Dec 14, 2012 - People, Places, Society    No Comments

Finding a place to live in Tokyo

tokyo_old_house

I am sticking with some real life topics this week.

Finding a place to call home in Tokyo when you are a foreigner can be a real challenge sometimes.

If you have been in Japan you will know how much the Japanese love taking care of visitors and making them feel at home in just about any situation. Hot towels when you enter a restaurant and a free umbrella if it happens to be raining when you leave. Toilets that gently wash your backside and ATMs that speak to in a perky female voice.

The key word in that phrase was “visitor”

In other words you are expected to leave.

If you choose to stay then the paint will start cracking and as the mirage fades and you are standing outside the convenience store where someone stole the umbrella that you brought cursing the same people you just exclaimed your love for.

Finding housing in Japan can be very similar to this.

All the hotels are open to you and with the best service but as soon as you look for something a bit more permanent you run into trouble.

The Japanese are not racist. At least not in the way that you might experience in Europe & America but they will tell you with a straight face that “They never let foreigners”. It is well known that foreigners cause a lot of trouble. They are too loud and do not know how to put out the garbage correctly. They have many friends and parties and are generally a nuisance.

So you see it is not the Japanese land-lords fault that he can not let the apartment to you. It is in fact your own fault for being an un-educated barbarian who only showers on Sundays. You can forget about arguing with him in your fluent Japanese too as in the end his mind is made up and since it is his building…….

So what are the options then?

1. Serviced “Weekly apartments”

These are kind of like long-term hotels which are usually furnished and sometimes come with a cleaning service. They are fairly expensive and unless you are working full time in a decent job this is not the solution for you. I would recommend them if your company is sending you over for a 3 month project to Japan or something along those lines.

2. The Gai-Jin House

When a building has some issues with it, or sometimes when it gets really old and is waiting to be torn down and no upstanding Japanese citizen will rent it any more the owner might turn it into cheap residence for foreigners for a period of time. Usually it is many rooms around a shared kitchen/living-space. People stay shorter or longer period of times but are often of the migrant type. English Teachers often choose this form of living.

Some of them are really nice and some are absolute rubbish. They are generally cheap and you can find a myriad of them through a standard web search. Really take your time looking before you decide and try and meet some of the people that live there. If you are trying to study you might not want to live at the Shibuya Party crew flat….

3. UR Housing (UR住宅)

UR Housing used to be a state owned Real Estate Agency. Now they are a public company but still retain the feeling of Government Agency. This is great news for us foreigners because it means that they will not discriminate against you for being a foreigner and all you need to rent is to prove that you can afford the place. There is no “Key money” ,which is like a land lord bribe that you often pay in Japan, and you only put in 1-2 months up front to pay for damages should you have broken anything when you move out.

I usually do not advertise things here but I just really want to say that this company is the best! You can book a place and go down to have a look. No dodgy sales tactics trying to get you to put money down or sign on the spot or anything like that. Go to their office, check out a place, go have a look, sign up, move in. Easy as that. I have moved out of their places twice and I got the full deposit back as well, without question.

They have everything from cheap places in the suburbs to really nice flats in the centre of the city.

The only quirk is that you have to speak Japanese to sign up (not to live there) . This should be easily overcome though by bringing a Japanese friend to translate for you.

Or, if worse comes to worse you can do as the Japanese do, spend your nights in an internet cafe with free showers and complimentary drinks

Good Luck.

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