Buying property in Tokyo is a complicated process and very costly, although house prices are more affordable now than some years ago. There are a number of agencies that specialise in assisting non-Japanese nationals in finding a home. The Real Estate Tokyo website is an exhaustive guide and probably the best place to start:
Finding the right home for you and your family will take a lot of effort. Help from a Japanese native will be pretty much essential. There’s a big difference between the different areas of Tokyo – some lack the kinds of amenities you may need, like good public transport or large shops – so it’s important to do some research to find the best location. Houses are small in Japan by American or European standards. There are basically three types of housing in Japan: a house, a mansion or an apartment, houses being the most expensive followed by mansions and apartments. A mansion is basically a nicer, newer kind of apartment. Be aware that more rooms doesn’t necessarily mean more space, so pay attention to the surface area (usually given in square meters). Also be aware that the advertised surface area may include storage space and the stairwell, so the real living space will in fact be a bit smaller. Real estate offices can be found on main streets and around stations.
It’s customary to give simple gifts to your neighbours when you move in. The giving and receiving of gifts is one of the ways the Japanese maintain their relationships. Get a Japanese friend to help you out with this if possible. Food is appropriate in this case, maybe something typical from your part of the world. Don’t be surprised if the receiver of your gift puts it to one side; you normally don’t open such gifts right away in front of the giver. Note that you should never give gifts in groups of four.
The Japanese are superstitious when it comes to numbers: All Nippon Airways, for example, has no seat numbers four, nine or thirteen, and many Japanese hospitals don’t have these room numbers either. The number thirteen has negative connotations in the West too of course, but the number four is considered unlucky in Japan because it has the same sound as the word for death (shi). The number nine in Japanese is pronounced ku, the same pronunciation as the Japanese word for agony or torture. The number eight however is a lucky number for the Japanese because of the way its character is constructed: two diagonal lines, the second being longer than the first, therefore suggesting better things to come in the future.