Mike Ferrier

I beat code into submission.

Living in Japan

Melissa and I decided last year to spend the first 6 months of 2013 living in Japan. We’ve both always wanted to spend some time living abroad, and it just so happens that, at this point in our lives, all the stars seemed to align at once to provide this opportunity. We’re both able to work remotely, our condo lease was up, we’re both eligible for the Working Holiday Visa, so we figured it was time.

We’ve finally made it here and settled in, and after a crazy first two weeks I decided I should start posting about the things we’ve had to figure out that might be useful to others who come here to live as well.

While we’re here, we’re going to be pretty much exclusively using AirBnB for accomodations, which is significant: without AirBnB this excursion would have been much more difficult and expensive. Before AirBnB, renting a place in Japan involved such unpleasantries as

  • hiring an agent to find rental properties
  • negotiating with a prospective landlord in broken Japanese
  • paying 2-3 months rent in refundable deposit
  • paying 1-2 months key money in unrefundable “key money”

Key money is one of those things about Japan that, coming from other places in the world, blow your mind when it’s first explained to you. Basically it’s a gift of 1-2 months’ rent to the landlord. That’s right, not a deposit but a gift. For the privilege of allowing you to rent from them. Fucking bonkers.

Apparently it’s a practice that dates from the end of WW2 when rebuilding efforts were still being undertaken and housing was scarce. More info here.

AirBnB listings for Tokyo have been slowly growing this year, but there are currently around 150 listings which is a pretty healthy selection to choose from. With AirBnB you can book long-term accomodations and pay much less than hotels – the place we’re living in was around $60/day.

One thing to remember if you go this route is that gift giving is an important part of the social niceties that are expected of the Japanese. Be sure to bring or buy gifts for whoever you’re renting from to show them you’re a thoughtful foreigner and not a bum.