The de facto motto of the JET programme "E.S.I.D – Every Situation Is Different", is used and sometimes abused to explain away differences between Japan and your home country. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the area of housing. Some JETs end up with a small, one room apartment in larger towns & cities (called a mansion - gotta love the irony!) while others have a 2-story house all to themselves out in the middle of a rice paddy. Similarly, some may pay ¥50000 or ¥60000 a month in rent, while others will have a fair chunk of their rent subsidized by their contracting organizations. It’s tough, and every year there are at least several JETs who feel that they’ve gotten the short end of the stick. Try not to compare your situation with others’ too much, and try to focus on the positives of where you live.......
- is it isolated? Then all the more reason to crank up the volume on that stereo and invite some friends over!
- is it a small room in an over-crowded apartment complex? What a great chance to better get to know your neighbors and to experience cultural exchange at a grass-roots level!
Contract and Lease Signing
Many JETs take over their predecessor’s residence. Others may move into a new place with all the red tape taken care of by your contracting organization before you arrive. Keep in mind that if you did not actually agree to take the residence before you came over you are under no obligation to take it. However unless you have a viable reason for wanting to move, you may encounter some resistance on the part of your supervisor and contracting organization with regard to finding another place.
You may rent an apartment after you sign the lease with a landlord or real estate agent. Before you do sign the agreement, READ IT. It will most likely be written in Japanese. Ask your supervisor to translate it if you cannot read Japanese. Even if you do your understanding may be limited. Also inspect the apartment. Look for any preexisting damage. Make sure to take photos of any pre-existing damage you find and bring it to the attention of your landlord right away.
When renting an apartment, you will need enough cash to cover the following:
Self explanatory. Basically the same thing you would do back home. Pay a deposit that will be returned when you leave, provided you are not behind on your rent and have not damaged the apartment. This is equal to roughly 1 to 2 months rent.
Key Money (reikin)
Also known as ‘Thank you/Gift money.’ Key money reikin 礼金 , literally, "gratitude/gift money") is non-refundable and often can be the same amount as the original deposit (shikikin), as much as six months or more. Typically it is 1-3 months though. This expense is specific to Japan and is basically a ‘gift’ to your landlord. It is often difficult to see what exact purpose this money serves, but it is both a social custom and legally necessary for anyone wishing to rent an apartment in Japan. In recent years, an increasing number of landlords and real estate agencies have begun to offer "reikin"-free rental housing. Bigger chains of apartment complexes such as Leo Palace changed the the key money system for membership fees instead.
Varies with location – rent can vary wildly between major metropolitan centers and the countryside. Some of you will have little rent and have most of it subsidized. You only have to deal with your utilities. Others will be asked to pay the full amount. Rent will, again depending on where you live, be due at different times of the month. As a general rule the rent is due at or near the end of the month, usually soon after payday.
Unless circumstances absolutely call for it, moving is generally not recommended. However, if you really want to move, get the okay from your contracting organization. Keep in mind that you will have to pay the entire cost of moving yourself, as well as any hidden costs that may arise. Before you move, know the how, why and where of the move. Know before you go. Breaks, leaks and infestations
As a general rule, the tenant is responsible for any and all damage done to the apartment. It is also usually the tenants responsibility to get the damage repaired (except in the case of things like tatami, where the landlord may have a specific store that they deal exclusively with). Any damage that exists prior to you moving into the apartment/house is the responsibility of your landlord – broken/cracked windows, busted pipes, torn tatami – take pictures immediately and bring the problem(s) up with your landlord (politely) as soon as possible.
Those taking over the residence of their predecessors will probably have bought much of their furniture and appliances, etc, along with it. Once again, however, others will get a more or less bare apartment and be asked to buy your own furnishings. If this happens, DON’T PANIC.
People in your area may have things they are getting rid of or might know where you can get some cheap but sturdy goods. Japan is a ‘recycle’ society. There are many discount stores that have furniture and other used household items that you can buy quite cheaply. Ask your supervisor or people at your school where a recycling store is in your area. If you are a do it yourself type Japan has a myriad of stores that are just for you. 100 yen shops are great for this. You can buy any number of items including the tools you need to build, or at least assemble, various types of furniture.
Lastly, if you want something new there are some very good stores in Wakayama where you can buy household furnishings. "Konan" and "Komeri" are store chains which have practically every item you could possibly need to furnish your house, as well as other items like vacuum cleaners, light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, rugs, microwave ovens, etc. Home delivery is available for larger items. Many items come in kit (D.I.Y) form and can be assembled in an hour or two with minimum tool use.
Japanese houses and apartments will have some unique problems that will require you to arm yourself and prepare for combat against a myriad of deadly foes, I realize that newcomers might want to know "who's out to get me?" Well hopefully the information below will help you come out on top!
Straw Mats (tatami) 畳
- charming at first, but a pain if you don’t take care of it (a bit like me).
- will last a long time if treated with care.
- regular vacuuming will remove most dirt and dust.
- only use a damp cloth to wipe, never use cleaning products.
- ensure that tatami mats have dried fully before putting carpets etc. back into place.
- NEVER wear shoes/slippers on a tatami mat (especially if Japanese people are around).
Tatami Ticks (dani) ダニ
- Can happen at any time but tends to happen during seasonal changes.
- Kill these pests with "dani aasu" (ダニアース) found at your local supermarket.
Cockroaches (gokiburi) ゴキブリ
Cockroaches will inherit the earth if humanity destroys itself in a nuclear war, but until that time fight them with......
- Roach spray - Cockroach JET コックローチジェット
- Roach Motels - ゴキブリホイホイ (gokubuiri hoihoi), and ゴキブリ取り (gokiburitori)
Mosquitoes and Flies (ka and hae) カ and ハエ
- Mosquito Incense and Refills: アースノーマット
- Fly spray
Moisture (shikke) 湿気
- Japan gets hot and humid during summer (especially in Wakayama)
- Charcoal can also be used and gets rid of odors too.
- Place dehumidifying agents (shikketori) or desiccants (kanso-zai) in closets, drawers and other dark places
Mildew and Mold (kabi) カビ
- Pretty straight forward, keep your place ventilated to stop this.
- If you didn’t, use “Kabi Killa”, baking soda or lemon juice and vinegar, or all three if you are feeling fancy.
You will most likely have one of these in your place, they are comfortable, give you a lot more room as they can be put away and safer than a bed because you can’t fall out of it after drinking into the early hours at your welcome Enkai. Japanese futons are flat, about 5 cm (2 in) thick with a futon mattress (shikibuton) which you sleep on, a comforter (kakebuton) or blanket (mofu) which you cover yourself with, and a pillow (makura).
- Hang them outside on sunny days to air them out (look at your neighbor's balcony for tips).
- Make sure to beat them like a rug to get the dust out.
- Blankets and covers should also be hung out in the sun OR take them to the coin laundry if possible.
- Doing this will prevent mold and dani from taking over your bedding!
- Always remember to remove your shoes at the genkan (entrance hall) before entering a Japanese home.
- When using Oil or Gas in the winter, open the windows once every hour or so to prevent carbon monoxide build-up.
- Cleaning your air conditioner air filters will improve performance (use soapy water or vacuum)
- When you come back from holiday, run the taps to refill dried out pipe traps.
ant spray - ari no sacchu zai
baking soda - juso-u
bath tub cleaner - furo yo sen zai
bleach - hyo haku zai
carpet cleaner - jutan yo sen zai
dehumidifying pellets - shiikke tori
dishwashing liquid - shokki yo ekitai sen zai
drain-cleaner – Paipu Kurina
tatami mite killers - dani no kujo
toilet plunger - tsumari tori
fabric softener - junan shiage zai
laundry soap - sentaku yo sekken
soap powder - konasekken
detergent - gosei sen zai
mildew spray - kabi kira
moisture collectors - joshitsu zai, shikke tori
mosquito coil - katori senko
toilet cleaner - toire yo sen zai
roach hotel - gokiburi hoi hoi
stain remover - shimi nuki yo sen zai
toilet cleaner - toire yo sen zai
- Fans - 扇子、団扇 sensu and uchiwa
- Cold Patches and Ice Pillows: 熱さま (Atsu-sama) in sheet and pillow variety
- Skin wipes: Great for the hot, sticky summers
- Kotatsu (火燵) - small table with an electric heater underneath covered by a quilt. Leg warmer and your best friend during the cold winter months!
- Hot water bottles - 湯たんぽ (yutanpo)
- Hand (Pocket) Warmers - 懐炉 (kairo), comes in both disposable and rechargeable (for the environmentally conscious)
- Bed warmers - 行火 (anka) and Electric Blankets
- Heaters - electric and kerosene varieties. Make sure which ever heater you use is acceptable for your apartment complex.