Tokyo Living: Share House Life (日記#34)

Hi everyone!

I am sure I’ve mentioned it quite a bit in past posts but today I wanted to write a post dedicated to talking about how I found the place where I would be living in Tokyo for 3 months while attending language school. I’ll start from the very beginning of the process. It’s going to be a pretty long post so I will include headers in case you want to skim only to the parts you think might be interesting to you.

Housing Selection Process

Back in October or November when I made the decision to attend a Japanese language school during my long break between semesters for JSP, I had to begin searching for a place to live. Originally I considered going through a company called Leo Palace which is a company that provides consulting to help me find an apartment to live in. I even went to the office for a consulting appointment and that went really well. You can tell them the area you want to live in and your budget and they can search their database for possible options. It would have been perfect except that I realized that living in an apartment for only 3 months probably wasn’t the best idea since I would have to buy bedding, cooking ware, and other furnishings. After I thought it through I figured that my best option was to look for a share house.

After switching tactics I began to scour all of the different share house companies online that I could find. I’ll include a list with links to all of those companies at the end of this post in case anyone is interested. But after searching through all of the different houses, rooms, location, etc. I brought it down to two potential places. One was a co-ed share house in Ikebukuro and another one was an all-girls share house in Nippori. If you know where I am living now you will know that I went with the second option.

When I narrowed down my search I made arrangements to visit what I thought was my first choice, the share house in Ikebukuro. As I made my way there I had to cross this ridiculous multi-directional crosswalk and I already knew that this place was not going to work for me. I had made an appointment to meet with the share house manager though so I couldn’t just leave. When I got to the dingy looking building above a post office I was shown in. This was the only other share house that I have ever seen but if that is what most of them look like then it is pretty bad I am not going to lie. It didn’t really feel like a home at all. The rooms were for 4 people and you were basically given a shelf to live in. You wouldn’t even be able to stand up in your “room.” There was a shared common area with a kitchen and even a vending machine which I thought was really strange.

I knew right away that this place was not going to work for me and I was both disappointed and kind of disgusted. I was feeling so overwhelmed at that time that I decided to contact the manager of the Nippori share house to see if I could view the place last minute since I was already in Tokyo. Luckily they said that yes I could come and view the share house even though I wouldn’t be able to see any of the rooms because they were all occupied. I was met by one of the English-speaking staff members at Nippori Station and they walked me over to the house. The area seemed pretty sketchy but I was pleasantly surprised when we walked up the the apartment building which actually looked really nice. The front door is accessible only if you have a key and it was clean looking. So far so good at that moment.

After we entered the staff took me up to the sixth floor where their company Common Share has 2 apartments with 7 rooms each. When we entered the apartment I was happy to see that it pretty much looked exactly like the photos that were posted online. Although there was no real common area, the bathroom, shower, and kitchen all looked really clean. I was informed that all of the residents are given their own shelf in the shoe cabinet, a container in the fridge and nearby shelf, and a basket in the bathroom for shower supplies. There is also a system where you write the time you want to use the shower or washing machine so that there is no conflict or guess work involved. I was super impressed and I already knew that I wanted to live there.

After going through a lot of negotiations with the share house manager over which room I could rent since every time I said “I want this room,” I was told that it was just filled and offered another option. But eventually I was able to secure my own room and my mom helped me with the international wire transfer to do my deposit. With that taken care of and my move in date chosen, all I had to do was wait until the time came.

Moving into the Share House

Come January 4, 2017, and it was move in day. The manager of the share house who I had been corresponding with for a couple of months met me at the station and I was walked to the share house. He explained to me about the general rules of the share house and told me that the owners were pretty strict. The two major rules were no guests and no smoking. If you broke these rules you would be asked to move out on the same day. I was actually happy to hear about the strictness of the share house because I knew it was a legit place. On the walk over he also pointed out the nearest super market which is conveniently located on the  pretty much straightaway 15 minute walk to and from the station or from my language school.

When we got into the house we didn’t run into any of the other residents, which I was told is pretty common. It would almost feel like I was living alone and that wasn’t a problem for me, actually it was a bonus. After I was given the information book and I signed the contract, the manager left. My luggage was scheduled to be delivered so while I was waiting around for that delivery window of time to arrive I went to the grocery store to stock up on things I thought I would need. My luggage was delivered and I had to buzz the mail person up so they could be allowed into the building, I unpacked, and then started to plan for this new period of my time in Japan.

Share House

My Room

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 12.18.39 PM.png

Now onto my actual room. I was in room number 7. Since I had only seen the pictures online I wasn’t sure what to expect when the manager opened the door but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was almost exactly like it was shown online in the pictures. My room is currently not listed as available on the website so you can’t compare it directly, but there are other images of the share house which are exactly how it looked when I moved in.

Link to the share house website with my share house information.

I was also happy to see that it came with a little table that had a foldable chair and also some pegs to hang clothes. I also did a bedding rental so I didn’t have to worry about buying blankets or anything.

Facilities

Above are pictures of the entryway, the door that leads to the balcony where you can hang clothes to try, and the shared kitchen. Other things provided are a rice cooker, hot water kettle, fridge, freezer, pots, pans, utensils, dish-ware, toilet paper, dish soap, hand soap, trash bags so I didn’t have to worry about any of that although I did end up buying my own plate, bowl, and cup so I wouldn’t have to worry about returning it right away after using it. Overall the whole place was really nice and most importantly felt safe.

Share House Mates

I should probably mention that this share house was probably so good because most of the residents were Japanese. This was not a place that was advertised exclusively to foreigners and I think that really made a difference. 4/7 of the residents here were Japanese women probably in their 30’s. The other 3 were 2 American college students (including myself) and a Chinese girl probably around the same age as well.

Neighborly Issues

In the share house my room is located right next to the entryway. I have one person living across the hallway from me and one person living to my side. The person who is living across the hallway is a really nice lady who actually used to live in the room that I am currently in before she moved to that bigger room. The person to the next to me would turn out to be the only thing that made this share house experience into a negative. Within the first week a note was left by her, I am assuming it was addressed to me, to say “I am sorry that I keep hitting the wall and making noise.” But having been in Japan for a while and after confirming my suspicions with other Japanese people, it seems that she was not in fact apologizing for herself being loud but indirectly telling me that I was being loud.

I was already really nervous about moving into the share house and living with other people where I could possibly get kicked out so I was trying to take extra care. Even when I was trying my best I got that note from my neighbor within one week and I pretty much freaked out. My bed is located right next to the wall next to her room and even though I tried to move my bed away from the wall my room is so small that I can’t really help it.

That wasn’t the last incident either. A couple weeks later I received an email from the share house manager saying that another resident reported that I had a guest and that I should “confirm” this. Now this just made me angry since this would have been something I could get kicked out over. I only have two neighbors and the lady across the hall was always really nice to me so that only left my neighbor. I was still being really careful. I hadn’t video chatted with anyone or talked on the phone and if I did I would have been using earphones. I was rarely in the house too as I spent about 3-5 hours every day after school at the library trying to catch up to my class. So of course I responded to the share house manager saying that I have never had guests.

As time went on and I talked with both the lady across the hall from me and the other American girl living in the share house, I found out that the lady in the room next to me had caused some other issues for the other residents as well. She had reported the other girl to the share house manager for forgetting to lock the door of the share house once when she first moved in. She also gave her grief for leaving the door to her own room slightly open. I have heard from my neighbor across the hall-way who I started to think of as “share house mom”because she always seemed to know everything that was going on for some reason. She told me that my neighbor seemed to do strange things. She also said that she has no right to really complain when a majority of her belongings were taking up a lot of space in the fridge and other storage places. I was relieved to have some back up in case she ended up complaining about anything else.

Anyways, things didn’t get better but they didn’t get worse either and that I was grateful for. Luckily, she ended up moving out of the place a couple of weeks ago so I could finally breathe easier. I wonder if I had any role in her move but if I did then I took one for the team because I think the other people in the share house didn’t really care for her either.

Overall Impression

On March 31st I move out of this share house and move in with my new host family and I will be sad to move out to be honest. This little tiny box of a room became pretty comfortable to me and I enjoyed living on my own schedule and time. As for the share house experience, I am grateful that I found this place. It felt safe, it was nice, the people were nice minus my neighbor, the communication with the company was smooth, and it was only a 10-15 minute walk to school with a grocery store 7-8 minutes walk away. I had a good 3 months here!

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