Renting an Apartment in Japan

I recently moved to a new apartment, my sixth since coming to Japan, and I couldn’t be happier. My first place left a wee bit to be desired, consisting of a dreary, small box with alternating views of a machine shop and a cinder-block wall. Well, at least it had two windows, so that was something. In the mornings, the smell of machine oil would mix deliciously with my scrambled eggs. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to consistently upgrade my living quarters.

So when I saw this latest spot, a corner room with a view of a park, I made a snap decision to move. Because Ken Seeroi’s a dude who believes in proactivity. Not that I ever actually get off my ass and do anything, but more in the sense that yep, proactivity does exist.

Another motivating factor was that the new place was being offered by the same realtor as my current spot. They have an office right down the street from me, which is very convenient. So I reckoned it would simplify the rental process. Did I mention I’m also incredibly naive? Yeah, well. So I sent a message through their web site. Interested in Room 507? it said. Click here! Sales agents are waiting! I clicked, and expressed my interest.

Sorry, came the reply, but that property is being handled by our Higashi BumFuck office, so could you please call them?

Making a Japanese Phone Call

Now, if you were to graph me making a Japanese phone call, it’d resemble the U.S. stock market, circa 1929. Which is to say that everything starts out just hunky dory, and then heads south in a great hurry. So I typed a reply.

Sorry, I said, but could you give me their email address?

Sorry, they said, but they don’t have email. Please call them.

Like, who doesn’t have email? Perhaps you’d prefer a papyrus note strapped to the leg of a pigeon? But after walking around town sprinkling salt on bird tails, I finally resolved to ride the train through the mists to Higashi BumFuck and have a word in person.

When I walked in, the entire office stopped typing and stared. No one moved or spoke. I glanced behind me. Nope, no one there either. I’m here about an apartment, I said. A lady walked over and pointed at a chair. I dutifully sat down. She looked at me. Apparently, the people of Higashi BumFuck are a quiet lot. I introduced myself, told her where I worked, and showed her my current rental contract. She nodded and stared at my business card. Then I took out a printout of Room 507, asked if it would be possible to get a tour, and she unleashed the floodgates of hell.

Let’s Speak Polite Japanese

Now, if you speak Japanese, you know that it comes in a variety of flavors, ranging from Normal to Salty to Lady MacBeth. She chose to go full Shakespeare.

“May I enquire as to thine name?” she asked.

I sat up straight and replied, “Kenneth Seeroi, the First.

“Dost thou contemplate relocation within the next full moon?

“I was thinking next month, yes. Ish.

“Sadly, such an event cannot be.

“Well, would it at least be possible to view said domicile?”

“Regretfully, said event is forestalled by this and that.

“This and that?” I asked. “Why would that be as it may?

“One cannot,” she began slowly,” peruse said dwelling as a result of this and that, plus such and such.

“I’d certainly be happy to make a down payment today . . .

“Such,” she said more slowly, “and such. You must wait with great patience for a fortnight plus two risings of the sun.”

“Would that be sixteen days?

“Precisely,” she said.

So I rode the train home in a funk. That night I called my buddy, Sandy. He’s a guy, although he’s got a girl’s name, I don’t know why. Maybe he’s gay. Man, the world’s a crazy place.

“So’d you get that apartment?” he asked.

“Nah, they said I had to wait, because such and such.

“What the hell’s that?

“You know, basically this and that.

“Does that mean, because you’re white?

“No. No way. I mean, no. There’s just, you know, stuff.

“Sure,” said Sandy, “stuff.”

That got me thinking, which I had plenty of time to do during the next sixteen days, then eventually rode the train back through the rice patties to the realtor. She wasn’t in, but I managed to arrange an apartment tour for the following day.

I got to the building ten minutes early and waited outside for her to arrive 15 minutes late. She ushered me promptly inside, and straight up to Room 504. Well, that looked like crap. There was only one window on each end. I could barely see the park.

“Um,” I said, “really wanted to see the corner room, 507.

“The corner room?” she said, like I’d just invented cheese with holes.

“Yes, the one we talked about 17 days ago.

“Oh,” she said. We walked down the hall and she made a great show of being unable to unlock the door, then finally opened it. I looked around. It had lots of light, a couple of closets, and a nice view of the park. I loved it. She didn’t say a word.

“I love it,” I said.

“         ,” she said.

I’d like proceed with the rental process, if possible,” I continued. “Are the terms the same as on the website?

“There is an additional security deposit,” she replied.

“Security deposit,” I repeated.

“And a cleaning deposit. And key money, an agency fee, two months of rent in advance, some fee I just made up, the usual first-born child agreement, a guarantor, and two blahblahblahs.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “blahblahblahs?”

I have the fast-draw reflexes of a gunslinger, and had my electronic dictionary out in a flash. I swear I don’t know how anybody survived Japan when paper was the only option. The word that came up on screen was “undertaker.”

“So I need two . . . undertakers?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “of ages between 20 and 60, residing within the current vicinity.

“You know I’m moving, so I wouldn’t know anybody here, right?

“You make take possession of an application, if you wish, and complete it in triplicate,” she said. “Of course, we’ll also need to seek approval from the building proprietor.

“Well, just assuming I can meet all conditions, when would it be possible to move in?

“Timing presents a variety of obstacles,” she responded. “I will need to consult the Oracle of Delphi.”

Which I thought was a strange thing for a Japanese person to say, but whatever. I gave up. 11 years studying Japanese, down the drain. I’d managed to acquire 5 apartments, 14 jobs, 196 girlfriends, 3 tutors, 1 scooter, 1 car, 5 bicycles, and a fridge full of fish cakes and beer. But at this, I was beaten. Hey, you can’t fight City Hall. Maybe that’s not relevant, but anyway I couldn’t get an apartment either. I slunk over to the HR department of my work.

The Japanese HR Department Will See You Now

“Afternoon, Ken,” said Ms. Wallace. She’s a very nice Japanese lady who I assume is married to someone named Mr. Wallace, although I could be wrong. “What can we help you with today?

“Well, see,” I said, “I’m trying to get a new apartment, and the real estate agent is being, how can I put this, somewhat unhelpful.” I looked at the carpet, which was a wonderful shade of burgundy. I’d never noticed that before.

“Unhelpful?” she said. And Ms. Wallace’s eyes lit up with a burgundy fire.

And I explained the basic situation.

“Let me take care of it,” she said simply. But the way she said it conveyed the feeling that Ms. Wallace was about to tear someone a new asshole.

Renting a Japanese Apartment

Exactly twelve minutes later the phone rang.

“Mr Seeroi?” said a man speaking the friendliest Japanese imaginable. “I’m Yamashita, and we’d be delighted to assist you with the rental process. Would it be possible to kindly drop by our office so we can arrange everything?

“Uh, sure,” I said. “I could go to Higashi BumFuck this evening.

“Oh no, that won’t be necessary. Please just come to our office which is conveniently down the street from you.

“Oh,” I said. “Okay, thanks.”

So after work, I brushed my teeth and threw on a fresh shirt, then walked to the realtor’s office. The moment I opened the door, everyone stood and shouted irrashaimase. I was like, is this a surprise party, for me? You shouldn’t have. A smiling lady brought me a cup of tea and Mr. Yamashita explained every detail of the rental contract in careful Japanese detail.

“Of course, there is a cleaning fee,” he said apologetically.

“I understand there’s also a security deposit, key money, half a dozen other crazy fees, and that I need two undertakers?

“Oh, no, no,” he said. “We can dispense with all of that. Given that you’re a current customer and work for a valued company, we’ll waive the security deposit, key money, agency fee, and all that other shit we made up.

“I certainly appreciate that,” I said. “When could I move in?

“When would you like to?” he replied.

Ah, Japanese politeness, now, that’s what I love about this country. That, and the view of the park and the sound of birds in the morning. Well, there’s also the loudspeaker reminding everyone that it’s 7 a.m., Wake up! on Sunday mornings, but that’s merely a bonus. I sure do enjoy my new apartment. I really ought to have the Wallace’s over for curry and beer one of these days.

75 Replies to “Renting an Apartment in Japan”

  1. Wish everyone had happy endings like this one. I’ve lived in Japan for over 11 years and never had problems renting an apartment until I moved to Kyoto, where the only places willing to accept foreigners were some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Too bad there aren’t more Ms. Wallace’s in the world to deal with all the bs.

    1. Kyoto’s a wonderful place to visit, although I’ve heard (and experienced) that they’re not particularly welcoming to anyone without three generations of Kyoto lineage.

      Certainly, one thing that’s rang consistently true throughout the years is that Japan’s a very different place depending on whether you have a Japanese person by your side or not.

      1. Gah, I love this blog, it’s so informative and hilarious. But it’s also depressing, as I’ve noticed other people keep saying. I speak fairly solid Japanese, but I’ve been living in China for 2.5 years now, largely because there there are jobs beyond English teaching for someone with a rikei background and an advanced degree. Not so in japan, aside from IT it seems. I’d like to live once more in Japan, but I don’t want to be denied access to apartments, turned away from bars, thrown out of clubs for no reason, and so on (the club thing happened when I lived here, fresh faced out of college, the turned away at the door thing happened in Kyoto). The other big issue is the whole semi-enforced celibacy thing. Like a lot of the readers, I can’t help but be hopelessly attracted to Japanese. I’ve been in Fukuoka now for about two weeks, visiting friends and job hunting to get out of Shanghai, and I discovered the Pairs mimai app, where I’m overwhelmed with いいねs from women either too young or too old for me, and where I came very close three times to licking up women through casual (I.e. not party scene) encounters. All three encounters ended with some gentle kisses and cute nose nudges, but no one wants to have sex, or even seriously make out! Damn that guardian article! All this is ground covered on your blog of course, Ken 🙂

        On a solicitous note, I’m thinking of going for a technical masters here, to get fully out of the education sector, but it still sounds like I wouldn’t be finding work without serious connections. In fact, it sounds like no foreigner gets anything other than Gaba or whatnot here without serious, on-the-ground connections. Does that sound about right?

        1. Sorry for the late reply.

          I’m not sure I’d base my future on something so shifting as “connections.” What you want are qualifications. That is, once you leave the English biz, you’re competing with everyone else in the nation. What makes you better than the two hundred other guys and gals competing for the same technical position, considering that your Japanese probably isn’t perfect and you might speak with an accent?

          Again—and I know I’ve said this ad infinitum—Japan’s a lot like anywhere else. It’s never going to be easy for a foreigner to rock in and take jobs from qualified people born in the country.

          You’re smart to consider your education with an eye on your future career. Just make sure that whatever path you take, there are jobs waiting at the end of it.

    2. Hey Greenmachine! I lived in Kyoto in 2012 and rented an apartment. Maybe I could tell you the real-estate agency I went to? They rented to me and my wife as I was doing an academic exchange at Doshisha. Let me know and I’ll pass the address along. They let us use an insurance company as a guarantor. It cost 1 month rent, but oh well. Maybe it’s too late, but let me know. Now I’m on my way to Tokyo and have to do the same all over agaiini T_T

  2. Congratulations Ken.

    Every time I saw HigashiBumFuck I couldn’t stop laughi-hahhahaha! oh, goddamn..

    warawara! (japanese LOLs)

    1. I’ll have you know that HigashiBumFuck is an incredibly pleasant place to live. Way better than NishiBumFuck. That place is horrible.

      1. I used to live in Nishi BumFuck. I can vouch for this.
        Higashi BumFuck was like champagne and fine women every damn day.

        1. I spent a year in the rice paddies of Higashi and all I recall were endless bottles of shochu and women with rotten teeth. I can only imagine the hell Nishi must be like.

  3. man this was the funniest post yet. I had to subdue my laughter or I would have woke everyone up. Your experience reminds me of this youtube video i saw the other day in which japanese people answer questions on why “Gaijin” have a hard time renting apartments. Racism…no way. Not in Napan

  4. Unfortunately, it sounds like a case of racial profiling, regardless of Ken’s Japanese language ability.

    In cases like that, I always take along a Japanese friend to do the fast talking and ask the hard questions. I’m always treated as an incompetent, but I don’t care if I get what what I want.

  5. Getting my apartment was a pain. It had been on the market for nearly a year and now that I am here I know why… Place is loud as hell in the morning and most of the night…
    I applied and had to wait. After I applied a Japanese guy applied and they decided he was more appropriate. Well the Japanese guy decided he was going to get hitched and would move in with her. My realtor called back and said good news, that thing about you being to white to get the apartment doesn’t matter anymore because the other guy is getting married. So now I have a 35m2 loud apartment. I could fix the noise level if I installed new windows in the main area and got new glass doors for the balcony but I decided fuck that because they would only grant a 2 year contract. So in 1.5 years I have to pay the nearly 300,000 in fees again to stay in the place. Yeah, this place is great for now for the location, but I certainly wont invest in it.
    My realtor is cool as hell, Im sure he can help me out to start looking at places at the end of the year and early next to find a good place. I wish the land owners were as cool with dealing with foreigners as the realtor I go drinking with.

    1. Hey, on the bright side, you have a chill realtor you’re pals with that can mediate for you. That’s step 1 to finding a place to live in Japan…

  6. Oh, Japan! So many adventures and misadventures, Ken. Good everything worked out. This is indeed a case of gaijin profiling.
    Anyways, congratulations for your new apartment. No more scrambled eggs à la oil I guess.

  7. Ken,

    What a delightful CM to read Sensei Seeroi, “the grin that split me face is still causin’ me cheeks to properly pucker” (very poor attempt at common Shakespearean banter). But is it in an earthquake fault zone? … I keep reading about a massive quake avalanche (series of quakes that act like dominoes falling?) that’s due to hit Japan in the near future. Hawaii has even upped its Tsunami warning status to prepare for this possibility. I’ve seen one article that shows the tectonic plate junctions in Japan (4 different plates) and the fault lines; Dang, the whole country is like one spider web of fault lines:

    Be careful Ken and have your earthquake and emergency supplies/rations ready. Stay safe!!

      1. I remember reading an article a couple years ago about the 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the World. Japanese cities occupied 3 of the 10 spots.

        Living here’s no joke. After the Big earthquake, I was like Whoa, it’s pretty freaking dangerous. It pays to have water, food, and cash on hand. Or beer, chips, and women, depending on your needs.

  8. You know, I’ve heard lots of stories like this from people in the Kantou area. I myself live in Kansai, and have rented 3 apartments in Osaka and Kobe. I have never encountered any form of racism in the process, whether subtle or overt, and I visit at least 3 different realtor offices every time. They all treat me 100% as if I were Japanese, no added obstacles in renting anything other than all the bullshit Japanese people already have to put up with. I, like you, have a company backing me, but they have never had to get involved until the very end of the process, basically when I am ready to sign the lease.
    I’ve been told that Kansai is much more of a buyer’s (or in this case, renter’s) market, where tenants have more rights than they do in places like Tokyo. Which is hard to believe, because renting and especially moving out of a Japanese apartment seem like a royal pain in the ass to me. But after reading your story, I’ve started to think that maybe I do actually have it better over here in takoyaki-ville.
    Great job conveying the different levels of keigo, by the way. That sh!t can get pretty hairy.

    1. You know, I never had any problems with my other five apartments either, but I realized that this time, I did something differently.

      In the past, I always let the realtors take me around and show me apartments—so naturally they weren’t going to take me anywhere I wouldn’t be able to get into.

      This time, however, I picked out the place all by myself, then approached the realtor. I selected a specific apartment, which was priced below market value and easily rent-able. I’d imagine that the building owner would select the best possible tenant for that spot, and that said tenant probably wouldn’t look like me. Not that I’d blame him or her, either.

      Generally, I don’t find problems with realtors. They’re salespeople, and want to get paid. Although they’re trapped in the middle, I’m sure most could give a shit less who they rent to.

      It’s the building owners. They’re the ones who are stuck with the problem if you start barbecuing on your balcony, or flood your downstairs neighbor’s apartment because you didn’t know that Japanese people turn off the tap to the washing machine after each use. Or play your stereo loud. Because we all know that’s what you people like to do.

      But hey, now I’m the only white person in a very large building, in a neighborhood without any “foreigners.” I’d be surprised if that wasn’t by design. Rosa Parks, baby.

      1. Is this the best apartment you have owned? Also, whaf is your favorite city you have lived in? Seems with all that moving around you have been to many different cities.

        1. It’s the best apartment by far, mostly just because the noise level is low (Sunday a.m. loudspeaker notwithstanding. Seriously, Japan, WTF). And because it has a lot of windows.

          If I had to pick a city—Wow, there are so many. Yokohama, Sapporo, Kyoto, Kumamoto (after the earthquakes subside). Basically, anywhere but Tokyo. But of course, a lot will depend on who you meet, where you work, and what kind of an apartment you find yourself in. Those factors are probably far more important than the city itself, actually.

          1. This is pretty random but have you seen the movie “Adrift in Tokyo”? I dont know what its called in japanese, but its a really good movie. One of the funnier movies ive seen in a long time. If you have not seen it I think you would enjoy it.

            1. That looks interesting, and very “Japanese.” Air quotes. Next time I’m at the video shop, I’ll check it out. Thanks.

      2. Hey Ken san,

        Thanks for the response. Though, I have been doing what you did this time all along (aka, find properties on my own and enquire about specific rooms). Most of the time there wasn’t any issue, though I did hear about “bait properties” where the realtors will put signs outside or ads online that seem to show incredible deals that don’t really exist anymore just to draw people in and get them in the office. “What? you mean THAT place on the sign outside? Oops, I guess we… err, forgot… to take that one down.” But that only happened to me once out of nearly 20 properties I perused!

        I did have one guy straight up tell me “we’ll have to apply to the owner. Just fyi, he may not be OK with foreigners.” It turned out that the owner had no problem with me moving in there, but I cancelled after that because I had found a better deal. Whoops. I hope that guy doesn’t become racist now because a foreigner pulled his chain.

    2. I’ve had terrible problems renting in Kanto. Walking around the realtors in the area I wanted to live in, I was refused service, often with the batsu gesture – they wouldn’t even talk to me. Other places would search through their list for gaijin OK places but the pickings were slim.

      I am a Japanese literate university educated white guy and a permanent employee at an international known large Japanese company and dressed in a suit, it would be worse for others.

      1. That’s the best treatment you get, isn’t it?
        I mean, imagine having kids over here, who’d also get batsu’d just because their look like (one of) their parent(s)…
        One of the reasons why I’m seriously concerned about having a kid in Japan

  9. Loved it! Beautiful writing.
    The hard-headedness of the Japanese can be so infuriating sometimes. Maybe I should disciple under Ms. Wallace. Maybe I should consult the Oracle of Delphi.

  10. Ken, thank you for the great story with the great humor. I’ve been following you for some time now (first comment) and always look forward to new posts.

    I still remember moving back to Japan after being in the states since I was a child. I went into the first real estate, and the man was very helpful. He asked which country I was from, and after explaining I was a Haafu and had Japanese citizenship, he was even more helpful. After viewing a fantastic apartment, we started on the paperwork to submit to the landlord. Later, he contacted me saying I was approved, but the landlord was concerned that my wife was an American. Everything else was fine. Well, I politely declined because I could see a potential boatload of trouble in the future if I rented. I found a lovely apartment next to a shrine soon after.

    Although gaijin (and haafu) can have the hardest time finding and renting an apartment, even the Japanese need to pay that stupid key money, deposits, 101 other fees, and then ask someone they know to sign away their soul as a guarantor, so maybe they don’t have it much better.

    1. It’s true, they really don’t. It’s quite a racket, the entire apartment rental process. Finally getting into an apartment feels like winning the lottery. Glad to hear you got a nice place.

  11. Over 16 years I’ve had a variety of experiences with realtors but the most recent was an absolute delight. I found it online, was able to do most of the work via email and I’m very happy with my apartment. The lady I dealt with was mid 20s, tall and sexy, with a cute awkward manner to her.

    The only stumbling block was a communication issue when signing the contract. She asked if I wanted new key (鍵) for 15,000yen. I was totally confused by this, why would you want new keys, surely old ones are OK? She even drew a picture of a key. The confusion is that the Japanese word refers to both keys and locks, she was in fact asking if I wanted the lock replaced.

    1. You know, that thing, that’s really common. I don’t know if it’s just the Japanese, but people seem to have the hardest time explaining the simplest things. Anyway, yeah, key money, I guess it’s actually lock money.

    2. I always wonder if being attractive is a real estate requirement. I’ve never seen as many incredibly attractive people in one room as in a real estate agency…

  12. Just wondering: why is a phone conversation so much harder than talking to someone in person?

    1. It’s an entirely different form of communication. Face to face, you can take your time replying; the other person can see you thinking. You can write things down, and they can show you written documentation. The pace can be much slower.

      On the phone, you have to reply pretty quickly. There may be background noise, and you can’t see their facial expressions. Face to face, a lot of information is conveyed non-verbally.

      A phone call is often an interruption, and there’s a good chance the other party wants to wrap things up quickly so they can get back to work. The phone allows people to be more dismissive and insistent than they would be in real life.

      Finally, somebody who doesn’t want to deal with you can pretty quickly dispense with you on the phone. This happens a lot when the other party speaks imperfect or accented language. (Ever talked to someone speaking hard-to-understand English on the phone? It’s not a fun experience.) When you’re sitting face to face, they have to attend to you somewhat, whether they like it or not.


    I was waiting for a new post since…a long time. Anyway, does this problem exist even in the village-ish places o the small islands? (full disclosure: I think I would really like to live on a small Japanese island, but would probably get bored of it in few months.

    1. I still have that fantasy. But I think it’s pretty out there, really. I’m trying to picture me walking around a fishing village, trying to strike up conversations with old men untangling the nets and suntanned women carrying baskets of fruit. Actually, I think that’s Thailand, or maybe Bali.

      Anyway, what you want is a minshuku (民宿). It’s somewhere between a hostel and a boarding house. You can rent a room by the week or month, until you figure out that living on a tiny island is boring as eff, then move back to Tokyo.

      1. Minshuku are kind of interesting because you have contact with the people running it and with other guests, at least during mealtimes. You may get a lot more local food, not presented fancily though, at prices much lower than hotels or restaurants in the area. One of the downsides are shared bath/shower and sink.

  14. Great fun reading your posts, keep them coming please 🙂

    From Chile, the other earthquake land.


    1. No, Sandy One left, apparently for good. Sad face. Sandy Two is staying, however. He’s a good enough guy, although the assets Sandy One brought to the table are sorely missed.

  15. I was quite lucky with my realestate agents, though I must admit it was weird to see the 外人可 clause on apartments (they were quite open about it too!). Sounds like your eyes landed on an apt which wasn’t 外人可d, Props to Mrs. Wallace, and you should definitely make her some curry for negotiating that one!

    1. There is one sign like that at a realtor in central Tokyo… orz
      Guess we are at the same level as pets or instruments, huh? >.>

  16. Love the post. I have to say that in my experience (3 different places/agents) the realtors have always been blunt with me – they’ll tell me outright that place XYZ won’t rent to foreigners, and I have had agents ask on the phone “are foreigners ok” right in front of me.

    When I think about it, I can’t decide which would be worse though – the Shakespeare beat around the bush treatment you got or the blunt version? I can’t help but feel what that lady did to you would be infinintely more irritating.

    1. At a certain level, you gotta appreciate people who tell you to your face. I’ve honestly never had a problem with people who tell me they don’t like foreigners. Because hey, I don’t always like them either. I’m like, see how much we have in common?

      It reminds me a lot of dating. In the U.S., I felt like most ladies would either say No, I don’t want to go out with you, or else they showed some level of romantic interest. But in Japan, I’ve found no end of women who were happy to go to dinner, picnics, the amusement park, and then go home without so much as a handshake. To be fair however, I do make a pretty entertaining tour guide.

  17. Haha, yeah, keigo sure has similarities to Shakespeare! I liked that. 😀

    I never had difficulties getting a place in Japan, but it’s TOTALLY insane where I’m now situated in Germany. I’ve been searching for half a year now and I keep losing to other people. And HERE I’m NOT a foreigner and the language spoken is my mother tongue. Doesn’t matter. 😉

    As always, enjoyed your writing A LOT! 🙂

    1. You know, that is a good point. Every time I see something wrong with Japan, I think, Yeah, that’s not great, but hey, it could be worse. Could be the U.S. And then everything’s a little sunnier.

  18. Yay! New Post! Lol, the BumFuck and Shakespeare part is the best, Ken san!

    I imagined there’s a lot of でございます in the conversation eh. lol.
    Write a book about your japanese life, please. I definitely will buy it!

    1. Ah, thanks much. Every day, I wake up and decide to write a book. Damn that snooze button though.

  19. Another fantastic post, great to hear you have wonderful friends/colleagues like Ms. Wallace who are able to help you in those challenging situations. Since you write a lot about quality of life/happiness in Japan, I thought you would find this Japan Times article interesting;

    Please keep on writing more and your photographs are awesome, you should really setup an Instagram account we can all follow.

    1. Heh, that’s on the top of my list for Things that Surprised me About Japan: how many unhappy people there are. It’s some sort of sick national hobby. Apparently years of focusing on teeny, tiny details isn’t how people become laid-back. Go figure. Good article; thanks for the link.

  20. Wooow! This post had me laughing so hard I almost got fired! To make matters worse I actually went with a guy who was learning Japanese and witnessed the “Shakespearean Japanese onslaught”. I majored in Japanese, so could get most of it – but it was fun to laugh at someones misery! Ken sensei – you rock! Great article!

    1. Thanks a bunch. I tend to think that if you want to make something understandable, you usually can, regardless of the language. And conversely, if you want to make something utterly opaque, you can do that as well. Although some people seem to wield that ability like a superpower.

  21. Hi Ken fabulous post as always. I am not sure if you make this stuff up (seems incredulous) or you simply write about negative events that keep happening to you because you are a Gajin. One of the themes running through your posts is that despite your knowledge of Japan customs and mastery of the language you are always treated differently being a foreigner. Don’t you despair of this treatment and the knowledge that it will not change in your lifetime?? Love your posts, they are funny but underneath there is this dark nihilism that is doom and gloom.

    1. Thanks much for the comment. Well, none of it’s made up. But as for despair, ahh, kinda yeah and kinda no.

      You know, there’s no end of cruddy things one has to deal with, if you stick around long enough. Jobs, relationships, health—I can think of no exceptions. I mean, putting up with eventual shit is just part of life.

      So even if you could turn that dial to “perfect” tonight, by the next morning, there’d be a bunch more stuff that’d be wrong. As best I can figure it, the universe isn’t based upon marshmallows and rainbows. If it was, we wouldn’t eat pigs and kill mosquitoes. So there’s a certain amount of suck built in, is what I’m saying, and Japan’s no better or worse. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shine light into darkness.

    2. I might be considered jaded, and probably already am indeed by now, but that is the bitter truth.
      Once you leave your bubble (it might be your community: see Koreans, Chinese, Brazilians…, or maybe university/job) and try to get more in touch with members of the so called society, you’ll get to experience it yourself… as long as you know enough Japanese.
      tl;dr Life in Japan on an expat package (short term, little J knowledge required) – VERY recommended.
      Life in Japan in the long term – probably depends where you come from (if it’s a low income + heavy crime/war inflicted area, then well, some not that harsh racism [as in, you won’t get killed for not being ethnically Japanese] doesn’t sound so bad in comparison now, does it..?)

  22. UK reting is getting stricter, but I hope it never gets as bad as this. I’m trying to move to a new flat and the agency want my tax return to prove I can afford the rent, and my passport to prove I’m allowed in the country. A few years ago it was just: stop talking and take my money!

  23. Hello Ken,
    I would like politely inquire about two things:
    -are you an English major?
    – are you happy with all that ads revenue or did you consider a real publication( maybe a book?)
    I cannot help you with the last one but i must encorage you to do it. But i also must be honest and i believe that mankind will get more out of it then you. after all, writing the first book is a big, big challenge. But you will never know until you try, yes? Just sent that piece about pants to agents.

    1. Thanks for the questions. Yes, I have a degree in English, and some other stuff.

      As for making money, the ad revenue keeps the lights on, but that’s about it. I know I should put some effort into affiliate marketing and social media and whatever, but my focus really isn’t on making money. I just like to write. Thus poverty. Guess I ought to work on that.

      Thanks for the encouragement about writing a book. Okay, I gotta work on that too.

  24. I know what you’re talking about about. Back in Kyoto, I tried to handle a parking place for my car by myself. In the end. I ended up needing a guarantor, even though I paid the rent for the whole half a year before hand, and well… how can you break a parking place without any shelter…?

    I was quite happy to be able to handle everything by myself, before in the end they told me to get someone as a guarantor. Well, one professor was more than happy to fill the paper, but I didn’t feel good to bothering him.

    Not easy to be foreigner in Japan, if you really want to handle something by yourself.

  25. Hi Ken,

    I just recently found your blog whilst having some discrimination issues looking for an apartment in Tokyo (still looking by the way…this process seems to be dragging on for an eternity, but hey maybe that’s my fault for having nothing but Katakana in my name). I love your writing style, and as a foreigner living here myself, though for a much shorter period of time, I can really connect with a lot of what you are saying. While it is cynical and a little dark at times – it is the brutal truth, and I think if I were to express some of my deeper-more frustrated-emotions it may end something like this blog (if I could write…). None the less I am extremely pleased to hear there was a happy ending for you in all of this! It gives me hope to keep on searching.

    This is actually the 3rd time I have had to search for an apartment in Japan – twice in Osaka, and now my first time in Tokyo (I joined a large Japanese company last year (a story for another time!) and have been in dorms since). It is amazing how my experience has changed between the cities. Though, I must add that knowing people within the real estate industry in Osaka was huge, and really worked in my favour. Just having that one person in there to say “Hey look, I know his name is weird, his skin colour is off, and looks like he may cause a ruckus, but I assure you he is a decent guy and won’t cause you any trouble!” made all the difference (and while I would like to think this is just my imagination running wild when I say that, but chances are the conversation actually did go down something like that).. Ahh Japan, you never cease to provide me with new experiences, challenges and surprises. This is why I both love and hate you.

    But yes, enough of that as it’s time to get back to my day job – as Superm…I mean Salaryman. I wish you all the best in your new place, and look forward to more posts (and perhaps a book?)!

    1. One piece of personal advice: if you’re into saving money and are expecting to stay here for a while, don’t go for share houses – they seem like quite the rip off (from my brief research of places available to rent @ Sakura/Oak vs. the broad market – was looking for a place built no later than the 80s and RC – sharehouses looked good only in the short term, and are arguably worth recommending for a freshman like you [although you personally probably already did get a place by now] who’s just moving to Tokyo and still might not be certain where he’ll end up working).
      *I also did have the unpleasant experience of a Edogawabashi landlord rejecting me on the sole basis of my NJ citizenship..sad, as the price and location combination were really good.

  26. Hilarious. I think many people have had similar rental experiences when they are young, but none with the great resolution that you got. Congratulations. You did well!

  27. What’s the attitude in Japan towards private landlords? In the UK in my grandmother’s day it was part of normal financial planning, you bought the house next door so you could rent it out during retirement. At some point during the last 30 years when I followed the family tradition, public attitude has changed from prudent finances to parasitic leech, stealing homes from young’uns who can’t afford to compete. I haven’t rasied it with my japanese girlfriend yet that’s what my business is….

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