House Hunting Tips for Foreign Residents: Mansions vs Apartments in Japan

House Hunting Tips for Foreign Residents: Mansions vs Apartments in Japan


Housing in Japan



When you search for rental properties in Japan, you’ll often find places that are called “manshon” (mansions) and others that are called “apaato” (apartments). While these words are derived from the English language, they have unique definitions in Japanese that even many Japanese people are not familiar with. In this article, we’ll talk about the differences between mansions and apartments, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of living in one or the other.



Difference between Mansions and Apartments

Both “mansion” and “apartment” are commonly used to refer to multi-unit residential buildings. There is actually no legal definition that distinguishes between “mansion” and “apartment”, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Real estate agencies and property owners usually have their own criteria for what constitutes either one. Other terms for residential buildings which are often used in building names include “copo” (short for cooperative house) and “heights.”



Commonly Accepted Definitions of Mansion and Apartment

While there is no legal distinction between a “mansion” and an “apartment”, most Japanese people distinguish between the two according to the building’s construction and number of stories.


  • Number of stories

Mansion: 3 or more stories

Apartment: 2 to 3 stories


  • Construction

Mansion: Reinforced concrete or heavy-gauge steel

Apartment: Wood or light-gauge steel


Based on the above, you can get a general idea of what a property looks like when it is labeled as either a “mansion” or an “apartment.” Just remember that this is just an arbitrary distinction, so it is best to check out the details of the property for a more accurate picture.



Advantages and Disadvantages of Mansions and Apartments

Here we list down some general advantages and disadvantages of living in a mansion and an apartment. These are based on the distinctions noted above regarding their number of stories and construction.




  • Advantages

①More resistant to earthquakes and fires due to its reinforced concrete or heavy-gauge steel construction

②Thicker walls means less noise from neighbors and less worry of bothering others with your own noise

③Usually equipped with security cameras and a main entrance with an auto-lock function.

④Usually equipped with elevators and has a resident caretaker.


  • Disadvantages

①Initial expenses, rent, and management fees (parking etc.) are usually more expensive.

②Higher insulation usually causes more condensation on walls and windows.




  • Advantages

①Initial expenses, rent, and management fees (parking etc.) are usually cheaper compared to mansions.

②Some buildings have unique and stylish designs.


  • Disadvantages

①Thinner walls means more noise coming from your neighbors and vice versa.

②Less resistant to earthquakes and fires due to its wooden or light-gauge steel construction.

③Most buildings are not equipped with security cameras or auto-lock functions.

④Most buildings do not have a resident caretaker.



Tips for Finding the Right Mansion or Apartment for You

As mentioned before, the distinction between a mansion and an apartment is arbitrary. Even if a property has “mansion” or “apartment” in its name, it may not necessarily have the general features listed above. Some properties labeled as “mansion” may have less sound insulation or security features, and some places labeled as “apartment” may come with state-of-the-art facilities for security and convenience.


To find a mansion or apartment that is suitable for you, you should first list down your conditions and preferences for the place, and decide their level of priority. Keep in mind the generally accepted definitions of “mansion” and “apartment” to aid in your search, but always check the detailed information of each property. Based on the conditions you listed, you can gradually narrow down your search, and you’ll eventually find a place that is right for you.




In this article, we explained the differences between mansions and apartments in Japan. In the end, the important thing is not whether a property is labeled as a “mansion” or an “apartment”, but whether the specific features of that property are suitable for you. So, when searching for a place to live in, try to do away with any preconceived notions you may have about mansions and apartments, and check out different kinds of properties to find one that matches your own preferences.


Click here to search for mansion-type properties


Click here to search for apartment-type properties

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