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Tokyo Nomad

A Day in the Life…


One would think that living in the Oakhouse Kichijoji 2 sharehouse, as the name implies, would be a constant frenzy of activity and discourse. I was apprehensive about the entire ordeal before coming to Tokyo, having spent the past decade meandering from one horrible or remarkably strange roommate to the next. I had even survived a brief stint in a low-income commune, a sleep-where-you-fall 'creative space' rife with neo-hippie idealism and vegan zeal. After doing the time in my twenties, the best number of roommates was zero. One if you include a dog.

Friends and family prompted a somewhat obvious question - After slugging it out with other strangers for years why not go it alone this time? There are big, obvious answers outlined in previous blog posts, but the heart of the issue is a subtlety.

Japan has entirely different notions about space and privacy when compared to most Western countries. Priority toggles between the individual and the collective in daily life, whereas those with a Western upbringing are most comfortable in the gaps and grey areas between the poles. 'Hanging out' in a two-storey house with fourteen inhabitants is confined to designated common areas; anything outside these spaces would incite controversy and taboo. Group activities are scheduled weeks, sometimes months in advance. A Japanese friend related this feeling of compartmentalization in social contexts as, "The actions of one Japanese person, especially amidst a foreigner, are representative of the entire group."

I am obviously painting with broad strokes, things are not this cut-and-dry or so segregated as to eliminate the organic and spontaneous from bleeding through. It did, however, spark a renewed curiosity in my housemates. I knew the big things, the events, the meals, shared memories. But the devil is in the details, the meat is in the mundane, and hopefully some new insights gained from asking a few very simple questions.


Our participants...

Laura Magni (33, Italy), Hideyuki Kobayashi (41, Fukushima), and Mikuru Hojo (25, Yokohama)

▸  How long have you been living at Oakhouse Kichijoji 2? How long do you plan on staying?
Laura: One month, and I'll be staying for exactly six months.
Hide: Just three Weeks, and I will stay as long as I can afford to!
Mikuru: I have been here for over a year and a half. I'm not sure if or when I'll leave.

▸  What is your occupation?
L: Studying Japanese for now, teaching a little Italian on the side. Back in Italy I am a civil lawyer.
H: Shop worker.
M: Marketing manager for a different sharehouse company.

▸  Let's walk through a typical weekday. Do you have a morning routine?
L: My second alarm usually gets me up at around 9:30. Eat a simple breakfast then I'll read the news, prep dinner, and out the house just after noon
H: I'll be up at around 9. Tea for breakfast, there's no time for anything else.
M: I'm usually up at 9, but do not have time to eat since I'm still half-ready when I leave at 9:30.

▸  How long is your commute to work or school?
L: 45 minutes into Shinjuku.
H: 35 minutes on the Keio Inokashira Line.
M: 30 minutes on the Chuo Line.

▸  Do you like your work?
L: Yes, but the hours are strenuous and incredibly demanding.
H: Yes, Because I'm not a salaryman and money is corrupting. I would still like to be promoted so that I can make my own schedule, though.
M: Now that I have more responsibility, yes. When I first started it was absolutely awful! There was nothing to do!

▸  What's one 'Japanese' or 'Tokyo' thing you have to deal with on a daily basis?
L: On the train, that would definitely be open-mouthed yawning and coughing. How the public will openly shun the homeless. I also have a really hard time discerning between Japanese sincerity and mere politeness.
H: Customers are rude, impatient, and arrogant. Because I'm on the other side of the counter they do not see or treat me as an equal. This spills over into public life, too.
M: Because we only have showers at the sharehouse, I have to visit a sento (bath house) at least five times a week to relax.


▸  What constitutes a 'good day'?
L: Discovering new People and places. Good News in general.
H: A Day off.
M: Sleeping in, good weather, and the sento to myself.

▸  If you have free time, how do you spend it?
L: Reading, going to events, drawing, hanging out in the common room.
H: I rarely get to cook! If not that, drinking with friends in Kichijoji.
M: Visiting museums, reading manga or anything by author Banana Yoshimoto.

▸  Cook or Combini?
L: Cook, but I'm always on the lookout for good ramen or soba.
H: Combini, not by choice though.
M: Cook!

▸  When's bedtime?
L: Around 3, I'm a complete night owl and do my best Work after 2 AM.
H: Between 1-2 AM.
M: 1 AM.

▸  Any guilty pleasures you have not shared with the House?
L: I do not feel this thing you call 'Guilt'.
H: Very rarely, I'm talking once in a blue moon I will wish harm upon...certain people.
M: I am a complete Tumu Tumu (iOS game) addict. So is my mother, which just makes it worse.

▸  Is there anything you miss from home, before you came to Oakhouse?
L: Good red wine and parmagianno. Espresso and delicious bread in the morning. I took it all for granted!
H: Fukushima was ruined by money from the nuclear plant. It's corrupted irreversibly, so Tokyo is my new home.
M: I miss the sights, sounds, and smells of living by the sea (Yokohama). Waking up to an oceanside view was wonderful.

I'd like to thank our wonderful participants and hope that we have time for more in the future. Sometimes the simple questions provoke our most thoughtful debates.
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Author profile

Hi, I'm Allister, originally hailing from the snowy reaches of Montreal, Canada. I totally lucked out and live in one of the nicest areas of Tokyo, Inokashira - Oakhouse Kickijoji 2. I am a professor of design and language at Tokyo University of Technology. I also run a graphic design business on the side.

I have a huge family (of dubious origin) spread out across most of the planet, so travel has always been like second nature.
I miss my steak, my red wine, my morning espresso and New York Times crossword. I may not always speak fondly of Tokyo or Japan in general, but my experience living here is invaluable.

80proof@gmail.com for further inquiry. AMA!
Instagram: @motokohi