Save, Socialize and Share House in Japan!
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
A cheaper housing option when living in Japan
Has anxiety about looking for an apartment stopped you from considering work opportunities in Japan?
With the Japanese government making efforts to bring in foreign workers, a big wall to scale will be actually accommodating them. Finding a real estate agent and apartment hunting is a daunting task in any language, and, Japan’s guarantor system makes finding housing if you’re not Japanese even more difficult.
On top of that, if you plan on living and working in the country for just a couple months or a year, there’s no reason to go through the process of renting and furnishing an apartment.
So consider the alternative. Share houses are a foreigner-friendly, convenient option that lets you save money and meet new people.
Those who have seen Terrace House already have a good idea of what a share house is: a bunch of strangers living together under one roof. Not every share house is the same though, and while you can’t choose whom you live with, you can choose your room! Rooms available might include singles, doubles, rooms for 4 people or more, or even apartment-style with a private toilet and shower. Some may have all of the above.
Rooms aren’t the only thing that changes from house to house. Check out a website like Guest House Bank, and you can search in English through categories like “Women only,” “Building Features,” “Pets Welcome,” and a ton more, letting you easily find the best share house to fit your needs. Some share houses have pretty crazy amenities available too, like gyms and theaters.
As there are so many different features stated plainly in most listings, you can quickly find a place where you know you’ll feel comfortable. If you need to find someplace to stay within the next month, you can be easily accommodated. Some sites even have 3D tours of the space you’ll be living in to help you make your decision.
See the Sights
Share houses are often in very convenient locations, close to stations and convenience stores. Share House Flora in Nipponbashi, Osaka is a twenty second walk away from Ebisuchō station, providing easy access to Nanba and all its wonders. And if you’re coming to Japan for a job, you can plug in the office’s address into a share house search website and see what’s available near your place of work making it easy to choose the most convenient location.
Shared chores alleviate the burden of having to take care of an entire apartment yourself. Share house rules may require you wash dishes as soon as you finish with them, which means you’ll never come home to a sink full of dirty plates and bowls giving you judgmental stares. It also provides the proper incentive to buckle down and clean your dishes right when you’re done cooking.
Assuming your roommates are the considerate kind, you can always expect to walk into a clean kitchen, and to never run out of toilet paper in the middle of the night.
Socialize and Study
Share houses also have lots of events and parties for its members, fostering a sense of community. Best of all, you have a chance to meet people from all over the world. Oakhouse Co., Ltd share houses have a 40% foreigner, 60% Japanese ratio, so not only can you meet new friends and experience new cultures, you can also practice your Japanese along the way. Some share houses are made for study purposes or with shared interests in mind. You might find a share house where one day a week English or Japanese is banned, allowing people to really focus on their language skills.
For some share houses with an English focus, foreigners can receive discounts for the opportunity they offer their English-studying roommates.
I’ve saved the best pro for last. A big reason to choose share houses over apartments is the cost. I briefly mentioned Japan’s guarantor system, but you’ll also have to pay the real estate agent, an application fee (which you won’t get back, even if rejected), “earnest money” to prove your intent to pay rent, which is usually 5-10% of the total price, electricity, water, Wi-Fi, furniture…need I go on?
At a share house, you won’t get monthly bills for utilities, and most have free Wi-Fi. As an added bonus, they’re also fully furnished. You may not like the floral-print curtains hanging in your room, but what’s to complain about when you didn’t have hang them yourself?
Of course, living with strangers can’t be sakura and unicorns all the time. When you put a bunch of people together, drama is inevitable. He said she said they did who knows?
As with living in any communal housing, inconsiderate roommates are a very real possibility, leaving you to deal with strange noises at all hours of the night or dirty communal spaces. Not to mention you have to share the bathrooms.
Side by Side, Day and Night
Even if you have a single room, sharing space with strangers (or even friends) can be taxing. People could be in the kitchen at any time, which means you won’t be able to breeze through for a quick cup of tea in your underwear, as I’m sure everyone does.
Depending on the share house, you might have some restrictions you find unfair or inconvenient, like being unable to have guests over. Some share houses also require you to be within a certain age range. It’s not uncommon to see “Over 20 under 39 years of age” listed under conditions.
Slacking off is off the Table
Shared chores can be a pro and a con. Since you are expected to clean up after yourself, you can’t put off cleaning the shower for a day because you’re exhausted from work, or skip cleaning the dryer filter for a load. Some share houses have a weekly leader who’s expected to wash the hand towels, restock the toilet paper and tissue boxes, and a few other things. If someone slacks off, things could get pretty filthy pretty fast.
Share houses have been gaining popularity for a long time, with a 30% annual increase in the early 2010s. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of share houses rose from 22 to 1,200. Where did it all start?
In the 90s, it was difficult for foreigners to find places to rent in Japan. When Japanese people traveled around the world, they were able to stay in temporary “guest houses” in places like Europe and America. Upon returning home, they began to create places like those “guest houses” to accommodate the market of foreigners who were struggling to find housing. While share houses were mostly used by foreigners in the beginning, getting the nickname “gaijin house,” these days Japanese people account for about 50% of share house residents.
When looking for your share house, don’t make the decision lightly. You might not be there forever, but you’ll be there long enough to be miserable if you don’t like your choice. Just like apartments, there are plenty of guides on how to choose a good share house. As a general rule when discussing your stay with a manager, be wary of suspicious behavior. If there’s no actual rental contract, you’re probably headed towards a scam. You also want to avoid places where the management can’t answer your questions or concerns in a timely fashion.
Once you’ve made your choice and chosen your preferred share house, all that’s left to do is go. The only documentation you’ll need is your ID, your passport, and your visa. For some countries like France, Germany, and the United States, if you plan to stay less than 90 days, you can come to Japan without a visa. Make sure you check the requirements for your country.
There are tons of reasons for choosing share houses for short-term stays in Japan. This alternative to apartment living is a rising trend among young Japanese people. Do share houses seem like a good fit for you?
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About the Author
I've been in love with Japan since I was twelve years old. After studying at Kansei Gakuin University and teaching for three years under the protection of Mount Tate in scenic Toyama prefecture (where you'll find the most beautiful Starbucks in the world), I returned stateside to attend Kent State University to get my Masters in Japanese Translation. Now I've been given the wonderful opportunity to intern at IZANAU for what's sure to be a glorious summer.