カテゴリー別アーカイブ: houses

3 practical reasons why I’m happy with living in the share house

Pancake Party_82

Now the end of march is coming, many of you might be thinking about moving in one of the share houses in Tokyo. As I have been living in a share house (Oakhouse Kichijoji 2) for two years now. Let me tell you 3 practical reasons why I’m happy with the house.

■ You never have to clean anywhere outside your room

IMG_6922

Sharing a house usually comes with some responsibilities. Cleaning up the house is one of them. Some share houses set up some clean up routines and maybe set a rule to take turn to clean up the common areas or shared bathrooms. If you (or a housemate) decide not to be cooperative, life in the house gets uncomfortable (probably disgusting) within a month.

One thing I like about Oakhouse (and it’s an important one) is that there’s no such clean up responsibilities. Oakhouse sends professional cleaning staff at least twice a week (depends on the size of the house) and make sure the common areas are clean.

This means you don’t have to clean anywhere outside your private room. It saves you a lot of time and trouble. You never have to clean the common area, kitchen, shower room, or living room. This is a privilege of living in a share house. (I own a iRobot Roomba to clean my room so I don’t even have to clean my private room. Welcome to the future life! )

Ofcourse you should clean up if you make a mess, like dropping food on the floor or wiping the table after dinner etc.. I’m talking about a common sense here. Also, make sure to wash your dishes!

■ You never miss your package

IMG_6923

Everyone buys everything on Amazon nowadays. Free shipping, next day delivery, all the things that the retail giant offers are hard to reject. Even if you’re not a local Japanese, buying things online might come in handy. Some of my gaijin housemates often ask me to buy something online and pay me in cash because sometimes what they want (usually things they miss from their own country) is hard to find at a local store in Tokyo.

When you do buy things online, receiving the package might be hard if you’re living by yourself. You don’t want to wait at the house all day long just for the package and waste your holiday. If you’re working late, you never be able to receive the package. The delivery staff don’t just put your package in front of your door because they don’t want to be responsible if the package disappears.

It’s a different story if you’re living in a share house. Any of your housemates can receive your package and sign it for you even if you’re not at home. To do this, it might be better to live in a smaller house. so that everyone in the house knows who you are.

■ There are ways to make your rent cheaper

IMG_6924

You can negotiate to lower your rent in Tokyo, but only when renting an apartment and it’s almost impossible if you don’t speak fluent Japanese. Share house companies like Oakhouse don’t usually answer to rent negotiation but there are other ways to make your rent cheaper.

About a year ago, I wrote an article titled “Ways to lower your rent in Tokyo (using oak house system)“. I showed 5 ways to lower your rent living in oakhouse and these tips are still valid now.

Let me tell you the easiest one. Read the No.4 tip in the article above and contact me. As I told you before, I’m currently living in one of the Oakhouse share houses, Oakhouse Kichijoji 2.

Bouldering

Why do I write an article about a sport? The answer is very simple: if I had not come to this Country, it would have never thought about going to a gym and climb a wall.

Image

Me climbing a wall as a beginner.

It was a weekend on Sunday evening, I heard my housemates in Oakhouse Kichijoji 2 talking about “bouldering”. It was actually the first time hearing this word… Eventually one of them asked me if I want to try. I said yes right after.

When I went to the gym, I expected the walls to be much higher, and I assumed that there’s a rope like rock climbing, but I was wrong. There was no rope. But it is fine even if you fall because there were big soft crash mattresses on the ground. I tell you these mattresses saved my life many times that day.

The rule of bouldering is simple. You just need to get to the top of the wall and touch the goal stone with both hands. While doing that, you’re supposed to follow the certain path. There are more than one way to get to the goal and that’s the fun of it.

If you climb in the right way (with good weight balance and everything), you don’t get tired so quickly. The point is to use your muscle in your thigh to climb up, which makes it easy because thigh muscle is much bigger than the arm muscle.

The idea is simple but the reality is not. After the first try, my hands and my wrists began to stop responding to my will. I had to stop after an hour or so. The cold water and ice come in handy!

IMG_6429 A pro-level wall.

So much effort was worth it though. I had a lot of fun: every rock in your hands (or feet!) is a victory that spurs you to put your hand on the next rock and, in the end, the result is invigorating for the body and relaxing for the spirit.

I add that the girl who runs the bouldering gym is very kind, because as soon as she saw my roommates, who regularly attend at the gym, welcomed them saying “Okaeri” with a smile on her face. This is the traditional word that the Japanese use to welcome those returning home.

Living these months in Japan is not only just a way to learn a new language, but it is proving (as bouldering) rich new experience in a different environment and under different circumstances.

Written by Laura Magni

Halloween à Tokyo

Halloween à Tokyo

Envie de faire la fête et célébrer à Halloween à Tokyo ? Voici donc ce qu’il vous faut savoir sur le sujet et les bons plans.

Ah, dès que l’automne montre le bout de son nez, que les feuilles d’érables tournent au rouge pour les Momiji, les décorations pour Halloween au Japon pullulent un peu de partout, et bien sûr Tokyo n’échappe en rien à cela.

Halloween au Japon, ça se passe comment ?

Dans les pays Anglo-Saxons, Halloween c’est un véritable rituel auquel on n’échappe pas. Du costume au célèbre « Trick or Treat » tout est préparé avec précaution et on s’amuse à chercher les bonbons en tapant de porte en porte ou bien à faire la fête pour les plus grands.

Depuis quelques décennies cette fête commence à s’importer à travers le monde et elle est arrivée au Japon. « Normal », me direz-vous. Et oui, au pays du Soleil-Levant, pour beaucoup de grandes marques c’est l’occasion de gagner encore plus d’argent et de créer un nouvel évènement au cours de l’année. Et celui-ci s’est bien implanté dans les grandes villes nippones. N’espérez pas le trouver dans les « petits bleds » perdu vous n’y arriverez pas ;-)

Et ici, contrairement aux autres pays, la fête d’Halloween ce n’est pas que le 31 octobre, c’est aussi le week-end qui précède cette date, pour être bien sûr que tous les adultes puissent participer après une dure semaine de travail. Les filles japonaises aiment à sa déguiser, souvent de manière sexy, et les hommes japonais un peu moins. Parmi eux, on retrouve une pléiade d’étrangers dans des costumes divers et variés.

Où faire la fête à Tokyo ?

Si vous êtes à Tokyo il vous faut absolument prendre part aux soirées qui vont avoir lieu à cette occasion. Mais avant de vous lancer, il va vous falloir trouver un costume qui vous aille bien sans nécessairement exploser votre budget. Ma recommandation ? Allez donc l’acheter dans un magasin Donkihote, vous aurez le choix et il vous coûtera moins cher. Par contre, vous risquerez de le voir porté par bon nombre d’autres personnes. Sinon, Internet sera votre meilleur ami ;-)

Pour ce qui est des soirées, les vendredis et samedis soir ainsi que le soir du 31 octobre sont les dates à mettre dans votre agenda. En général il faut se tourner vers des quartiers comme Shibuya (proche de ce logement Oakhouse) ou encore Roppongi (proche de ce logement) pour y voir les fêtards d’un soir ou plusieurs, en costumes.

Sinon, je vous recommande vivement les soirées spécial Halloween organisées par « Bonjour Tokyo ». Elles attirent toujours autant, il y a une bonne ambiance et c’est une bonne occasion pour rencontrer des japonais(es) et français(es) tout en se faisant de nouveaux amis.

Sur ce, il ne me reste plus qu’à vous souhaiter un « Happy Halloween » à tous et amusez-vous bien.

Kichijoji Station

The Guests’ Arrival

One does not simply cross the street in Tokyo.
Out of the Frying Pan …

“Douzo”, uttered the customs officer as he swiftly guided me into the proper line, the first Japanese word ever directed at yours truly. A brisk spring morning had turned into warm afternoon at Narita Airport, I was bleak and bleary-eyed among the sea ​​of ​​new arrivals. With no working cellphone and armed only with a Japanese phrasebook I searched frantically up and down the terminal for my escort. I rushed to the information desk and motioned for the intercom, but the clerks just smiled widely and shook their heads. In a fit of desperation, exhaustion, and hunger I yelled her name at the top of my lungs. Strike one, my first major faux-pas, and I had been on Japanese soil for less than six hours. Nevertheless a small figure emerged from the crowd.

Mio, my escort-savior was a godsend in every sense of the word. She happily took one of my overstocked suitcases in tow and paid the train fares. The barrage of new smells, signage, colourful wall-to-wall advertisements with strange pictograms , it was strangely (and briefly) invigorating. I fumbled through the phrasebook in search of smalltalk, but as we neared the city center the trains grew crowded, forcing us to separate. Cheerful automated teleprompter aside, the train cart was eerily silent. The passengers made no attempt to converse, heads bowed in what seemed a solemn vigil. I was so accustomed to the controlled chaos of the Montreal and New York City subways, this new quiet was alarming and awkward. Before I could rest my eyes, Mio nudged me in the ribs and motioned to hop off at the next stop.

We arrived at Inokashirakoen Station under cover of darkness, the Oakhouse manager waiting patiently in the moving van (we were two hours late), he laughed. “You look tired.” -. I suppose the expression is universal I had left Montreal in a different darkness, and as I sat atop my luggage I assessed my current temporal juxtaposition. The flight had traveled west, yet time now slingshot in the other direction, settling on a total travel time somewhere between forty hours and three weeks. We stepped out into the night air of what could have been literally Anywhere, Tokyo. After explaining the general lay of the land, the manager mercifully guided me towards the nearest mattress. I kissed Mio on both cheeks (the shock!) and slipped into coma.

Finding your Footing on the Other Side of the World

“Where am I!?” Is not uncommon to say or think when waking in a strange bed, but it was now a genuine concern. The course of events over the last few months suddenly seemed so slapdash and haphazard. At the start of 2015 I had given myself the ultimatum to either enter medical school or ‘finally do that Japan thing’. As a young lad I voraciously consumed anything ninja or samurai-related, keeping the ideal that Japan is nothing but bucolic mountainside complete with tatami mat houses and . Shinto shrines, or light-years ahead with robotic servants and self-driving flying cars Back home, my design business was spinning in circles ;. I had settled into a very comfortable little rut Montreal has such a wonderful abandon, with its bars, cafes, huge parks and general ‘laissez-faire’ attitude all neatly packaged within walking distance. I had been offered a job in Japan with a reputable ESL company in 2013, but quickly found that were I to ever make the move, it would be for a position with more autonomy.

Hachioji Tokyo University of Technology’s Hachioji campus.

Through no effort of my own, I was contacted by Tokyo University of Technology, and one long Skype interview later had signed my life over to them for the next year. I had six weeks to surgically dismantle my Montreal life, rid myself of all earthly possessions, and find a place to call home for the next year. This would be my first time in Japan, with any information anecdotal at best. The concept of a Tokyo apartment was daunting because I knew nothing of the city, its geographical layout, or cultural hotspots. By leasing out a shoebox (what I would be able to afford after key money), being potentially ‘locked in’ to an area I disliked or would make my commute a nightmare could ruin the Tokyo experience entirely.

Pick a Direction and Start Walking

Sharehouses work because many of your co-inhabitants have struggled with that exact thought process, and found solace in uniting the effort (or diffusing it) under one roof, a ‘We’re in this mess together’ attitude. The price of admission are the sacrifices (and benefits) of communal living. Even if you are fiercely independent and covet your personal space like I do, the potential for cross-cultural interchange and reconciliation is boundless. On a much more humble scale, Tokyo is a monolithic mass of fourteen million, the sheer volume of humanity at any given moment can leave you feeling small and invisible. It is reassuring to come home to a familiar face and hear a warm “okaeri” (“welcome back”, roughly).

While sharehouses may be waystations for travelers from all walks of life, the constant influx of fresh faces keeps the group dynamic from growing stagnant. In most cases, there are a core group of ‘veterans’ who are ready and willing to help complete lost causes like myself. Become a veteran, and you will soon have a second family.

The first weeks were largely lost in a hazy, jet-lagged daze, slowly acclimatizing as I settled into a proper work and travel schedule. One of the lasting moments from that tenuous first month I was walking with a housemate through Inokashira Park, a horseshoe slice of heaven Cloven in Two by the Kando River, on the Tip That the local Donkihote (an Indispensable one-stop Shop) Could solve my Amenities problem.

20150402_163417_Richtone (HDR)

Hanami in Inokashira Park Hanami in Inokashira Park.

It was only after my substantial purchases that I realized a grave overestimation of my conversion skills, having left Canada with $ 200 instead of $ 2000. It would be two very lean months, quite literally. On the return trip a very Japanese “Bonjourno! “Rang out amidst the perpetual hum of the crowd. The cherry blossoms were in bloom and the park completely covered by picnic blankets. An older Japanese man with a sake bottle in the one hand flagged me down with the other. He introduced himself only as ‘Chris’, despite his wife Aota and brother Takeshi.

“There’s no sake in Italy”, he remarked as he refilled my cup and Aota offered more sushi. Chris had not the least concern for my financial woes, only with making sure he had introduced the full spectrum of Asian booze. We drank through two life stories, occasionally interrupted by children who wanted to take photos with ‘the bearded man’. Looking back some months later, the afternoon seems trivial. Yet in that brief moment of despair, Chris and his motley crew meant the world.

As someone who has lived in many countries across the globe, Tokyo is and will remain a difficult place to exist in. Our Western notions of Japan and the Japanese people are utterly antiquated or misdirected, and an open dialogue needs to be established and maintained. I invite you to stick it out with me and our Oakhouse family as I write about Japan, daily life in the sharehouse, arts and events, and anything in-between.

Cheers for now.

What makes a good share house? Here are my answers

150426nanryu

Let’s say you are looking for a place to live in Tokyo and you are interested in moving in one of the share houses. Chances are you don’t know how to pick a good one.

There are thousands of share houses in this hectic city and every single house is different.

Ever since I moved in a share house in Kichijoji last year, I’ve realized there are reasons why some share houses are great and some are not. I took some time to think about this and I also asked my friends and housemates who have stayed in other share houses as well. I made a list and here are what I think all the “good share houses” have in common.

1. Not too big, not too small

The size of the share house is one of the first things you should look at. How many people are living in the house? Is the number of shower room enough for the number of the people?

First, it really depends on what kind of life you want in Tokyo. There are small share houses like only 4-7 people can live together. This type is usually a typical house for a family. It’s great to build a deep relationship with your housemates but it’s hard to maintain your privacy.

Bigger houses with more than 200 people look more like a college campus. There are billiard tables, gym, even tennis court attached to the building. Oakhouse call this kind of house “Social residence”.

My house, however, look like neither of them. There are about 20 people here. I personally think this is just the right size for me. The house is big enough to invite good number of people for a party. Enough privacy to focus on something when you want to. Not too much noise. Everyone knows everyone which makes a good community with trust.

Just some tips. Count the number of shower rooms. Is that enough for the number of people living in the house? Also, check how big the kitchen and living room is. Washing machines and other things in the common area. I strongly recommend to actually visit the house before moving in.

2. Find out if there is a good/active community

Living in a share house can suck if you don’t like your housemates. But how do you know if you like them or not? First, check the statistics and find out if there is a good balance of guys and girls. I personally think having a good balance is a good sign of an active community. Try to visit the house and look at the living room. Maybe there are pictures on the wall or letters from ex housemates so that everyone in the house can read. Is there a message board in the living room for announcing a upcoming party plan? Try also to talk to the people living there. If they like the place, they are willing to tell you how it’s like to live there. Check if there are crazy neighbors, not just in the house but outside house too.

If you have time, check if the house is clean too. Ask when was the last day the management company cleaned the house. If it’s cluttered up after a few days, the residents probably don’t care about maintaining the house. Even though the management company clean all the share house once or twice a week. but the residents need to be conscious about cleaning the house otherwise the house gets dirty very quickly.

3. Good location, good neighborhood

At last, look at the surroundings. Is the house close to the station? Are there public facilities like library? or convenient stores, supermarket, restaurants or community center (where you can play sport with friends)? Is there a park where you can walk and relax?

Being close to the station is nice, but being close to the railway can be a nightmare. Public schools can be very noisy if you live close by. Even if the house is far away from the station, it might be fine if you have a bike (having a bike is pretty common in Tokyo).

Mt. Mitake and Okutama: A great area to go from the city area (without traveling for too long)

Tokyo is not just about the city area. On the west side, there are places where you can find great nature. Mountains, camping sites, hiking trails. You can reach these places by taking trains for an hour or so.

I visited Okutama area for hiking on the other day. Me and my housemates left for Mt. Mitake at 8AM, arrived at Mt. Mitake station around 9. We took the Mitake high mountain railway to see the great village on the mountain, went through the shrine to the hiking trail. It was foggy at first, but it cleared up as we walk. The path actually looked very cool and mysterious with the fog. The entire hike was about 6 to 7 hours. It may sound long but it’s definitely worth the time. Check out my video below to see how it was like.

Seeing the village on the mountain is highly recommended. It was my second time going there but I always enjoy looking at these small village. I wonder how it’s like to live up in there.

5 reasons why you should stay in a share house in Tokyo

150222sharehouse1

While most people living in Tokyo stay in apartments, more and more people think that staying in a share house(シェアハウス)is a good alternative. You might think share houses are for college students with a minimum budget, but that’s not the case here in Tokyo. In fact, some share houses are more expensive than apartments in certain areas like Kichijoji (which is where I live). Many people still choose to stay in a share house because they see a certain value in sharing spaces with others.

150222sharehouse2

In a share house, most people stay in private rooms. The bathrooms, shower rooms, and kitchens are shared with other residents.

Today, I’d like to explain why staying in a share house is a good idea in Tokyo, even if it’s a short stay.

1. It’s fun!

150222fun2
Photo by Chinatsu Okizaki

This is probably the biggest reason I live in a share house. There is always someone to talk to when you are at home. Before I moved in Oakhouse 2, I was always forcing myself to get out of the apartment to hang out with my friends. I wouldn’t say I’m too introverted but it was easy to be lazy and just stay at home watching movies or playing games.

Living in a share house changed me in a way that it made it easier to socialize. It means you can have fun at home, not outside. It also means you get to meet some new people while staying at home because people from outside come to your house.

2. It’s efficient!

150222sharehouse5_edited-1
Photo by Chinatsu Okizaki

Staying in a share house would be great even if it’s a short stay. Every once in a while, I see some people staying for 3-4 weeks or a couple of months in my share house. They are sometimes travelers, Japanese language students, or business people who have to stay in Tokyo for more than several weeks.

One time I met two guys from Ireland traveling around Tokyo for about a month. They said they chose to stay in the share house paying a full month’s rent because it’s cheaper than staying in a hotel and easier to make local friends. I thought it was a great idea because they could ask us where the good foods are or how local people have fun in Kichijoji. In a way, you get to know the city and the local life very efficiently.

3. Less troubles!

150222sharehouse3

Living in a share house is much less troublesome compared to living in an apartment. Most share houses in Tokyo are run by a management company which means they hire someone to clean all the common spaces. They also take care of the trash, too. Also, each room is fully furnished. Things like washing machines, dryers, microwaves, rice cookers are available in common spaces. Toilet paper and dish soap are refilled by oak house too. It might not sound like a big deal, but trust me it is. These kind of small things add up and save you so much time and money.

4. It’s safe!

150222cook
Photo by Chinatsu Okizaki

Even though it’s fairly safe in general to live in Japan, some people choose share house because it’s safer than staying in an apartment. It’s kind of interesting that there are certain numbers of people who would never come out of their private room in every share house. There are some people like that in my share house too. They never ever come to kitchen to cook or try to socialize with other residents. I checked with other oak house managers too and it seems like a universal thing. We call them “the ghosts”. Because no one has really has seen them or talked to them, they just continue to be mysterious.

Then I started thinking… why would they choose to live in a share house in the first place? As I mentioned previously, the rent of share houses are not cheap in Tokyo. If they want privacy, they could easily find an apartment. Me and my housemates talk about this sometimes and the most decent explanation so far is safety.

There are usually people in the living room, so it would be hard for someone outside to… let’s say, steal something? It’d be just too obvious, right? If you think you can explain better, let me know. I’d be very interested to know.

One time, one of the girls who lived here had to call an ambulance. She was lucky that there were some people to help her. Looking back, it could’ve been much worse if she was living in an apartment by herself.

5. A trendy local experience

150222win1

Living in a share house has been an up-and-coming urban trend in Japan in recent years. There was a reality show called “The Terrace House” which was on air until September 2014. The show was so popular that they even released a movie just a week ago (released on the 14th of February 2015).

People have this impression that living in a share house is kind of like a cool urban thing to do in Tokyo. Some share houses are pretty new and well designed too. You probably get to know many local Japanese people.

Any thoughts or questions? Let me know by sending me a message here. guafly2002@gmail.com