My landlord uses my maintenance fee to paint the metal guard leading to my building a fetching shade of battleship gray once every 3 or 4 years. Yeah, that costs about $1600 a year (which is what they get from our entire building in maintenance fees).
Maintenance fees for rented spaces are not uncommon in many countries and there is no reason why Japan should be any different. However, maintenance fees here are different. For one thing, such fees back home are used to maintain community areas and shared amenities. In plain English, it means that if your building has a lobby or a pool, all of the tenants contribute to the cost of upkeep. In Japan, my problem with the fees are two-fold. First of all, apartments are advertised as having a certain monthly cost, but the fees are not included in the advertised price and every apartment has such fees. Essentially, you'll always be paying a bit more each month than you are told. Second, fees are applied whether or not you have any sort of amenities or common areas. I pay 2000 yen ($22) a month for access to a cement walkway that leads to my apartment and a flimsy metal mail box which hasn't been changed or cleaned for 20 years. In theory, my landlord uses the money to make sure any common spaces or amenities I access are well-tended, but there's nothing to tend. In Tokyo, this is quite common since space is so expensive. It's essentially a way of getting more money from tenants and nothing more.
I won't miss paying a maintenance fee when there's nothing to maintain.