A Guide to Share Houses in Japan: What is Shared Living Really Like?

May 28, 2019


In Japan, besides renting an apartment, living in a share house is a common living option, especially in big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Are you wondering what’s it really like to live in a share house? You’re in the right place!

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to share houses in Japan!

What is a share house?

A share house is a rental place with your private room or shared room where residents can gather and socialize in a shared space about their way of life. These shared spaces include the kitchen, shower, or living room, which is also sometimes called the common area. Essentially, share houses are much cheaper than renting a regular apartment and are popular choices for students and young working professionals.

Why do people choose to stay in a share house, and what are the benefits?

There are many reasons why someone would choose to live in a share house with the number one reason being its cost, which is relatively more affordable especially if you’re still a student or a fresh graduate. Since there are various types of share houses, you can choose one that fits your budget.

If you’re saving and don’t mind having a roommate, you can choose to live in a shared room. If you prefer your personal space, then a private room would be suitable for you. If you want to live in a larger space with more housemates, you can live in a social residence share house.

Share houses, in general, are focused on the community, so making new friends who have similar interests such as sports, art, cooking, or language-learning are much more accessible. This is especially helpful if you have just moved to Japan and are looking to make new friends. Living in a share house is a great first step to expanding your social circle. And because you are all living under the same roof, it’s much easier to spend time together, especially if you have different working hours.

The diversity of residents in sharehouses is something you would benefit from. Not only will there be people from different backgrounds, cultures, ages, and places, you would also meet people who could help you in the future such as teaching you Japanese, cooking skills or technical skills — share houses are an excellent place for skills exchange.

You also have the option of choosing to live in a co-ed space or a male-only or female-only share house. Some people would be more comfortable living in same-gender houses, and share houses allow you to choose just that.

One other benefit besides making friends is actually looking for romance and potential partners. Yes, this happens. In fact, my manager met his wife in a share house. Since share houses emphasize socializing, a romance is just another perk you can enjoy.

My reason for sharing in a share house is that I felt safer living with other people. Japan is a place prone to natural disasters, and being with other people makes me feel secure in case of an earthquake, which happens quite frequently in a small scale. Also, when there’s an emergency or an accident, I can always ask for help from someone right away.

If there’s a problem at the house, for example, your air-conditioner or the shower is not working, you can just contact the share house or the management, and it would be fixed right away — for me, that saves a lot of time and no miscommunication due to the language barrier.

Unlike an unfurnished apartment, share houses already have the essential furniture and appliances that you need. The room most likely would include a bed, a chair, a table, a cabinet, or a fridge. Sometimes the refrigerator would be in the kitchen and is shared by everyone. You don’t need to worry about the utensils as the kitchen would likely have cutlery, dish soap, sponge, cutting board, microwave, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, and an iron. With this, you don’t have to buy too much furniture or appliances and would really save you a lot of time and money.

Are all share houses the same price?

As there are various types of share houses and private spaces, the prices of the share house also vary. It depends on many different factors such as type of private space, size of the room, location of the property, and even the company that owns the share house. Let’s break it down.

In general, a social residence is a large share house that has about 50 residences. These are generally a little bit more expensive as the property is much bigger to accommodate all the residences. The common area, toilet, and kitchen are also bigger. Living in this type of share house guarantees great facilities and more chances of meeting different kinds of people.

Social Residence would be a great example. My colleague lives in Neighbors Motoyawata which has three floors with the ground floor just being the kitchen, living room (with a billiards pool), shower room, and shoe area. Each floor has about 20 residents.

If you want a smaller share house, these are generally much easier to find and a lot more common. The types of room available can range from a dorm, where you will be sharing with one or two roommates, or a have your private bedroom. A dorm is much cheaper, but your space will be much smaller.

A private room’s price can vary depending on the size and the location. You can find cheaper options away from Central Tokyo with an average size ranging from 9–15 square meters.

Oakhouse and Sakura House both offers dorm and private rooms. Both of these companies also mostly cater to foreigners. If you’re looking to live with more Japanese, Tokyo Sharehouse is a better option. They also have several social residences but are generally more expensive than the ones that mostly cater to foreigners.

If you’re looking for female-only share houses, Tulip Real Estate is for you.

When it comes to locations, the Ginza and Marunouchi area seems to be the most expensive, followed by Shibuya and Meguro. The affordable ones are mostly in Ueno and Asakusa or nearby Tokyo like Kanagawa, Saitama or Chiba. It varies with different share house companies, but usually, the busy tourist or business areas tend to be much more expensive.

 

Usually, the utility bill is included in the rent that you pay, but sometimes it could be separate. The listing on the share house websites often states the rent, the utility bill, and the maintenance fee (if there is). It’s recommended to check all the prices to see how much you would be paying every month should you choose to live in that particular share house.

What are the procedures?

Unlike renting apartments, the procedure for renting a share house is much more straightforward and takes around a week to finish. If you’re already in Japan, it’s recommended to apply for a house-viewing first. But if you need an immediate place to stay while you’re still overseas, you don’t need to do a house-viewing.

Oakhouse, Tokyo Sharehouse, and Tulip Real Estate allow you to do this. By doing so, you can see the space that you’re about to live in instead of just relying on the photos. You can also take a look at the common area, ask questions to the manager on the day of the viewing, and clarify any concerns that you have. Do note that you can look at vacant rooms. If the room will be vacant soon, but there’s still someone living there on your chosen viewing date, then you cannot look at it.

After the viewing, you usually have a few days to confirm if you want to rent the place. Once you’ve chosen a place, you will need to undergo resident screening. It could just be a formality, but it’s a way to make sure that you’re in Japan with a valid visa or residence status and that you can pay for your rent (e.g., you have a job or if you’re a student, have a part-time job). The process usually takes 1–3 days.

Once the screening is done, you would have to pay a deposit. Sometimes, the share house would give you the option to rent bedding (pillowcase and bedsheets), and sometimes they provide it for free. You would also need to confirm your move-in date as the place needs to be cleaned and prepared for your move.

On your move-in date, you would probably need to meet the manager to sign the house contract. In Sakura House’s case, you would need to go to the office to do so. It takes about half an hour as they need to explain some of the house rules, garbage disposal, and the rules on your contract.

If you know your move-out date, you can also tell them. There’s usually a one-month notice for moving out so be sure to keep that in mind. Once that’s all set, welcome to your new home!

Also, if you’re worried about the language barrier, don’t be. Most of these share houses that have websites in English have English-speaking staff to help you. If you need recommendations or have specific preferences, they would be more than happy to help — as long as there are vacancies in the share houses.

What’s it like living in a share house?

Since you would be living with other people, the most important thing about living in a share house is respecting each other. While there will be staff every week cleaning the common area, it’s your responsibility as a resident to clean your own space as well as the common area when you used it. This includes the shower room, toilet, and kitchen.

Japan has a garbage disposal system, and this is something you would need to be familiar with. You would need to separate your garbage from unburnable, burnable, cans, glass, and PET bottles. You also need to keep in mind their collection dates.

In Sakura House, each resident is assigned to be in charge of garbage disposal for the entire week. In Oakhouse, there’s no set person but something to be coordinated among yourselves.

Residences are also more than welcome to bring guests to the house, and some of them could stay over (with a fee), but different share houses would have different rules. It’s important to keep the volume down as other residents might be sleeping. For female-only houses, no male guests are allowed.

In general, what you do in your own space is your choice, but within the shared space, there needs to be some courtesy.

Do keep in mind though that there will be share houses where people are reserved. Some who choose to live in a share house might really want to make friends, but some may have chosen it because it’s a faster and easier option than an apartment. There will be times when making friends wouldn’t be so easy, and your housemates would only be hi-bye “friends.”

You can’t control who you live with, and there may also be passive-aggressive housemates. While I encourage introverts or shy people to live in share houses to make friends, do also remember that if you prefer to have your own space, you would still need to communicate with your housemates once in a while — whether it’s just casual conversation or who’s going to use that washing machine first.

It’s also very common to have to wait in using shared spaces such as the kitchen, the shower room, the toilet, and the washing machines. If you’re a person who really wants to do things at a fixed or set time, you might want to consider this.

How long do people usually stay in a sharehouse for?

The real answer? It really depends.

I’ve met residents that just stayed for a couple of months up to a year and some that have been long-term residents. If you’re in Japan as a student or doing an internship, the ideal period would be a few months to a few years. Most of the long-term residents are either young professionals or Japanese residents. Most foreigners would opt to live in their own place later on — as would anyone.

As long as the share house that you’re living in doesn’t close down, you can choose to live there as long as you like. Most share houses do require a minimum of at least one month, and for Oakhouse, the plans are one month, one month and six months contract which you can renew or terminate with at least one month’s notice.

Do you think living in shared-houses in Japan is a good option for you?

If you’re new to Japan, want to make friends, looking for reasonable accommodation then yes, absolutely! With this guide, I hope you’ve become interested in share houses.

With plenty of choices to choose from that fit your budget and preference, living in a share house is quite an experience that anyone should really try at least once.

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