Share Houses are one option for housing in Tokyo. In a share house you will live with other Tokyo residents including Japanese people and/or other foreign residents. There are many types of share houses and many options associated with them. If you choose to search for a share house, you will likely have to shoulder the brunt of the work, but feel free to ask your assigned real estate agents if share houses are an option they can help you with.
To help give you an idea of what you'd be getting into, we'd like to share an interview of one current Tokyo JET about their experience with living in a share house.
- My share house is one of 4 share houses for artists managed by an NPO called Creative Support. It was started about a year ago by a light novel writer who wanted to make a living space for creative people in Tokyo. My house is a very old traditional Japanese house. (Re: wooden gate, tatami mats, huge genkan, paper doors, etc.) Our house has some private rooms, some shared dorm-style rooms, a shared kitchen, living room, toilet/washroom, and a large shared room for gaming or working. The other share houses in our group and most of the share houses in Tokyo are modern Western-style buildings. The vibe of my share house is very otaku. Everyone loves gaming, manga and anime. The house currently has 7 male Japanese residents and myself (American female), all in our 20s/30s. Most of us are artists in our spare time but have day jobs. There’s manga artists, game designers, writers, an actor, and a painter.
How much is your monthly rent / utilities?Edit
- Utilities are on a sliding scale based on the number of people living there, but it’s usually 13,000 yen per month. I get a 50% discount on my monthly rent in exchange for cleaning all the shared spaces and teaching weekly English classes so I only pay 30,000 yen per month for my private room. The average rent for a private room in my house is 50,000~60,000 yen monthly. The average cost for a shared room in my house is 35,000 yen monthly.
- I found my share house through the website Colish. It has share houses organized by ‘concept,’ for example, share houses for artists, pet-lovers, party-goers, etc. Other JETs have found share houses through these websites:
1. Moving into/out of a share house is much easier than an apartment:
- Lower start-up costs and monthly rent. My initial fee was only 20,000 yen! That’s exceptionally cheap, but other share houses I looked at were around 60,000~80,000 for start-up fees, about a third of what I paid when I moved into an apartment in Tokyo.
- They are already furnished with appliances, dishes, cookware, etc. which saves you time, money, and stress for moving in and moving out of Tokyo apartments. Especially getting rid of your appliances when you move back to your home country can be costly and a huge pain!
- The bedrooms are usually furnished. If not, you can at least pass the furniture you buy onto the next resident. Like the above point, this saves you some hassle when you move out.
2. Shared living (if you like that):
- Make friends.
- Improve your Japanese.
- Bigger kitchen! (if you really love cooking like me, this is a huge plus!)
- People are there to help with domestic challenges. Whenever appliances break down at my place, I just tell the manager and he fixes it or calls someone to fix it. When we had an ant infestation recently, we all worked together to find the source of the ants and block it and then cleaned up all the ant mess together. Whenever I have spiders, I call one of my house mates to come get them.
- Compared to my experiences living with others in America, I find that my Japanese house mates tend to be a little more private than my American ones. This makes for a very quiet and peaceful house.
1. Shared living (if you don’t like that)
- Shower/laundry/cooking schedule. It can be annoying to have to wait a long time to do any of those things! Initially, we didn’t have a good system for any of this so you had to just keep checking every 20 minutes to see if the bathroom or kitchen was free. Now we have a white board system where you “reserve” the shower or washing machine at certain times but sometimes people ignore it. It can be especially frustrating in the summer when you just want a cold shower after work, but you have to wait 2 hours for your allotted time slot.
- Different communication/living styles. My house happens to have had, at various times, Japanese people from all over the country and two foreigners (myself and a Chinese man). So we all have different communication styles and different cultural norms which can make living together challenging sometimes. For example, the Chinese man and I both come from cultures where it’s really normal to have friends over or talk on the phone a lot. But these behaviors seem to be a little bothersome to the Japanese residents so we have to find the right balance of doing what we like while also being respectful to our house mates.
- The language barrier can be a challenge.
- Disagreements/other incidents. Aside from cultural differences, sometimes people just don’t vibe well and get into disagreements. Sometimes it’s more than that. We had an incident of sexual harassment at my share house a few months ago. Thankfully, all the rooms have locks so no one was hurt and the offending party was asked to leave right away.
- Understand that until you sign a contract, nothing is guaranteed, even if you get a verbal confirmation. I’ve heard of several cases where someone was promised a room, but then the manager gave it away to someone else who could move in sooner. When you are touring share houses, ask about house rules right away. A lot of places have a policy against overnight guests or they have specific restrictions for who can stay over. There might be other rules which don’t match your life style so it’s best to find out right away. Often times the share house tour is conducted by a manager, real estate agent, or someone else who doesn’t actually live in the house so if you run into a resident while on your tour, try to ask them some questions. Also, it’s good to consider what your priorities are for a share house and the kind of people you want to live with. For example, if you know that you hate group events, then make sure you don’t move into a party house. When you tour the house, you can ask how often they have parties/events. If you know that you really want to focus on improving your Japanese, you can look for a house with mostly Japanese residents. If you know that you want to find friends to travel with on the weekends, you can look for a house with mostly foreign residents since they might be more interested in sightseeing around Japan. For me, it really worked out perfectly that I found a house for artists. Since I’m around people working on creative projects all the time, it motivates me to work on my art a lot more. Even though we have a language barrier so we can’t really have a discussion at length about the content of our work, just the creative vibe of the house helps a lot.
Good luck with house-hunting!