It is common that most apartments in Japan are unfurnished. And unfurnished can mean that there are no appliances at all such as washer/dryers, refrigerators, microwave ovens, curtains, or even lights, though, on the other hand, more expensive housing – especially that geared to the expat market – come with all basic appliances. “Furnished” apartments in Tokyo generally means serviced apartments of the apartment hotel type. And while furnishings and utilities are generally all included in the rent, the choice is limited and the apartments tend to be small compared to unfurnished apartments and are mainly only one or two bedrooms.
As a result most people who are staying longer term (say a year or more) and want more space may rent unfurnished digs and bring their own furniture, or purchase or rent it in Japan.
The drawback to bringing one’s own is that shipping items overseas costs a lot money and takes time. One also has to deal with packing and unpacking. Purchasing items is a good option, however tenants need to deal with the items when they leave the country. It is important to know that the disposal of furniture is not cheap, though many may choose to sell items to others before they depart. Please note that it is quite difficult to sell items to recycle shops or to others unless the items are antique or very rare. Sometimes, even new items are difficult to sell.
The most hassle-free method of obtaining quality western style furniture is through English speaking rental furniture stores. Tokyo Lease Corporation (http://www.furniture-rental-tokyo.com/), Advance International Inc. (http://adv-inc.co.jp/?lang=en), and Mays (http://www.mays-furniture-rental-tokyo.com/) have English speaking staff and they have wide selection of furniture and household goods available.