At the time of writing, I’ve lived in two different shared houses, one in Nishi-Nippori (http://nippori.backpackers-guesthouse.com/), and one in Kawasaki (which I’m still living at right now and thus choose not to disclose the location or name of at the moment). Maybe this article will help you figure out if shared houses are a good fit for you.
The first one isn’t really a true shared house. It’s more akin to a capsule hotel that you book for at least one month, except that there is a shared kitchen. Perhaps “dorm” is a better word. It’s quite bad. I wouldn’t recommend staying there for more than maybe a month. (I stayed for about three months and then came back and stayed another five months… Ugh.)
- Mostly clean
- Cheap (36000 JPY per month)
- You can socialize with people (however: it will be tough if you ever don’t want to do this)
- It’s on the Yamanote line
- Obviously you won’t have to buy any furniture (or be able to)
- Your “room” isn’t a room at all, but a capsule in a cluster of capsules made of wood. The “door” to your room is a curtain. You won’t be able to stand in the bottom capsules, and only maybe in the top ones.
- You’ll hear every snore around you.
- You don’t have any mail privacy either; all mail goes into a single box and everyone goes through it to find their own mail.
- The neighborhood seems a bit peculiar, having a lot of love hotels.
- There are only three showers for a maximum of ~60? or ~70? people, so you will most likely have to wait in the mornings.
- Using the shower costs 100 JPY per 15? minutes.
- The number of washing machines is pretty low too: two or three if I remember correctly.
- The kitchen is tiny too.
- Some of the other people around you might seem depressed.
- Somebody there stole my wallet when I accidentally left it in the shower room for (I think) less than one hour. (However, I never had anything stolen from my capsule.)
I bet it’s an okay place if you’re a young budget traveler looking to explore Tokyo and socialize for a month. If you’re young, please don’t let people convince you that drinking and smoking are good habits! In any other case you should try to avoid the place.
Now the one I’ve been living in for more than two years! This is one of many shared houses operated by Oak House (https://www.oakhouse.jp/). (Most of them are in Tokyo or nearby.) The one I picked was the second shared house that I wanted to take a look at, and I was mostly convinced when I saw the kitchen having an oven! Most Japanese households don’t have a proper oven. The first one I looked at only had a few rooms and seemed a bit depressing with fluorescent lighting and a rather sad neighborhood (Shin-Koiwa).
Oak House’s website often doesn’t say when a particular property was built, so maybe search for the property’s address and find it listed on other websites, which will often include the year. (This place was built in the 1970s. If possible, maybe try for something newer to get better insulation. :p).
Random facts about the current place
- I’m paying 63,000 JPY per month.
- My room is about 10 square meters.
- Bathrooms, laundry rooms, shower rooms, and kitchen are shared.
- There’s even a small (big for Japanese standards I guess?) garden (which is mostly used for bicycle and car parking and letting the laundry/futons dry.
- There are about 25 rooms in total, and they’re occupied most of the time.
- The rooms come with a bed, reasonably nice desk, fridge, air conditioner, and a closet (押入れ). My closet is divided into three sections – the floor section, where I keep my suit cases and bags, the main section, where I keep my clothes, and the top section (which is pretty hard to reach), which I use for boxes and seasonally useful stuff.
- The inner walls are reasonably thick — I can listen to music and play on my digital piano without having to use head phones all the time. (I don’t play very noisy pieces in general.)
- The outer walls are either thin or have bad insulation (as does the ceiling), so it’s pretty cold in winter and pretty hot in summer.
- You have to pay extra (think about 10,000 JPY) if you decide to let someone stay for longer than three nights in a single month. 10 square meters isn’t that much, so I wouldn’t really recommend roomsharing, though I’ve seen two (petite) sisters share a room for about half a year. I once had my mom over for about three weeks though, which was okay.
- There aren’t many people around during the day. You’ll probably get to occupy the living room and kitchen all by yourself.
- With approximately 25 people sharing three showers, I have had to wait in front of the shower rooms only maybe five times so far in these two years.
- The kitchen tends to be used in the evenings, so you sometimes might have to wait a bit. (It’s big enough for two to three people to do stuff at the same time though.)
- There are four washing machines, so I’ve never had to wait there.
- If something breaks, it gets replaced pretty quick — so far, this included at least washing machines, microwave ovens, the shared vacuum cleaners, and frying pans.
- Wireless internet is included. (We recently got decent routers/access points — Buffalo AirStation Pros, which are quite capable of taking care of the many devices belonging to the 25 people here. The hardware we had before was pretty bad.)
- You can use up to 100 kWh of electricity per month without being asked to pay extra. However, they only check the meters every six months, so don’t worry if you use more in the winter or summer months, as you won’t be using much in October and April. I’ve never had to pay extra, and I generally try to maintain a comfortable temperature when I’m in.
- The shared space (kitchen, corridors, shower room, laundry room, toilets) is cleaned by a professional cleaning crew every Saturday from around 1 pm to 2:30 pm. During this time you may not be able to use the showers and kitchen for a while.
- Another nice thing: If you have a lot of money, you can lend it to Oak House and get a 1,000 JPY discount for every 100,000 JPY that you lend.
- You can choose to socialize with others, or you can totally stay in your room if you don’t want to. We maybe get some party atmosphere once a month.
- Oak House’s website allows you to view statistics on gender, age, and nationalities. Most of the people at my shared house are Japanese, most are in their 20s. 36% XX, 64% XY.
I’d say that choosing a nice neighborhood is pretty important. This one is mostly residential, and new. Lots of supermarkets nearby too. It’s about ten minutes to the station, which is pretty good. (By the way, don’t expect to be able to park your bicycle at popular stations.)
When you choose an apartment, shared house or not, pay attention to insulation, what floor you’re on, and what direction your room is facing. If your roof has poor insulation, it’ll be really hot on the top floor in summer and really cold in winter. If you have poor insulation and your room faces west, summer mornings will be okay and afternoons will be brutal, and your AC probably won’t help all that much.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.