Interview: Mr. Kobayashi (Premiere Kichijoji)
Why a Tokyo U. student chose a share house instead of the dorms
Studying abroad is something many college and university students do. It's a great way to experience another country, culture, and society. And if you go to a country that doesn't speak your language, you will be able to acquire useful language skills as well.
So, wouldn't it be great if there was a way to have the "study abroad" experience, without leaving your country? To many Japanese students who want a place where they can use English and meet people from around the world, a share house is just that sort of place.
In this Oak Interview series, we talk with diverse people living with Oakhouse to find out why they chose to live at a share house. In this 4th interview, we talk to Takeshi Kobayashi, who lives in Premiere Kichijoji. Kobayashi is currently studying international relations at Tokyo University.
We ask Kobayashi why a student would choose a share house, and the interesting distance between his housemates, who are not family.
Why did you want to live in a share house?
I moved in to Premiere Kichijoji in August 2018. I'd lived in an apartment for 2 years before that.
At first I had wanted to take a break from school and do an internship overseas, and I saw that share houses were really flexible with moving in and moving out, so that's why I chose it.
When you live in an apartment, you need furniture, and it takes a lot of footwork. With Oakhouse though, there's already a bed, a washing machine, other furniture, and even dishes, so it was helpful as I wanted to focus on making preparations to head overseas.
What kind of people live at Premiere Kichijoji?
There are about 70 people here, and many like to cook and eat together with other housemates.
It's about 30% Japanese people and the rest are foreigners, mostly from other Asian countries or central- or south America, but in the 3 months I've been here I've already made like 20 or 30 friends! (laughs)
There are lots of people who have been all over the world, even the other Japanese people. The other day I met a Cuban backpacker who had brought rum from home, and I told them wanted to learn more about their travels, so we had a barbecue party.
Among all the share house companies, why choose Oakhouse?
First of all the initial costs were really low. No key money, gift money, just first month's rent and utilities and the contract fee, and I can move in.
Then, I was looking for a house with a lot of foreigners from all over. When you go on the Oakhouse website and you look at the page for each house, you can see different breakdowns, like how many men live here, and how many people from each country live here, and so on. So it was fun to look for a house with a lot of foreigners. It's a good way to have some idea of what kind of people live there before you move in, so you can avoid a mismatch.
Normally when you're looking for an apartment, you're looking at floorplan and location. But with a share house you're looking at what kind of people live there already, so you can find something that fits you yourself better.
With so many nationalities, you would expect there to be a language barrier. How did you manage?
I've never been outside Japan, and I'm not a returnee, so really my English is about conversational school level. I don't sound like a native speaker of course. But I've learned so much since coming here, and learned that it's not even just about the language, but the act of communication itself that's important. Even if you can't make yourself understood at first, you try, and if the other person is perceptive to what you're trying to say, that's communication. It was eye-opening for me.
Plus I realized that the English used in a share house is the kind of natural English you would use every day. If you go to a language school you have these made-up scenarios and you're forced to use your imagination, but share houses are a place where people actually live, and you can hear real English, and use real English. It feels like what I imagine study abroad must be like.
People who have not lived in a share house might worry about living with others, or lack of privacy. How do you feel?
The best thing about the share house to me is that there's this perfect distance. Housemates are more than friends, but they're not family. You don't have to go out of your way to make friends, but it sort of happens naturally, and before you know it you have a relation of trust with someone. Once you have that, you can overcome almost any problem.
At a share house you have your own room, so you have privacy. If you want to be alone, just go to your room. If you want to hang out and chat, go to the lounge or something. It's a kind of distance you can really only find at a share house, I think. You don't have to be on tip-toes all the time like you're just a guest at someone else's home, but you can still make a comfortable place to live with everyone else.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about moving into a share house?
If you're thinking about moving to a share house, you might have some reservations about sharing space with others, or living in a shared environment. But I think that even if you've never experienced it before, it's really not stressful, strange as that may sound. It's less "there is always a stranger around", and more like "I can control my own time, and there is always someone to talk to". So if you think of it that way it's more relaxing.
I have friends who live in the student dorms on campus, but there's no clear management of their shared spaces, and not a lot of space for themselves. With a share house though, there are staff who help clean, a space outside where you can make barbecue, a big living room, and more.
Also, share houses are places where people from all over and who have all sorts of jobs gather together. Students have to worry about where they are going to find a job, and luckily before we do that we can talk directly to people actually working in various industries, which helps me navigate the road ahead. Even if you're not a student, and you're thinking about your future career, I would suggest thinking about living in a share house.
Thank you for talking with us! We hope you continue to enjoy your exciting Oakhouse life!