Interview: Alice (Oakhouse Kichijoji 2)

Why I can progress in my university research at a share house

When you get in to a university in Tokyo, and you have to move to Japan, where do you live? You might choose the college dorm, or an off-campus apartment, but don't forget about a share house!
In this 9th Oakhouse resident interview, we talked to Alice Ledoux who lives in Oakhouse Kichijoji 2. She first learned about share houses from Terrace House, and has come to realize that the share house is essential for her research, so we asked her about her unique life.

Share houses aren't exactly like you see on Terrace House!

Why did you want to live in a share house?

I was born and raised in France, but when I decided to come to Japan to study in university, I knew from the beginning I wanted to live in a share house. I've shared big apartments with roommates in the past, and we all had different backgrounds, so I liked the share house concept from long ago.

Of course there's the choice to live in a college dormitory as a student, but I wanted to live in a place where I could meet people that had nothing to do with my studies.
At Oakhouse, there are people from all over the world with different roots, and of course Japanese people. And it's half men and half women, and people of different jobs and backgrounds. It's so diverse, I love it.

How did you learn about Japanese share houses?

I watched that show Terrace House when I was in France.

Of course, an actual share house is completely different than Terrace House, where every day you're just worrying about matters of the heart! But it really does feel like a safe family.
Oakhouse Kichijoji 2 has a shared living room and kitchen, so lots of us are always in there, having small talk, updating each other. Even before I came to Japan, in the UK I stayed in an apartment with a friend, and it was a small apartment, so there's not really a concept of a 'shared' space like a share house, I think. And when you live with a friend, you start to see maybe some of their faults, or maybe sometimes you'll get so used to each other you accidentally breach each other's trust or something.
But with a share house it's very easy even to live with people you don't know. You might find things in common you never knew, and it's exciting to be able to create relationships from zero.

Needing to understand "normal" life for research

So you're studying at university. What do you research?

Right now I'm majoring in sustainability at the United Nations University. It has to do with serious environmental problems, and in a world led by business, we think about how to create a sustainable environment and society.

Alice's garden on the veranda

For example, in Japan there's a culture of respect toward food, but at the same time, around the world strict quality control can lead to high levels of food waste, and it's a big societal problem.
And in Europe, there are food sharing apps that have spread, so I'm thinking about ways to introduce such a concept into Japan.

Most of the students in my department are from foreign countries. It's important to spend time with them of course, but if I do that too much, I lose opportunities to interact with people who were born and raised in this country, which is important too.
The focus of my research is Japan, so when I think about seriously approaching my work, of course I have to think about how people actually live their lives here, so it's important to learn about things I have no idea about.

A share house is actually an important place to learn about Japanese lifestyles and nature. I think we can all learn from watching how other people live their lives.
Oakhouse has so many residents of different genders, nationalities, and backgrounds, so it's such a treasure trove for learning.

What else do you like about the share house?

Something I have to think about in my research is, how to explain the concepts to non-experts, and you can only learn how to do that outside the university environment. So the share house is a good place to practice!

I think I've gotten better at explaining just by talking every day with other residents at Oakhouse from different backgrounds.
And it's not just students and very young people here, but people of different generations. There's a lot to learn from at a share house.

A place that's important when you have trouble

Do you have any specific good memories?

When you live in a big city like Tokyo, you often don't even know your neighbors' names. And in the worst case scenario, if there's some kind of disaster, I'd be all alone.
But recently when there was a big typhoon, and I was kind of scared, and I went into the living room, and everyone was there. So we all stayed together, cooked together, played games together, and started to forget about the fear.

It was just such a warm and safe place. So that was a good memory.

Lastly, do you have any advice for students thinking of living in a share house?

If you want to expand your horizons while you're a student, you can of course study overseas for one thing, but living in a share house is another great choice.
The people you live with at a share house are going to be different than the people you interact with at your job or school, so it's a very important resource. You might even find a life-long friend or two!

Oakhouse is happy to support students and their research. Thank you for your time!

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