Not sure what it's like in your neck of the woods, but when contracts for apartments are renewed, you have to pay an additional month (or two) rent as a fee.
So rather than pay a renewal fee, we decided to use that cash to pay what's known as "reikin" (礼金) for a new apartment - a "gratuity" fee paid to the landlord (usually 2 months rent) as a "thank you for accepting us!" - you do not get this money back when you move out.
In addition to the gratuity fee, you also need to pay upfront "shiki-kin" (敷金) or "key" money which is usually 2 months rent that they will use to clean up after you move out - they usually use most of it, leaving you with tuppence.
Did I forget to mention that in addition to the above, you need to pay a deposit of a month's rent (or two) ? So if you want to move to Japan, be prepared to pay upfront up to 6 months rent. Oh, there is the estate agent fee on top of that so make it 7 months :-)
I love Japan, but looking for an apartment can be one of the most humiliating experiences you can experience as a foreigner.
Many (not all) landlords avoid renting apartments to a foreigner. There are even notices slapped on apartment listings that group us with animals - "no pets or foreigners allowed."
I've been turned down so many times that one of the things I learned about apartment hunting is to ask the estate agent whether the landlord is open to renting to a foreigner *before* you go to view the apartment.
Anyway, this time was plain sailing, and we moved in a couple of weeks ago. The new place is much smaller than before - my workspace is the smallest it's ever been at 2 meters wide but it's nice and cozy.
The large living/kitchen makes up for the tiny bedroom and bathroom, which is a welcome change from our previous place.
One of the reasons why we chose here was the spacious balcony, as we like to be outdoors to om nom and laze around with a good book.
The wooden deck was a DIY job with cedar from @woodpro21 in Hiroshima.
There are still a few niggling things to fix but we are mostly settled in.
We are still a stone's throw away from the studio, which is important for wifey and I as every day is a workday for us ;-)