1. Kawasaki

Located northwest of Tsurumi and even closer to Tokyo is Kawasaki, which ranks 8th in Japan’s most populated cities and contains many industrial conglomerates.  A large urban city in its own right, JR Kawasaki Station is massive with two connecting shopping malls and several other major retailers (Yodobashi Camera, Tokyu Hands) nearby. 

Also of potential interest to Western expats is the Costco warehouse located in the east side of town, which stocks various American products (including large cuts of meat) that are often difficult to obtain elsewhere in Japan.

 

 

  1. Effectively Selecting Your New Home Neighborhood Part 1: Location & Commute

As with all substantial lifestyle decisions, research is key!  At FREA, we do kindly urge prospective residents to try to gather as much input from the local surroundings directly as possible.  The Kanagawa area tends to be noticeably more hilly than Tokyo with steep stretches of stairs in many residential areas, so it is essential to physically visit a potential property—not only to gauge the walking time, but also to see if there are more altitude-efficient routes available.  

For example, one station may be closer distance-wise but involve a steep flight of stairs, while the adjacent station may add a few extra minutes of traveling time but be a much smoother walking incline.  Full-time employees in Japan typically receive reimbursement for a monthly commuter pass, which enables the holder to enter/exit from any station along its designated route—in the case of consecutive stations on the same line, a commuter could very feasibly take the downhill route in one direction and return via the other station on the way back.

Kanagawa also has extensive bus lines to supplement the relatively fewer rail lines compared to Tokyo.  Some of these may not yet be integrated into the GoogleMaps directory, and upon exploring a local neighborhood on foot one client was pleasantly surprised to find multiple bus stops with direct Yokohama access located much closer than the nearest station.

 

 

  1. Effectively Selecting Your New Home Neighborhood Part 2: Lifestyle Essentials

In addition to the route to/from your nearest stations/bus stops, it is highly recommended to also browse for the selection of groceries, drugstores, and other shops of interest (100-yen stores stocking all sorts of inexpensive household goods are always useful!) nearby.  The presence of a large supermarket either directly attached to the station or directly on the way back are ideal situations for maximizing the ease of stopping by for quick shopping on your way home.

If you will be paying your utilities via convenience store (the norm unless setup for billing via direct deposit), a nearby store will be a must.  Additionally, if you anticipate withdrawing overseas funds in the time before your first Japanese paycheck arrives, the presence of a 7-Eleven or Family Mart convenience store (this may depend slightly on your overseas bank), and/or a JP Post office will come in handy as well.

2018-11-20

Corporate Housing Solutions In Japan With FREA!

This Fall, FREA has formally launched our Corporate Housing Solutions division, which is geared towards providing comprehensive relocation support for corporate employees.

Initially, FREA was founded as a foreigner-specialized real estate company with only in personal lease contracts in mind, but we began receiving inquiries from foreigners seeking to select their own housing for a corporate contract and began to handle those as well.  Through our ongoing correspondence with HR staff from multiple companies during the process of coordinating various leases, we came to realize that many things are still lacking in the traditional scope of realtor services for this area.

 

  1. Unfamiliarity Of Japanese Companies With Handling Incoming Foreigners
  2. A Lack Of Comprehensive Housing Services For Relocation
  3. FREA’s Flexible Approach To Housing Services

 

  1. Unfamiliarity Of Japanese Companies With Handling Incoming Foreigners

As a whole, most companies in Japan are generally not well-equipped to handle incoming foreigners—designated relocation departments are rare and standard HR staff are not usually familiar with the housing process as it applies to foreigners.  While a select few relocation companies do exist in Japan, these come at premium prices intended for executive tier individuals, placing them well out of budget for more standard employees and leading to a very time-consuming process for HR.

 

  1. A Lack Of Comprehensive Housing Services For Relocation

In cases where the employee does not speak any Japanese (which in fact makes up a significant portion of incoming foreigners), there is an increased demand on HR to provide interpretation support—but even in the case of foreigner-friendly agencies with English language ability, most provide very few additional services beyond basic property searching and contract signing.  Setting up utilities, installing Internet, and other basic essentials to relocation such as ward office registration and bank account opening in Japan are neither included nor available, and the burden for all of these is passed on to the HR staff as a result.

 

  1. FREA’s Flexible Approach To Housing Services

FREA was originally established with the aim of resolving foreigner barriers to rental housing in Japan.  With this same approach in mind, we have continued to actively and flexibly shape our service offerings in accordance with the needs we see appearing most acutely among our client base.  We are very excited to further expand our support services to encompass even more of the existing relocation tasks currently burdening HR departments!

 

For additional details please visit our Corporate Housing Solutions page!

2018-09-06

Common Obstacles To Housing In Japan For Foreigners: The Application Process (Part 1 of 2)

It’s now the year 2018, and the amount of foreigners relocating to Japan is higher than ever.  But in spite of this, it remains staggeringly difficult for many of them to successfully secure domestic housing.

Just why is it still so difficult for foreigners to rent in Japan, and what are some common potential obstacles during the application process?

 

  1. Unpredictable Responses When Applying For Rental Housing As A Foreigner In Japan
  2. Steep Difficulties Associated With Language Barrier
  3. The Resident Card & Restrictions On Overseas Applications
  4. The Japanese Emergency Contact: An Additional Foreigner-Specific Requirement
  5. The Future Direction Of The Japanese Rental Housing Market?

 

  1. Unpredictable Responses When Applying For Rental Housing As A Foreigner In Japan

As a foreigner-specialized real estate agency, FREA deals almost exclusively with foreigners seeking rental housing in Japan.  In accordance with our mission to put as much selection as possible within reach for foreigners, we search for properties meeting desired criteria from all active listings in Japan—not only the ones managed by companies actively targeting foreign clientele.

Naturally, this method is not without its added bumps.  Properties where the landlord has already expressly denied leasing to foreigners are still in existence in Japan. Possible reasons could include unfavorable past experiences with foreign tenants or hearsay on such from other landlords, but as the specifics are not disclosed it remains a difficult barrier to tackle. 

Even when a landlord is open to considering a foreigner tenant, they might still bend the application priority in favor of a more typical Japanese applicant who comes along at a similar time.  This possibility may occur more frequently during peak relocation season (primarily February-April), which brings a surge of Japanese applicants competing alongside foreigners for available housing.

 

  1. Steep Difficulties Associated With Language Barrier

While a growing portion of rental listings are more open to considering foreigner applicants, the vast majority of them still require a sizable amount of Japanese ability.  Some property management companies even specifically demand reading/writing ability.  In these cases, the landlord and management (quite understandably) heavily prefer a tenant that they can communicate with directly, which unfortunately reduces the available options for non-Japanese speakers to only a fraction of options. 

Even in the cases of corporate contracts made through a Japan-established company who also have native Japanese staff to act as a communication channel, many places are still reluctant to consider a tenant who doesn’t personally understand Japanese.  The primary concern in these cases is the potential need to urgently contact the tenant during emergency situations.

 

  1. The Resident Card & Restrictions On Overseas Applications

Some of the difficulties also tend to be encountered primarily by those initially arriving to Japan.  The most glaring one is the lack of a Resident Card—this acts as the foreigner’s official, government issued photo license in Japan—which is mandatory for submitting lease applications. 

The catch? A Resident Card is issued ONLY upon physical arrival in Japan with an active entry visa (typically they are printed when passing through Immigration at International airports, although some circumstances may cause a delay in receiving the card).  This is a common source of frustration for incoming foreigners wishing to have housing squared away prior to arrival. (Corporate housing contracts signed through an employing company, however, can sometimes bypass this requirement during the initial screening process.)

 

  1. The Japanese Emergency Contact: An Additional Foreigner-Specific Requirement

Non-Japanese applicants are required to provide some additional supplemental information with their submission: the Japanese emergency contact.  The emergency contact is intended as an extra security measure for if the landlord and/or property management are unable to establish contact with the tenant themselves.  This individual must either be a Japanese national or someone who has obtained permanent residency, and also speak Japanese.

This seemingly minor requirement actually poses a significant barrier for many applicants, most of all incoming individuals.  Naturally, most foreigners arriving in Japan for the first time are unlikely to readily have a domestic emergency contact on hand. 

Many working applicants resort to trying to convince a workplace manager or coworker, who are often reluctant to provide information as they are unfamiliar with this “emergency contact” requirement and often mistake it as being similar to the much weightier financial “guarantor” role.

 

  1. The Future Direction Of The Japanese Rental Housing Market?

These are some of the major barriers we see most frequently in the current rental housing market for foreigners in Japan.  Although the housing environment has certainly become more open to foreigners in recent years, many of these application aspects still leave much to be desired. FREA is currently in the phases of actively working towards the development of resources targeted at helping to alleviate a number of these significant difficulties for incoming foreigners.

This article discusses application-related issues specifically, but in our next article, we will shift out focus over to common difficulties that arise after passing the housing screening process, many of which we are also focusing on improving for foreigners in Japan.

2018-08-09

Japan’s New Airbnb Laws and The Affected Rental Properties

With the new laws in Japan that went into effect regarding short term housing on June 15th this year, Airbnb has drastically and abruptly reduced its number of active listings this summer.  In addition to mandatory registration, the newly instated regulations also include a rule capping the rentals at 180 days a year, making it impossible to use housing exclusively for Airbnb.

But what about the properties that were already purchased specifically with the intent of Airbnb use? 

 

  1. The New Dilemma of Airbnb Property Owners
  2. The Foreigner-Focused Nature of Airbnb Properties
  3. FREA’s Correspondence With Airbnb Property Owners To Provide Transition Support
  4. Hopes For An Increase In Foreigner Friendly, Furnished Rental Properties

 

  1. The New Dilemma of Airbnb Property Owners

Last week, FREA met with one such property owner and Airbnb host in Tokyo to discuss options on where to proceed next.  The owner had purchased an apartment unit and cozily furnished it to continuously rent to tourists, and had been excitedly looking forward to the influx of visitors for the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  He noted that while Airbnb hosts who had secretly used rented properties could simply cancel their existing leases, those who had purchased properties were now faced with the difficult decision of where to proceed.

 

  1. The Foreigner-Focused Nature of Airbnb Properties

Airbnb properties are an interesting contrast from most traditional leasing properties in Japan in that they are heavily geared towards foreigners.  The higher profitability of short-term renting to tourists is undeniably one of the driving factors in the rapid increase of hosts in recent years.  The majority of these hosts speak some level of English, in contrast to many traditional landlords who are often prone to turn down lease applications from foreigners without Japanese ability.

As a result, many of these properties were selected for aspects intended to appeal to foreigners. 

Apartments intended for Airbnb may be in slightly older buildings but are generally more spacious, and are often based in prime, centrally located areas of Tokyo with close walking proximity to stations. 

Although originally aimed at tourists, many of these aspects are also desired by foreigners seeking mid-to-long term housing in Japan.  At FREA, we constantly hear requests from clients for spacious apartments in central Tokyo offering short commute times.  Close walking proximity to the train station is also highly sought after.

 

  1. FREA’s Correspondence With Airbnb Property Owners To Provide Transition Support

The owner expressed interest in transitioning his apartment unit towards longer traditional rentals still geared towards foreigners, citing his own positive experiences living abroad in the past.  He noted the close proximity of the building to a major Japanese university, and thought focusing the apartment towards international students might be ideal.

As a foreigner-specialized real estate agency, FREA was able to offer targeted insights on the leasing trends observed in foreigners in Tokyo (such as peak arrival periods), including those pertaining specifically to international students.  We also provided input regarding options for moving forwards as a furnished property.

 

  1. Hopes For An Increase In Foreigner Friendly, Furnished Rental Properties

Although the new laws surrounding Airbnb practice have currently resulted in a displacement of short-term rental properties, we are also hopeful that this could perhaps lead to an overall increase in the number of foreigner-friendly housing properties available in Japan.  Furnished properties are especially sought after by international students and contract-term workers, who often anticipate being in Japan for shorter terms of around a year or less.

The potential for more foreigner-friendly housing properties is of constant interest to FREA, and we hope to be able to assist more owner hosts who choose to make the transition over to leasing of furnished properties.

2018-08-07

Move-In Day! – Corporate Housing Solutions For International Transfers! (Part 3 of 3)

In parts 1 and 2 of our corporate housing series, we shared the FREA process of finding housing and arranging furnishings for an actual incoming international employee.  In this 3rd and final segment we will now cover the actual move-in day from start to finish! 

(As this particular corporate client has a periodic staff rotation,  the timeline covers move-out for the outgoing employee AND move-in for the incoming one, which occurred in the same day.)

 

* All photos taken and used with permission

 

MOVING OUT – PREVIOUS COMPANY APARTMENT

LOCATION: SHIBUYA, TOKYO

9:30AMMOVER ARRIVAL – Both the moving company and FREA staff arrive at the departing employee’s company apartment for loading all leased pieces and any other items to be passed to the next incoming transfer.  Smaller articles like the kitchenware have already been packed into shipping boxes (provided ahead of time by the moving company).

  

 

9:35AMGAS SHUTOFF – The gas technician arrives to shut off the gas for the apartment unit (gas setup/shutoff in Japan always requires an in-person visit to ensure everything is working safely).  Appointments are made in 2-3 hour time blocks, so we had originally instructed the employee to stay in the apartment between 9AM-12PM in case.

 

9:45AMMOVE-OUT BEGINS – Moving commences after our staff thoroughly confirms directly with the movers which items are being transported, which are being collected for disposal, and which are being left as is (some other boxes are personal belongings being shipped home). 

Furniture is disassembled as needed and appliances such as the flat-screen TV are carefully wrapped to prevent damage.

 

11:10AMPRE-DEPARTURE CHECK – The movers have finished loading and after a final sweep through the mostly empty apartment to ensure everything under the company lease has been collected, they receive confirmation to depart for the new company apartment.

After checking with the outgoing company employee that any remaining move-out tasks are going smoothly on their end, we wish her safe and smooth travels home and then also depart for the new apartment location

2018-08-01

Home Furnishings – Corporate Housing Solutions For International Transfers! (Part 2 of 3)

In our first article on corporate housing services provided by FREA, we covered the initial housing search process for an incoming international transferee.  Next, let’s look at how our relocation package prepares a stress-free and hassle-free furnished home on arrival.

 

  1. The Shortage Of Furnished Apartments Desired By Expats In Japan
  2. Leasing of Furnishings With English Support Made Available
  3. Customized, Tailored Lease Contracts
  4. Pre-Move-in Preparations: Detailed Measurements
  5. Housing & Furnishings Fully Coordinated Prior to Arrival
  6. The Big Move-In Day

 

  1. The Shortage Of Furnished Apartments Desired By Expats In Japan

Furnished homes are highly desirable for many foreigners arriving from overseas, especially those who anticipate only residing in Japan for short periods of a year or less. 

However, the vast majority of Japanese properties come completely empty and devoid of even core appliances like washers and refrigerators, and it is considered standard for tenants to provide their own. 

Ownership of cars is uncommon in Tokyo, making furniture and large appliances difficult to transport out of residences on move-out.  English language support is also rare for furniture lease providers and even many Japanese home goods companies, reducing easily accessible options.

Furnished housing in the form of upscale serviced apartments indeed exist, but the selection is limited and pricing for even smaller studio units frequently exceeds housing budgets.

 

  1. Leasing of Furnishings With English Support Made Available

In response to this largely unfilled need, FREA currently offers the coordination of customizable leasing plans for home furnishings, which are provided by established, highly reputable leasing services in Japan. 

Prices include delivery, assembly/installation and disposal fees—eliminating the burden of handling bulky furniture—and also insurance for peace of mind.

Leasing prices are scaled in accordance to the contracted length, making long-term leases where a company anticipates continuing to furnish an employee apartment incredibly cost-effective (should corporate apartment leases change, the existing furnishings can be moved to the new location).

For shorter stays of a year or less, these leases are also attractive for the sheer convenience of having furniture needs taken care of on both arrival and departure.

 

  1. Customized, Tailored Lease Contracts

Furnishing Leases are available as prepackaged sets while also being customizable down to each individual piece.  The capacity of items such as refrigerators, washing machines and sofas are also arranged to meet each individual client’s lifestyle needs.

Furnishing needs and wishes were discussed with the client directly during the viewings and assessed for budget viability (eliminating the need for a separate meeting).  In this case, an existing corporate furniture lease had already been in place for a few years, but still allowed for some annual adjustments to the contents.  The incoming employee expressed a desire to upgrade to a larger-sized bed, which we took into consideration when examining the floorplans of potentially viewable units.

2018-07-27

Corporate Housing Solutions For International Transfers! (Part 1 of 3)

Anticipating an international transfer to Tokyo, Japan but unsure of where to begin with arranging housing? 

How about a corporate leasing package through our bilingual real estate agency?

At FREA, we provide complete guidance for incoming international staff seeking furnished corporate housing in Tokyo from start to finish! 

Read on for insight on the ongoing timeline of one of our current corporate clients, and learn how our streamlined housing process saves valuable time and effort for both the incoming staff and company.

 

  1. The Strengths of a Corporate Housing Contract in Japan
  2. The Initial Housing Search Phase
  3. Location Expertise & How It Factors Into Finding Housing
  4. Additional Relocation Services: Home Furnishings & Move-In Support

 

  1. The Strengths of a Corporate Housing Contract in Japan

You may be wondering:

“What is a corporate contract and how is it different from other lease contracts in Japan?”

Rental leasing in Japan primarily falls into two categories: personal (leased directly by one or more individuals) and corporate (leased under a company name). 

Leasing through an established company offers some notable advantages for incoming foreigner staff. Perhaps most significant is the added flexibility of finalizing housing prior to the designated resident’s actual arrival in Japan—for personal contracts the resident card is required at application time, but these are not issued until the individual physically arrives in Japan with their active entry visa.

Additionally, a corporate contract can boost acceptance rates in cases where the employee themselves lacks Japanese ability—one of the most frequent reasons we see clients struggle with securing a personal lease is the language barrier concern, as landlords heavily prefer a reliable means to communicate with the tenant.  In such cases, a corporate presence can often act as a liaison for the employee.

 

  1. The Initial Housing Search Phase

Once the budget and leasing timeline have been established, our bilingual agents establish contact with the individual employee to proceed with the housing search.  Initial criteria typically includes unit floorplan, desired size, and other building/area preferences.

Our client was scheduled to replace the previous overseas transfer who had selected a tower residence in the urban Shibuya area, and spoke positively of the “30 minute door-to-door commute” involving only a single train line.

Although the apartment had a sleek, modern interior and was conveniently located, our client admitted he was not all that fond of the constantly high-traffic feel of Shibuya.  He expressed interest in several areas further west, which his HR contact had mentioned were “less touristy.”

 

  1. Location Expertise & How It Factors Into Finding Housing

These “less touristy” areas happened to fall on extremely commuter-heavy lines (Tokyo boasts some of the most crowded morning rush hour train cars in the world), and would also require additional transferring between rail companies on a daily basis. 

We agreed to guide our client around those areas as requested but also suggested some additional locations proceeding in the direction of his future office location for comparison. 

Ultimately, our client ended up selecting Ebisu, which is well-regarded for its reserved, sophisticated city atmosphere. The station placement even knocked a few minutes off the previous Shibuya commute time, to boot.  Our client mused that he would have never thought to consider the Ebisu area, which is actually located only one train stop away from Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line.

Tokyo’s wide range of distinct and sharply differing areas located in close proximity of each other demands a keen grasp of both the city’s diverse characteristics as well as the finer workings of its sprawling transportation system.  Our staff had prepared area recommendations not only for the convenient workplace commute, but also because they felt the atmosphere of those neighborhoods would be suited to our client’s liking.

 

  1. Additional Relocation Services: Home Furnishings & Move-In Support

At FREA, our services extend beyond just the basic housing search services offered by most real estate agencies in Japan, with additional relocation services.   In our next article, we will cover the second key aspect of our corporate relocation process in detail: customizable leasing of furnishings for a comfortable and cost-effective residence immediately upon arrival!

2018-07-26

Insights On The Business Manager Visa From A Top Specialist

Last week, we met with a well-established visa specialist firm for a consultation on visa and business registration procedures for one of our pilot cases.  Information regarding the various visa application processes and especially the Business Manager (formerly Investor) visa are quite limited, so we were eager to gain additional insight on this subject.

 

  1. The Increasing Difficulty Of Obtaining A Business Manager Visa
  2. Application Burdens To Foreigner Startups & Businesses
  3. Challenges In Selecting The Best Application Route
  4. Obstacles To Conducting Business As a Foreign Entity
  5. The Impact Of A Skilled Specialist

 

  1. The Increasing Difficulty Of Obtaining A Business Manager Visa

The visa specialists informed us that while only a few years ago success rates of applying for a Business Manager visa were “nearly 100%” if base requirements were fulfilled, in recent years the process has become increasingly strict.  High amounts of application scrutiny with ambiguous terms for approval make it difficult to guarantee results—the specialists recalled how recent applications that were prepared very similarly had been met with different results.

The lowering success rate poses a sizeable risk for foreigners due to the costly application process.

 

  1. Application Burdens To Foreigner Startups & Businesses

The process of registering a company and subsequently applying for the Business Manager visa is both time-consuming and costly.  Following company establishment, Business Manager visa applications demand detailed business plan information, as well as a compelling argument on what sets them apart from existing Japanese businesses.

Visa application costs, business registration costs, housing & living costs while in Japan…all of these can add up quickly, not to mention the minimum 5 million yen in business capital required for the established company.  Furthermore, the visa application process may take up to several months in some cases (coupled with the risk of ending in rejection), during which time it is difficult for the newly established company to formally conduct any business activities.

Our client remarked with exasperation that Japan’s regulations are “not at all startup friendly”—with so many legal and financial hoops to jump through the scene is unideal for startups and other businesses with limited funding resources.

2018-07-24

Introducing Startup Embassy Japan!

We are extremely pleased to announce that 01Booster and FREA have partnered efforts to formally establish Startup Embassy Japan, a new joint venture company specializing in foreign entrepreneur support in Tokyo, Japan!

 

Original Press Release Below (Japanese): 

https://www.jiji.com/sp/article?k=000000208.000016550&g=prt

 

01Booster coordinates a variety of corporate accelerator programs along with their in-house 01Dojo and 01Catapult incubator programs, and has collectively supported more than 100 startups to date.

FREA is a bilingual, foreigner-specialized real estate agency which offers comprehensive relocation and housing-related services in addition to standard property search assistance.

 

Through the forming of Startup Embassy Japan, we intend to effectively utilize the areas of expertise from both previously established companies to actively tackle the many obstacles experienced by foreigner entrepreneurs in Japan, who continue to steadily increase in number with each year.  In addition to immediately providing business concierge and mentoring services, we are also aiming to establish a coworking and co-living space in the future.

2018-07-06

FREA Featured In An Interview & Spotlight Article With Tokyo Startup Station!

Our company has been featured in a highlights compilation released by Tokyo Startup Station this spring—FREA is among several companies to have received funding assistance from their organization last year. (Click the thumbnail below to access full-sized interview in Japanese)

The interview discusses some of the components of FREA’s service that set us apart from other real estate agencies, as well as briefly pointing out our newer direction towards commercial space leasing and business support services for foreigner entrepreneurs in Japan.

Tokyo Startup Station awards grants to multiple companies each year, and Foreigner-owned companies are eligible to apply as well!  We would like to draw attention to them as one of the numerous potential funding sources that can be applied to in Japan.

 

For further details on the grant program by Tokyo Startup Station, please visit the link below (website currently only available in Japanese):

https://www.tokyo-kosha.or.jp/station/services/sogyokassei/h29saitaku.html

2018-07-04

Renting In Tokyo: Our Housing Satisfaction Guarantee

At FREA, we are always seeking ways to improve our service for foreigners seeking housing.  Please read on for one client’s experience this year, and how we intend to address the possibility of similar cases in the future.

 

  1. The Housing Search On A Short Timeline
  2. Apartment Issues Discovered After Move-In
  3. The Costly Expenses Associated With Rental Leasing In Japan
  4. FREA’s Guarantee For Housing Satisfaction

 

  1. The Housing Search On A Short Timeline

Earlier this year, FREA assisted in the apartment search for one of our clients who was newly relocated to Tokyo as an international hire.  The company employing and sponsoring his work visa did not provide support for housing, so as is common of many expats, he had prepared a few weeks of short-term housing upon arrival on his own and was determined to secure long-term housing before this expired.

Most foreigners seeking housing in Tokyo highly prefer to be located within an optimized commute route to work, so we focused on housing options to the west of Shibuya with direct train line access.  After viewing several properties, our client settled on a recently built, spacious 1LDK in Setegaya-ku—one of the notably residential wards in Tokyo.  Although the move-in timeline was tight, arrangements were successfully made to complete all application and contract-processing details in time for our excited client to transition over smoothly from his short-term housing.

 

  1. Apartment Issues Discovered After Move-In

All seemed rather well, until a few weeks later we received contact from our client asking to confirm that the contract indeed had no penalty clause for moving out early.  In the haste to lock down an apartment in time to avoid extending the temporary housing, our client had inadvertently overlooked the presence of a fire station just down the road, which would sometimes (loudly) dispatch trucks during the night. 

But the large roadway located at the rear of the building posed overall problems too—although it had been relatively quiet during the daytime viewing, there was a surprising number of trucks passing through at nighttime, generating not just noise but floor vibrations, too (the apartment was a first floor unit).

 

  1. The Costly Expenses Associated With Rental Leasing In Japan

Our client woefully confessed that he had been sleeping poorly and was already contemplating moving elsewhere, though the high amount of initial leasing costs already paid to the property management company to secure the lease contract meant that he would need to reduce his budget for the subsequent apartment.  This actually mirrored the past housing situation of FREA’s CEO, who had herself experienced a similar case of moving into an apartment in Tokyo, only to realize after that there was in fact a fire station located in the immediate area. 

Suggestions of ways to mediate the interior noise level were provided promptly, along with the open offer to assist with a fresh apartment search at no agency fee (typically one month’s worth of rent) if our client chose to go through with the move.

Ultimately, our client elected to search for another apartment with us and was able to relocate to a different complex tucked further away from the major roadway for a significant reduction in unwanted sounds. 

 

  1. FREA’s Guarantee For Housing Satisfaction

At FREA, we stand behind the belief that our agency fee—set at the same industry rate as all other real estate agencies in Japan—should come with only the best of our services in helping foreigners to find their ideal housing meeting their needs. 

If any of our clients find themselves dissatisfied with a housing property that they have leased with our support within 3 months of the lease start date, we are happy to offer assistance in searching for the next replacement property at NO additional agency charge!

(Initial costs paid separately to the property management company for the starting of a lease will still apply)

Of course, the best outcome would be to succeed in finding housing that has no significant detriments, and we always encourage our clients to thoroughly examine not just the housing unit itself, but also the shared common areas (such as garbage disposal) and surrounding neighborhood, too.

Still, we realize that it is possible for details to be overlooked during the housing search, and for unforeseen issues to arise afterwards.  We hope that this additional guarantee helps bring extra peace of mind to our international clients during what can often be a stressful relocation period.

 

Please choose FREA with confidence for your housing relocation needs in Tokyo!

2018-07-03

Government Grant Opportunities For Companies in Japan and How To Increase Application Success Rates

 

In today’s article we’ll discuss government grants in Japan and one of the key steps that can be taken to increase chances of approval.

Foreigner-owned companies that apply are considered on the same standard criteria for government grants, making them stand out as one of the more readily accessible types of funding opportunities for foreigners in Japan! (In comparison, other options such as venture capital are incredibly strict with foreigner-owned projects, and angel investors are rare in Japan)

 

  1. The Availability of Government Grants For Businesses In Japan
  2. A Brief Overview Of Application Eligibility
  3. A Vital Step In Increasing Grant Success Rates: The “Management of Innovation Plan”
  4. Additional Information Regarding Grants To Come

 

  1. The Availability of Government Grants For Businesses In Japan

The Japanese government has set aside designated amounts of grant funding to be used towards supporting companies and startups that are either creating physical products or offering services that bring innovative contributions to society.

Eligible businesses may apply, and through achieving a satisfactory assessment by meeting various conditions and requirements may become eligible to receive access to grants to use for funding.

The Department for Innovative Services alone been allotted a budget of 20 million yen for the 2018 period, so the amount of resources available is quite significant.

 

Grant Application for Physical Products (In Japanese):

http://www.chusho.meti.go.jp/keiei/sapoin/2018/180228mono.htm

 

Grant Application for Services (In Japanese):

http://www.tokyo-kosha.or.jp/support/service/kakushin.html

 

  1. A Brief Overview Of Application Eligibility

Applying companies must be a registered business in Japan.  Eligibility is determined by several factors including company employee number and amount of capital—major corporations do not qualify for grants but the vast majority of small-to-mid sized businesses (including startups) are generally accepted.

It is worth noting that companies producing web-based apps are considered to fall in the “Services” category and thus also may qualify.

2018-06-25

FREA at Hacker news Tokyo Meet up

FREA attended an international business meetup event on Thursday, June 14th, hosted by Hacker News Tokyo!  Held in Super Deluxe, an industrially-styled underground venue in the heart of Roppongi, the event offered a casual yet energized environment in which to mingle, network, share upcoming projects and discuss recent tech developments.  Attendance to the event also included two drinks and a few rounds of light snacks.

 Midway during the evening, event organizers called for attendees to gather and kicked off an Announcements portion, allowing individuals to come up and make short, informal speeches pitching their current projects and outreach for collaborations they were seeking to the rest of the audience.  The attendees were comprised of a wide variety individuals hailing from all over the world as well as a number of internationally-minded Japanese, with a healthy mix of both first-timers and returning attendees. 

 We were struck by the consistency with which all attendees (Japanese or foreign) presented their ideas in English, with English also being the predominant language for the vast majority interactions taking place in the space throughout the evening.  

 Although the attendance for the event represents only a tiny sliver of the business venture scene in Japan, we felt that it perhaps foreshadows a more global mindset in the future Japan market, which the country has been gradually shifting towards in recent years..

 FREA is very glad to have been able to have the opportunity to attend the Hacker News Tokyo meetup and speak with such a diverse range of individuals.  Once again we have clearly heard the need for more substantial and readily accessible business support services for foreigners in Japan, and are more motivated than ever to continue improving our foreigner entrepreneur support program.

2018-06-14

7 Noteworthy Coworking Spaces in Silicon Valley (SF Bay Area)

With the launch of our foreign business support services earlier this spring, a shared office space for entrepreneurs has also been launched.  Eager to continue implementing improvements to better cater to the needs and desires of foreign startup owners in Japan, staff at FREA have examined such spaces in Silicon Valley, where the concept of coworking originated as a response to the startup environment.

 

With each entrepreneur or small-business-owner having widely varied needs, we felt that “best” would not be an appropriate descriptor, however each of the following locations is highly rated and have numerous services to offer—read on for our list of coworking spaces in the SF Bay area that we felt stood out for one reason or another.

PART 1: San Francisco

Bespoke (SF)

http://www.bespokesf.co/

Housed right inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre in Union Square, Bespoke stands out as a retail-focused and fashion-oriented resource amongst the many more purely tech-focused shared offices.  Demo stations for feedback and engaging potential audiences are available both inside the working space and throughout the massive shopping mall, which draws over 20 million visitors each year.

Going beyond generic office spaces, Bespoke even offers a “nap room” with beds for members to recharge during the day, as well as an indoor rock-climbing wall for a change of pace.  The unlimited supply of quality local coffee also seems to be an appreciated perk.

 

Covo (SF)

https://www.hellocovo.com/

This coworking space is housed in a large downtown building with an open-to-public café area and tiered pricing options ranging from pay-per-hour to monthly memberships including private office rooms.  Covo’s greatest strength perhaps lies in its staggering range of amenities offered for a comfortable environment promoting work-life balance—a few examples are both a café and tap room area, a bicycle room, dry cleaning services, and the pet-friendly nature of the building.

 

Canopy (SF, multiple locations)

https://canopy.space/

Offering several locations spread across SF, Canopy specializes in carefully curated, ergonomic working environments.  Amenities include a full-sized kitchen, beverage refreshments, desk phones and tech support.

For entrepreneurs working remotely, they also offer “virtual office” memberships providing a business address.  All membership tiers include a portion of meeting room credits, and access to community happenings—Canopy frequently hosts industry speakers, themed discussions and other events.

 

Galvanize (SF)

https://www.galvanize.com/san-francisco/campus

Unlike most other shared office spaces, Galvanize is also a campus building which offers a variety of tech courses for individuals seeking to either improve their existing skills or a begin a new career in the tech industry.  The five-story building offers a wide variety of seating including private offices and an open-to-the-public café area, and also hosts frequent tech meetups during evenings, creating valuable networking opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Designed to be drastically different from traditional workspaces, Galvanize contains multiple micro-kitchens (with refrigerators) for refreshments throughout its floors, which have large amounts of natural light and are furnished with varying themes.  Visitors praise the “energizing” environment that promotes productivity and the inspiring rooftop view from the 5th floor of the bustling city.

Previously, in the first half of our compilation of top Silicon Valley coworking spaces, we focused on offices based in San Francisco itself.  But Silicon Valley actually encompasses a much larger overall region, with areas often differing significantly from the urban city vibes of SF.  Here are 3 more noteworthy coworking spaces, this time located elsewhere in the Bay Area.

2018-06-11

Updates regarding FREA’s progress towards foreigner business support in Japan!

As followers of our blog may recall, FREA recently shared information regarding the current “Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition [2018]” being hosted by Tokyo Star Bank. Read on for our ongoing actions towards assisting foreigner entrepreneurs in Japan!

1. FREA’s Recent Entry Into Bilingual Business Support
2. Our Efforts Thus Far In Supporting Foreign Businesses & Entrepreneurs
3. How We Hope To Make An Impact

 

1. FREA’s Recent Entry Into Bilingual Business Support

As of this Spring, FREA has begun to actively expand our efforts towards providing comprehensive support for foreigner entrepreneurs and business owners in Japan. Currently our pilot program is underway, and we are in the initial phases of providing support to a small pool of foreign businesses while also placing a heavy emphasis on collecting as much feedback as possible. Ultimately, we hope to perfect our service offerings to be able to smoothly assist entrepreneurs and business owners in their transition from being based completely outside of Japan into establishing a presence in our domestic market.

After learning of and sharing the Tokyo Star Bank competition, we were left wondering if the chance for interested applicants to enter could perhaps be made even more accessible. Since the competition allows for an unaffiliated representative to assist with preparing the required Japanese components, we felt that it would be an opportune way to begin directly lending our support to a few aspiring entrepreneurs within Japan.

2. Our Efforts Thus Far In Supporting Foreign Businesses & Entrepreneurs

We have been conducting interviews with multiple non-Japanese business owners and student entrepreneurs located in Japan in order to best understand the full scope of their needs and specific wishes when it comes to business support services. Through connecting with these foreign business owners, we have heard a number of disheartening first-hand accounts of the difficulties associated with successfully processing all of the different legal matters that come with establishing a company within Japan. A frequent grievance has been the lack of a centralized, comprehensive source of clear information, with foreigner entrepreneurs often citing anywhere from multiple months to multiple years to successfully complete company registration and business/immigration documents. Of course, once the initial company has been established ongoing difficulties associated with limited Japanese language ability and/or access to the greater industry network, among other things, may also pose barriers. Although the list of potential obstacles is quite daunting, we are determined to bring together effective methods of solution to each issue over time.

Currently, FREA has elected to back several foreigner entrepreneurs in the Tokyo area for participation in the Tokyo Star Bank competition, with hopes that this event may help to kickstart one or multiple business plans intended for execution in Japan. We have met with each entrepreneur in person to discuss the contents of their business plans in detail and worked together on assembling the application components. As the contest entries must be submitted entirely in Japanese, our staff first translated the detailed entry form questionnaire into English for completion with the entrants and are now in the process of preparing Japanese language versions for submission.

3. How We Hope To Make An Impact

Though there exist a variety of business support services and legal specialists offering assistance to foreigner entrepreneurs aspiring to enter the Japanese market, there has yet to be a truly streamlined and finely tuned process available. For example, many immigration lawyers may have limited English ability, making it somewhat difficult to coordinate applications. In other situations, existing business services provide guidance for business registration but may not offer any advice towards the ongoing process of running the business (such as tax requirements) or be lacking in insight on how to most effectively apply for the Investor Visa.

At FREA, we hope to combine our strong existing background in foreigner-specialized bilingual services and apply them full-force towards the underserved pool of foreign business owners seeking to enter the Japan market. Rather than simply process documents into Japanese, we aim to understand the core workings of each of our clients’ prospective business plans in detail and thus be able to both offer specific feedback and actively advocate for them within the Japanese business sphere. Entrepreneurs we interviewed expressed a strong desire overall for customizable and especially industry-specific support for their businesses.

One of the components of the Tokyo Star Bank contest is a pitching presentation to the judging panel (to be conducted in Japanese, of course). One of the entrants we are assisting has voiced an interest in delivering the pitch on their own, and should they pass the initial stages of the competition additional coaching and practice support has been agreed upon.

With the initial submission deadline rapidly approaching, FREA staff are working to their fullest to complete all preparations in time for the Tokyo Star Bank’s “Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition [2018].” We are hopeful that through these efforts we may begin to make an impact on the ongoing influx of foreign entrepreneurs seeking to enter the Japan market!

2018-05-24

We interviewed a wonderful foreign entrepreneur!

At the end of last month, FREA sat down with an American business owner who is currently based out of his Tokyo, Japan office and discussed his array of experiences with doing business in Japan. We spoke at length regarding his past and current struggles with establishing and running a company within Japan, as well as his thoughts about how the Japanese market differs from Western markets.

Although only recently formally incorporated in Japan, our interviewee’s company had in fact been doing business with Japanese companies for well over 15 years, acting as a supplier to numerous established brands. He selected Tokyo, Japan as the location for opening his Asia-wide sales office, citing the prestigious image of the region as one of the key deciding factors.

Consistent with the experiences of many other foreign entrepreneurs, the process of business registration was frustratingly time-consuming (clocking in at a total of 6 months), even with the enlisting of specialized support services. Japan as a country has many strict requirements when it comes to stablishing essential logistics such as bank accounts and phone service, which as a result must be delicately prepared in a specific order.

Beyond the complex initial legal paperwork, our interviewee also vocalized an ongoing difficulty with finding local bilingual staff to hire who could meet the skillset demands of the company, which is another common obstacle shared by internationally-minded companies in Japan, both domestic and foreign.

One notable aspect that may come as a given to Japanese nationals but unexpected to foreigners: our interviewee pointed out the immense importance of long-standing relationships forged between businesses (and respective company individuals, too!) in Japan. In stark contrast to the less hierarchical western business scene, consumers and companies alike are unlikely to naturally gravitate to a new source simply because their product or services are inherently better. Our interviewee graciously credited an existing business contact who was able to initially introduce them to their current business clients in Japan, as well as speak favorably on their behalf during their office leasing search. This also highlights the integral need for providing network-building assistance when it comes to supporting foreign ventures newly arriving to Japan.

Perhaps most surprising was our interviewee’s keen focus on the desire for more “lifestyle”-related transitional support for foreigners relocating to Japan. Simple insights such as which train lines tend to be more/less congested, and the mysterious process of how to pay for utility bills at a local convenience store—details that are such an integral part of standard life in Japan that they may commonly be overlooked as points potentially needing orientation. Although the availability of bilingual real estate agencies has gradually increased over the years, detailed hands-on, walkthrough-type services for foreign expats following move-in (especially those with little-to-no Japanese ability) seemingly remain something to be desired.

Despite all of these various struggles, our interviewee enthusiastically maintained that Japan is very much an incredibly attractive place of interest among foreign entrepreneurs and businesses, if a somewhat notoriously difficult market to break into. We at FREA are very grateful to our interviewee for speaking with us so candidly and offering valuable insights on the perspective of a foreign business owner active in Japan. We are hopeful that through our new business-support program being taken on by KEIKYU Accelerator this spring, we will be able to effectively resolve or alleviate many of these difficulties and enable foreign entrepreneurs around the world to realize their full potential in Japan.

(To maintain the confidentiality of our interviewee and associated business clients all names and detailed industry specifics have been omitted.)

2018-05-15

Funding Opportunity for Foreign Business-Owners in Japan!

In a previous article, FREA discussed the steady influx of grant programs and funding contests that are available to small businesses in Japan.  Today, we would like to draw attention to a currently ongoing business competition that is not only open to, but aimed specifically towards foreigner entrepreneurs in Japan,

The “Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition [2018]”, hosted by Tokyo Star Bank, opened for submissions earlier this month, urging foreigner business owners (as well as freelancers) to “become a star in Japan’s business scene.”

Entries are currently being accepted through Friday, June 8th, 2018.  For full details, please visit the Tokyo Star Bank website below:

 

http://www.tokyostarbank.co.jp/service/foreign_customers/biz_contest/index_en.html

 

The contest lists the following requirements for applicants:

● Must be a foreign national living in Japan or foreign-born Japanese
Must be a representative of a legal entity (Note: Sole proprietors may also register)
 Must be within five years of founding
 Must be able to compete in Japanese

 

Although all entries are indeed required to be made in Japanese, it is also permitted to have a representative present on behalf of the business owner if they themselves lack sufficient Japanese language ability—the representative is not required to be officially affiliated with the company which means that requesting some help from a friend or similar would also be viable.

 

Tokyo Star Bank lists providing support to foreign entrepreneurs in a challenging business environment, along with following current demographic trends (recent statistics have shown the population of foreign residents within Japan is steadily rising) as some of the key goals for hosting this contest.  We are optimistic that this reflects a growing interest amongst Japanese industries in foreign entrepreneurs in Japan, and that the number of available support resources will continue to increase.

2018-05-14

FREA & Take Off Lobby Service Highlights

Last month, FREA’s expansion into business support services was launched, and we hope to be able to provide more effective support for many unfilled or underfilled needs for foreign entrepreneurs and business owners seeking to do business in Japan.

Current business startup support services on the market tend to offer rather limited to no support for the housing aspect of living and working in Japan. As FREA was originally established as a real estate agency, we have a strong experience base in advocating for foreigners as well as a keen understanding of how to account for each client’s individual needs and requests. Not only can we provide many options for initial short-term housing to suit a variety of budgets, we also specialize in handling standard mid-to-long housing leases in Japan, allowing for a smooth transition after the investor visa is received. We also assist in commercial space leasing as well for expanding to a larger office. 

An initial office space (with valid address) is also essential during the processing period for the Investor Visa. We have established a flexible office space in Central Tokyo, which will open its doors for the first time on TODAY, May 14th, 2018.  Bilingual staff will be available to provide correspondence from 10AM-5PM on weekdays, and an array of business support services will also be available. 

Currently, the pilot program is slated to run through June 30th, 2018.
Please check the price list !

Some other highlights of our offerings:

  • Office space located conveniently in Central Tokyo (private offices also to become available)
  • On-demand business mentoring program for small businesses
  • Translating support for incoming/outgoing emails and complex documents in Japanese
  • Flexible leasing plans for furniture, home appliances and office equipment for both residential and office situations. (Transportation, setup/disassembly, and insurance included)
  • Wide network of specialists and resources for business support (legal counsel, accounting & other backend services, etc.) available at varying tiers of competitive prices—flexibility to choose the options that are best for you!
  • Essential cultural and lifestyle support also to be offered for adjusting to Japan—business etiquette orientation, Japanese language lessons, and more.

 

Our streamlined services can save time, money and energy during the complicated company registration process in Japan. Please consider FREA’s fully bilingual support for all aspects of your new business in Japan!

2018-05-14

Funding & Grants for Small Companies in Japan

The expenses associated with starting up or attempting to expand a company in any country can be quite substantial (and Investor visa holders will already have likely had to invest a steep amount in the initial capital minimum as well as processing fees, to boot).  However, there are actually quite a few resources available which offer funding to small companies in Japan.

Many of these grant programs are funded directly by various governing bodies within Japan, with an aim of boosting small companies offering products or services that are deemed to have a positive impact in society.  These types of programs, when awarded, may subsidize upwards of around two-thirds of expenses associated with furthering a small company’s proposed business plans. (There are also a variety of privately sponsored business contests by major corporations, which will not be addressed in this article.)

 

All applicants who meet the stated conditions are eligible to apply, with no clauses regarding the applicant’s nationality.  But despite the array of grants available within Japan, there have been very little precedent of Japanese business owners receiving any—the few existing cases can often be traced to foreign business owners with Japanese spouses who assisted with the applications.  Information regarding these funding opportunities is largely released only in Japanese, with applications of course being only accepted in Japanese as well. 

 

Below, please find one of the current funding projects that is accepting applications for small businesses primarily based in Japan which fall under either manufacturing, commerce, or service industries.  The deadline for this particular program was April 27, 2018, but the page itself still provides a sample of the sorts of conditions for application and the amount of funding that is potentially available.

 

http://www.chusho.meti.go.jp/sme_english/index.html

 

We will be periodically spotlighting current grant applications from time to time as part of our mission to create a stronger support base for foreign entrepreneurs interested in Japan.  We hope that raising the awareness of these funding opportunities will be the first step in increasing foreigner entrepreneurs’ access to these resources.

 

2018-05-11

Chatbot Announcement

FREA is excited to introduce an automated chat service as a new component of our website!

By selecting answers to a few quick questions, we will be able to give you instant feedback on the recommended approach to your housing search in Japan based on your conditions.  If you are searching for mid-to-long term housing via traditional leases in Japan, we will also be able to answer a wide variety of vital questions ranging from contract terms to the availability of pet-friendly apartments and more.

Of course, our experienced and fully-bilingual staff will still be on hand to address more detailed inquiries via email, but we hope that this addition will help to clear up some common points of confusion that we find foreigners frequently encounter when starting their housing search in Japan.  Please feel free to try out our Housing Concierge Chat as your convenience!

2018-03-22

FREA recently placed in the Accelerator Program hosted by Keikyu Railway Corporation! And Currently Seeking Foreign Entrepreneurs

I am extremely pleased to announce that FREA recently placed in the Accelerator Program hosted by Keikyu Railway Corporation, and will be expanding our business to support foreign entrepreneurs in their Tokyo market pursuits.
 

 

Our company has been dealing in foreigner-specialized real estate for some time, and has assisted numerous housing search requests from clients who are arriving in Japan primarily for business purposes.  However, subsequently I would often hear from them how difficult it is to conduct business activity within Japan, and I came to realize that there was in fact a severe lack of foreigner-friendly resources for many vital business support services.
 

 

By taking our company’s existing strengths in property dealings and bilingual support and utilizing the vast business resources of the Keikyu Accelerator program, I hope to
move forwards in offering comprehensive entreprenurial support for foreigners in Tokyo.
 

 

In conjunction with this, FREA is currently actively conducting interview surveys with foreigner entrepreneurs seeking to establish companies in Tokyo!  In return for participation, we are offering complimentary use of our business support services (plus a bonus Starbucks gift certificate) upon launch at this time!

 

Please see the below link for details:

 

 
 
 

 

– Nana Yamakawa (CEO)
2017-12-26

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from FREA!

Our office will be closed from tomorrow, December 27th through January 4th in accomodation of end-of-year holidays. We will resume operations on Friday, January 5th, 2018.

FREA would like to take this time to express our profound gratitude to all our clients for their business, and our staff will continue endeavoring to provide the very best service we can.

Wishing everyone a wonderful upcoming new year!

2017-12-18

Foreigner-Focused Agency Receives Special Award in Mitsubishi Estate Business Competition

On November 14th, 2017, Mitsubishi Estate (based in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo) hosted its business plan contest known as “Corporate Accelerator Program”, and foreigner-focused leasing intermediary company FREA Co., Ltd. (based in Chiyoda ward, Tokyo) was selected to receive a special prize.

FREA, in response to the underfilled demand by foreigner tenants for furnished housing properties, currently offers the leasing of essential furniture and appliances, along with other supplemental services which help to facilitate a comfortable life in Japan.

The “Corporate Accelerator Program” aims to collect business proposals—from venture projects and existing companies alike—and establish new business models in conjunction with Mitsubishi Estate and its numerous assets, sales channels, and financial expertise.

Entries were accepted earlier this year from June through October, with a total of 255 applicants received.

Mitsubishi Estate cited the company’s keen focus on the increasing influx of residents from overseas, and its relevance from a consumer perspective as a service dealing closely with the complicated process of relocation as key factors in selecting FREA for the award.

Award recipient, CEO Nana Yamakawa of FREA stated, “To receive recognition from such a large-scale corporation as Mitsubishi Estate is a great boost of confidence to our company. We hope this further invigorates the ongoing expansion of our business.”

 

2017-12-02

To the HR Departments of Companies Employing Foreigner Staff

Have you encountered any obstacles or difficulties when arranging company housing for staff of foreign nationalities?

FREA Co., Ltd. is a real estate brokerage company specializing in foreigners!

All our staff are bilingual in Japanese and English, and can provide full support from start-to-finish including property searching, viewings, contract-signing and move-in.  Throughout this entire process, we are able to communicate directly with the actual individual(s) who will be residing in the company housing, making sure to take their personal needs and wishes into account.  To facilitate an even smoother relocation experience, FREA also offers supplemental services for utility set-up, furniture/appliance leasing options (exclusive to corporate housing contracts), and airport pick-up/drop-off.

 

Please have a look through the information on our website at your convenience below, and don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your company’s housing needs!

Japanese: http://tokyo-apartments.jp/jp/real-estate-brokerage/

English: http://tokyo-apartments.jp/en/leasing-apartments/

Furthermore, our company’s leasing brokerage fee is in fact set at the same standard rate as the general real estate market. There are no added charges for the use of interpreting services you might encounter with a conventional agency.  We are also readily able to accept Japanese clients as well.

2017-10-10

New FREA Website!

 

In conjunction with heading into our third year of service, FREA is very pleased to unveil our newly revamped website!

 

We have added informational resources detailing the leasing application process and costs for housing in Japan, which we hope will offer more clarity for what can often be a confusing and overwhelming experience for foreign nationals.

 

Over the past two years FREA has also expanded its roster of services in additional directions such as property management and business establishment logistics, and our website has been updated to reflect that.  We look forward to continuing to offer our clients the best bilingual real estate services we can in the Tokyo area!

2017-09-14

FREA celebrates its 2 year anniversary!

FREA is beginning its 3rd year of establishment as of today!
Initially starting out as a solo business venture in a shared office space, my company has now grown to a standalone office with a bilingual staff count of five.

During the first year, I received the 3rd place award for agencies by Real Estate Japan.
In the second year, we placed in the Women Entrepreneurs Project Organization Grand Prix for our expansion into furniture and appliance leasing.

Working together with my staff, we directed our full efforts towards putting our clients first at every turn.
And although we are a small company, I feel that we are gradually beginning to establish ourselves as a real estate firm specializing in foreign nationals.

Now, as we enter the third year, I would like to take all my experiences in dealing with foreign nationals thus far and continue to devote myself to providing even better service.

Thank you so much.

– Nana Yamakawa (CEO)

2017-09-07

FREA at Startup Hub Tokyo

FREA was featured in the newspaper!

The brief article highlights our recent meeting at Startup Hub Tokyo.

“Foreigner-focused realtor agency FREA (based in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo) held a consultation meeting at Startup Hub Tokyo on the 20th of this month with an overseas investor looking to purchase rental housing in Japan. In addition to the simple act of purchasing housing, the potential needs for establishing a company as well as property management services also are being considered. Startup Hub Tokyo was selected as the location to host the meeting due to its availability of in-house resources for business registration as well as tax and visa advisement services.“

2017-07-10

How to Find a Good Real Estate Agent in Tokyo: Interview with Real Estate Japan

FREA’s recent interview with Real Estate Japan is now up on their website!

Nana Yamakawa (CEO) discusses some of the common pitfalls and obstacles that foreigners encounter during their housing search in Japan, as well as some tips on how to approach the tricky process. We hope this article helps to shed some informative light on the Japanese real estate market, which is still largely underrepresented when it comes to English-language resources.

 

How to Find a Good Real Estate Agent in Tokyo: Interview with Local Agent — FREA

2017-06-23

Moving in Japan? FREA recommends Apple Moving Center!

Recently, FREA has been in correspondence with another company, providing them with advice and direction on how to better serve non-Japanese residents in Japan. That company is Apple Moving Center, which we would like to introduce on our page today.

Apple Moving Center offers comprehensive moving services that are fast, friendly and affordably priced. They provide services for a wide range of moving tasks such as washing machine setup and economically removing oversize furniture/appliances. Pricing is straightforward with a variety of options to suit each household:s budget. In addition, they have top customer ratings and are ranked No. 1 on the major Japanese review site KAKAKU.com.

They have English-speaking staff available as well. FREA would like to wholeheartedly recommend that our customers consider Apple’s services for their future moving needs!

http://www.apple-hikkoshi.co.jp/

2017-06-12

FREA places in Women Entrepreneurs Project Organization Grand Prix

Foreigner-focused Real Estate Agency FREA (Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward) emerged as the winner of the Women Entrepreneurs Project Organization Grand Prix. The award ceremony will be held on July 15, at which time FREA will be awarded a prize sum of 2,000,000 yen.

The competition was comprised of proposals from female entrepreneurs on ideas they were looking to implement in their business. The entries were judged on the excellence of the ideas as well as how realistically they could be implemented. The company FREA currently acts as an intermediary company for foreigners seeking housing in Japan. Pre-furnished housing is scarce in Japan, and occurrences of foreigners being turned away from existing furniture leasing companies are common. It is this unfilled need for furnished properties that prompted FREA to begin offering furniture leasing services.

“We plan to utilize the added support from the Grand Prix to further improve our services” , stated Nana Yamakawa (CEO).

Nana Yamakawa’s commentary:

Recently, I won the Grand Prix hosted by the “Women Entrepreneurs Project Organization.”
http://www.kigyopro.or.jp/
I feel very honored to be able to receive such an award.

Foreign nationals, in comparison to Japanese citizens, often have short-term stays of less than two years. Taking into account various factors such as economical and/or time constraints, it is understandable that many of them seek furnished properties.

However, in Japan when you think of furnished properties, they typically lack the style and originality found in business hotels. Or, some properties may be modern and cool but the rent is incredible expensive.

As we know, it is quite difficult for a foreign national to secure a property lease in Japan, and it is also difficult to harness furniture leasing services for many of the same reasons.

Our company, which acts as an intermediary to rental properties, also offers furniture leasing services, providing affordable yet modern and stylish options for rooms.

The number of foreign nationals arriving in Japan continues to increase. I feel that holding an understanding of the needs of foreigners coupled with knowledge of the current housing property situation is what led me to this current position.

2017-06-01

FREA Begins English-Speaking Office Environment!

As of today, FREA has instated an English-speaking enviroment in our office!

We hope to continuously hone the English skill levels of all staff to offer you the best services we can!!

2017-05-18

CEO Nana Yamakawa on her university days

FREA was recently featured in the newspaper!

Nana Yamakawa, CEO of foreigner-focused real estate agency FREA Co., Ltd. (Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward), once traveled the world for eight consecutive months during her university days.

Ms. Yamakawa attended Chuo University in Tokyo. At the height of academic success during her senior year, she abruptly realized that because she had been so focused on completing her thesis, she had closed off her mind to anything besides studying.
After this, she resolved to spend her remaining available months before graduation to travel abroad extensively. This was made possible by a discounted round-trip ticket package available through her university.

Ms. Yamakawa’s experiences during this time expanded her horizons and also greatly helped her increase her English proficiency, a skill which continues to be of valuable use in her current work.

2017-05-08

FREA begins furniture/appliance leasing program

FREA was recently featured in the newspaper!

Foreigners who are planning to reside in Japan for 2-3 years often seek homes that come furnished with the essentials (bed, refrigerator, washing machine, etc.). However, they face many obstacles when dealing with companies in Japan, as many furniture leasing services lack the resources to communicate in English or are reluctant to lease to foreign nationals.

In response to this, FREA has begun to offer furniture leases in conjunction with their real estate services for foreigners. “We hope to expand our selection of furnishing styles over time to meet our various clients’ needs effectively.” -Nana Yamakawa (President)

2017-04-27

Interviewed by Real Estate Japan!

Our interview with Real Estate Japan—the biggest English real estate portal site in Japan—is now up on their website!

(Article is in Japanese)

外国人市場で活躍する不動産企業インタビュー「株式会社FREA」様

外人向けの不動産ポータルサイト会社 Real Estate Japanからインタビューを受けました。もしよければご覧ください。
記事が、なぜか日本語です。

2017-04-25

During April 29th – May 7th, FREA agents will be out of office.

Hello!

During April 29th – May 7th, FREA agents will be out of office.

This is a time of reflection and so we would like to thank all those who have supported us so far. Thank you for your business, loyalty and support!

For new customers, welcome! Unfortunately, you caught us at an inconvenient time. However, do not worry, we will make sure to provide our very best when we return.

2016-12-27

During December 28th – Jan 4th, FREA agents will be out of office.

This is a time of reflection and so we would like to thank all those who have supported us so far. Thank you for your business, loyalty and support!For new customers, welcome! Unfortunately you caught us at an inconvenient time. However do not worry, we will make sure to provide our very best when we return.We hope you enjoy your holidays & wish you a Happy New Year!