Being placed in Tokyo has some amazing advantages. There is always something happening and there are many opportunities to socialize. It does have its disadvantages however, the main being that JETs placed in Tokyo have to find their own apartments, pay super high startup costs and living expenses are not subsidized by the BoE. Finding and furnishing an apartment is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome when initially coming to Tokyo, and the BoE does not do much to help you. So, I have put together a bunch of information on share houses to help you decide on the best housing option for you.
Share houses give you the comfort of a fully furnished kitchen, living space, and bedroom while being easy on your wallet. They aren’t for everyone but can provide a great housing option for those placed in Tokyo who are open to shared living. This article is not trying to tell you that you should choose shared housing it is just designed to give you some first-hand experiences so that you can consider all of the housing options.
My name is Daisy and I’m a first-year public school JET from Australia, placed in Tokyo. In this post, I’ll share my experience as well as the experiences of a couple of other Tokyo JETs who also chose share housing. In preparation for moving to Japan, I saved about $5000 AUD and did a bunch of research on getting my own apartment. I was excited about the freedom and independence of having my own place and the possibilities of having people stay with me when they visited. I never even considered share housing as an option and now I really wish that I had done.
My incoming group had a very limited window to view apartments and sign a contract. There were a number of dramas with the company assigned to help us find apartments and at least half of the group had very poor experiences. I was presented with 3 apartments on paper and ended up only viewing 2. It was the middle of summer and I was hot, tired and just wanted to get it over and done with. So I signed a contract for a cute little 1K (20 square feet) only 5 minutes walk from my school.
My startup costs were huge (approx. 300, 000 yen) but I was told that was normal so I paid it. My rent was 69,000 yen per month and after utilities, my total came to about 85,000 per month. It was just over the max rent suggestion but I told myself that being close to my school would make it worth it. It was a relatively new apartment and came with a new fridge, stove, and AC. I only spent about 25,000 yen on a bed, washing machine and kitchen appliances. I told myself I’d get my finances under control after a few months when I had settled in and got into a routine but I soon realized that I hadn’t left myself much to work with.
After 5 months I got hit with some unexpected repair bills and was starting to feel really unhappy because I didn’t have much money left over to socialize or travel around Japan. It was this that prompted me to consider moving. I talked to my co JET who happened to choose share housing from the start and after some great reviews and encouraging suggestions I decided to see what was out there. Within 2km of my apartment were over 5 share houses with rooms all ranging in size and price. I found one that suited me only 5 minutes from my apartment and moved a month later. My deposit was only 30,000 yen (I get back 20,000 when I leave!) and my rent is now 62,000 including utilities. For me, moving into a share house was the best decision I have made and I wish I had moved into a share house right away. Now I am able to socialize and can take little weekend trips without feeling guilty or stressed about money.
Everyone’s experience will be totally different to mine so I reached out to a bunch of other Tokyo JETs to find out why they chose shared housing.
Bruce’s Experience | 1st year JET from Boston
Bruce moved into a share house 6 months after arriving in Tokyo due to high rent and utilities. He also disliked the apartment he ended up with after a lot of confusion and a poor experience with the company assigned to help him find an apartment. His new share house has a couple of great perks including free coffee, beer, wine and liquor that is replenished each month to share with his housemates. His commute to work is now about 1 hour and he pays (47,800 yen for rent + 14,000 yen for utilities) 61, 8000 yen in rent per month.
- Do your research! Not all share houses are alike in terms of what utilities are offered and who lives there. Some houses can get loud or messy because of foreign students.
- Be social, make friends, and ask questions. Arriving in Tokyo can be very intimidating, and having connections that already know the ropes is very useful.
Katie’s Experience | 4th year JET from California
Katie moved into an artist share house after 1 year in her own apartment as she was used to living with a big family and felt a bit lonely. Her husband has since moved in with her because she likes her place so much! Katie gets a 50% discount on her monthly rent in exchange for cleaning the shared spaces and teaching weekly English classes so her total monthly rent is 30,000 yen. Utilities vary based on the number of people living there but it is usually 13,000 yen per month so her total monthly rent is about 43, 000 yen. Katie also has the added advantage of being around other creative people and is able to use the huge workroom in her house to host classes/meetings and parties.
- Ask about the rules straight away! Many places have a policy against overnight guests or they have quest restrictions. There also may be other rules that don’t match your lifestyle so its best to find out first thing.
- When you tour the house ask how often they have parties of events. This can help you determine if it is the right house for you.
Hamed’s Experience | 2nd year JET from Texas
Hamed secured a room in a share house before moving to Japan because he didn’t want to rush into a long term apartment contract. He paid his deposit using a credit card and had peace of mind upon arrival that he had a room already locked in. He also knew he could easily move out into an apartment or another share house when he was ready. His first share house was only a 12-minute walk to school allowing him to focus on his new work life rather than get stressed about figuring out the train system. Since then he has lived in 4 share houses in various parts of Tokyo and had different share house experiences. He currently pays 80,000 yen including utilities for an above average sized room that includes a fridge, a cooktop, sink, closet, shower, and toilet. It takes him 30 minutes walk to school and sometimes he rides his bike.
- With the money you save on your deposit, buy a bike! It makes doing your grocery shopping and getting around your local area much easier.
Jessica’s Experience | 1st year from Canada
Jessica was a late alternate that got upgraded and was only going to be in Japan for about 6 months. She didn’t feel the need to rent an apartment for such a short time so chose shared living. Initially, she stayed in a women-only dorm set up but moved after 2 weeks due to a lack of storage space and alone time. Jessica really likes her new share house with her own private room that includes a fridge, clothing rack, vanity desk, bed, AC and TV. Her commute is 40 minutes and her rent per month is only 45,000yen.
- If you value alone time, dorm style shard living might not be for you so try looking for a share house with a private room.
- Start researching share houses as soon as you find out your placement. This will make you better prepared when the time comes to get in contact with share houses you like.
Karlissa’s Experience | 2nd year JET from Atlanta
Karlissa moved into a share house as soon as she moved to Tokyo because she knew the startup costs would be low and she wanted everything to be ready for her when she arrived. She also didn’t want to deal with furnishing her own place and setting up utilities until she was ready. Karlissa moved into an apartment after a year of share house life but when she was living in a share house her commute to work was 30 minutes and she paid 70,000 yen for a furnished room and utilities.
- Keep an eye out for share house campaigns. Some companies offer a reduced deposit is you move in during a certain time of year.
Steve’s Experience | 1st year JET from Canada
Steve stayed with a friend for the first two months in Tokyo so that he could look for a share house without the short time pressure. Money was a big concern for him and he also wanted the flexibility in terms of making and breaking contracts that share houses offered. After two months he made the easy move into a share house designed for foreigners. His commute to work is just over 45 minutes and he pays 64,000 yen per month in total. If saving money is a priority and you don’t mind occasionally waiting to use the shower, Steve says staying at a share house may be for you!
- When searching for a share house, it may be possible to get the address or the general location of the share house. Use that information to calculate or estimate your commute time to see if you are ok with that.
- Greet your house mates to let them know that you are friendly and willing to listen to anything they have to say. Even if you don’t end up friends with them, they will be comfortable communicating something important to you when the time comes
Justine’s Experience | 3rd year JET from Australia
Justine moved into a share house after her 2nd year because she didn’t enjoy living by herself. She also wanted to make new friends after many of her JET friends left after finishing their 2nd year. Her commute is only 30 minutes and she pays about 84,000 yen each month.
- Be considerate of other people’s space and belongings. You’re living in a shared space so you have to clean up after yourself.
- Be clear on the house rules and adhere to them.
- Don’t hide in your room all the time. Making friends with your housemates can make home life really fun!
The process of moving into a share house
In most cases getting a room in a share house is quite similar to getting an apartment however you have to do all the work yourself. Fortunately, there are a large number of companies targeting foreigners so their websites are easy to navigate and can be changed into English. Listed below is a general list of the process of getting a room In a share house.
- Search share house websites for a room that suits your location, budget, and lifestyle.
- Contact share house to confirm availability and make a viewing appointment.
- Go to viewing appointment and check out room and facilities. Ask questions regarding rules, rent etc.
- If you choose to go ahead with the room sign contract and pay the deposit.
- Pick up the key and move in.
Things to ask or confirm when you tour the house:
- House rules
- The move out notice period
- Shared duties
- If there is a cleaner or cleaning schedule
- Overnight visitor policy
- What kind of social life the residents have
About Share Houses
If you don’t have a lot of money saved up, or want to have more spending power when you land in Tokyo, then starting off in a shared house for your first month or two, allows you to save up and be able to make that transition into an apartment when you are ready. Sharehouses are already furnished so you don’t have to worry about buying appliances or furniture. This also means you don’t have to worry about getting rid of things when you leave.
One of the major benefits of choosing a share house is a minimal deposit. Deposits start average at around 30,000 yen and in most cases, you get a lot of that back when you move out. In some cases, you can pay your deposit by credit card before even moving to Japan. The deposit will cover a cleaning fee and possibly something to secure the room for you.
Your rent will depend on the type of room you choose (shared or private), the size of the room and the location. Rent is dependent on a number of things like the type of room you choose, its size, the location of the share house and number of residents. Prices can start at 30,000 per month and go up from there. As per the max rent suggestion via Tokyo JET wiki it’s best to try and spend less 84,000 yen including utilities on rent. 55,000 – 75,000 yen total per month should be great.
In most cases, utilities at a share house will include water, electricity, gas, and wifi. It also covers living essentials like toilet paper, cleaning products and… If your house has a cleaner that visits once or twice a week this is probably covered by your utilities. Share house utilities may be the same or they may vary each month. Some companies will include the cost of utilities in the rent or charge a standard rate which is usually around 15,000 yen per month.
Every share house offers a range of different facilities to accommodate its residents. All share houses come with basic amenities such as a kitchen, toilets and showers but others may have additional facilities like a gym or theatre. Listed below are some of the common facilities found in Japanese share houses. Due to the nature of living with other people, you may have to occasionally wait to use the facilities.
- Washing Machine (may be coin operated)
- TV (in a shared living space like a lounge room or dining room)
- Bigger kitchen
- Art studio
In most share houses a cleaner will be employed to visit a few times a week to clean the shared spaces like the kitchen, bathrooms, and showers.
Share houses offer 3 kinds of rooms, single/private, shared or dormitory (3 or more). Some share houses are women only and/or Non-Japanese only and some try to balance the gender ratio. This information is usually mentioned on the website. Each room comes with basic furniture like a bed, desk, and clothing storage. Others come furnished with extras like a TV, stovetop, and sink. Some share houses have rooms that are larger than small apartments. The pictures on the website are usually taken with a wide angle lens to make the rooms look longer and wider. Room sizes may be listed based on a number of tatamis or by square meters. The average size is 6 tatamis or 9.18sqm.
- Cupboard or Clothes Rack
Extra Furnished Rooms:
- Washroom with either a toilet, shower or both
Depending on your school, there could be one or multiple share-houses really close to you. Try and find something on your nearest train line or within walking or cycling distance. When researching, keep a tab open with maps so you can try and estimate possible commute times.
Living in a share house means that you will have to communicate with other people. Some may only be here for a few months and some may stay long term. You will need to be comfortable sharing spaces, occasionally waiting to take a shower or use the toilet and there may be noises from people doing random things at random times. Your housemates may be friendly and social or they may have absolutely no social skills at all.
You will live with other Tokyo residents including Japanese people and/or other foreign residents who work or study here in Japan. You also have the added benefit of meeting new people and possibly making new friends immediately upon arriving, which can be a difficult task when living alone. There may be opportunities for language exchange too!
Research the place you are interested in living and find out if it matches what you want. For example, if you want to make Japanese friends or talk to people in Japanese, then you will want to avoid share houses that have a lot of non-Japanese speakers. If you know that you don’t like group events, then make sure you don’t move into a party house. If you want to find friends to travel with on the weekends, you can look for a house with mostly foreign residents as they may be more interested in sightseeing.
One of the major advantages of a share house is flexibility. If you are only planning to stay in Japan for one year this housing option may be good for you. Some companies may require a 3 – 6-month minimum stay commitment but most only require 1-month notice when you want to move out. If you don’t like the share house you choose at the start you can move. Having flexibility allows you to move rather freely and easily allowing you to experience different parts of Tokyo.
Some share houses give you garbage duties, meaning that at some point, it will be your responsibility to do the garbage. Other share houses provide no shared garbage space inside the building and force you to keep your own garbage in your room or dispose of it in the correct area outside the house. The latter option results in no garbage duty for anyone.
Where to start researching
A quick google search will yield a number of results. Here are some that current Tokyo JETs have used to find rooms.
- Sakura House
- Oak House
- Boarderless House
- Tokyo Share House
- Tokyo Stay
- Guest House Bank
- Share Design
- Tokyo Room Finder
- Share Style
I hope all of this information can help you choose the right living option for you during your time in Tokyo! It all feels very exciting and a little overwhelming in the lead up to the move to Japan but being well informed can really help ease those nervy feels.
If you have any questions, feedback or if there is anything you think I’ve missed please let me know!
Thank you to the Tokyo JETs who shared their experiences and contributed information to this post. 🙂