I moved! Now, instead of living in some awful suburb outside of Tokyo, I now actually live in Tokyo! Isn’t that wild?
There’s tons of gaijin on the internet who write about their move, and as research I thought I would read all of their stories, but even then little things popped up here and there that I wasn’t expecting during this move. I won’t claim to have read or heard every single gaijin’s moving horror story, but I hope to cover details not relayed in other tales.
Before making inquires at real estate agencies, I was kind of terrified of them running for the hills upon seeing a foreigner’s name in an email’s header. But it turns out I was mistaken–it’s not the real estate agencies that are afraid of your weird foreigner face, it’s the landlords that freakout. Real estate agencies are actually quite eager to speak to you, and are very quick to either e-mail or call you upon seeing your inquiry. Helpful and courteous, no? One would think so, bringing us to…
Some Real Estate Agencies Are More Helpful Than Others
Yeah, this is the same anywhere in the world, but seeing as Japan is renown for impeccable customer service, I think we tend to forget that the Japanese are in fact also members of the human race, and fall victim to typical human failings, one of these being providing customers with shitty service. I would like to say this is rarer in Japan, but it’s still out there.
It’s a Saturday: I go out house hunting with my girlfriend, and the first place we go to is pretty awful. It’s located at the top floor of some random-ass building in Akiba, in a tiny office that was making no attempts to look welcoming in the least. Having originally inquired about a certain property, but then changing my mind before arriving, the guy there freaks out. With–apparently–no digital database with which to look listings up on, he throws us a giant book with listings located in the ward–not the neighborhood, the ward–I’m looking in. The book is completely unorganized, and filled with thousands of listings in pristine copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy quality. We’re supposed to look at this to “kill time” while our man receives listings that match my specifications via fax from some mysterious source. Twenty minutes pass–during which some other guy working there who isn’t even involved with us plops his ass down in front of us and proceeds to take a phone call while leaning back with his legs crossed–and we’re presented with a whopping one listing.
“They’re going to be coming out in droves any second now,” he timidly reassures us.
Over the next hour, we’re only presented with a few other listings, during which time we’re hardly attended to in the least. After a few murmurers and glances between me and my girl, we decide that blowing this scene is the best course of action. So, we leave.
Guys never once offered us tea, either.
Harboring feelings of misery and anger, we make our way towards the next place, expecting once again to be thoroughly disappointed after having suffered through the bullshit of the last place.
Upon stepping through the new place’s automatic glass doors, we’re treated to an immaculate office, a cheerful greeting from every member of staff, and–best of all–two hot cups of green tea.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” says the man that is to help us out.
We are then presented with business cards up front; something that was handed to us as we were keeping the door from hitting our asses on the way out at the last place, most likely because they forgot.
Our guy already has a bunch of listings ready to present to us, with the property I had inquired about mixed in. After just fifteen minutes of discussion, we decide to check out the place I had initially inquired about. We go to the place, decide it’s okay, I sign a form that basically says, “I’m buyin’ dis,” and we’re on our merry way! We then celebrate at a nice Belgian restaurant in Ueno.
A few days pass, and an unfortunate call reaches my cell phone.
“The landlord has decided not to rent to foreigners. We’re terribly, terribly sorry.”
He then invites us back to the office to look at other options, which leads us right to…
You Can Get Screwed Over at Any Moment
I thought I was safe, but as it turns out you’re not 100% out of the woods until you actually press your inkan down on that contract, and shoot the money over. I realize that this–again–sounds really obvious, but I think it’s fair to think a place is gonna be yours when they tell you, “This place is gonna be yours.”
At first I think I’m being racially discriminated against, but…
It’s Not Always Racism
…that said, I’m sure sometimes it is. This time it turns out that there was a Filipino guy who used to live in that place, he caused a ruckus, and after some consultation with her husband, the landlord decided to keep foreigners from renting. Is this racism? Maybe. But after consulting some locals, it seems Japanese people can get just as fucked over, too.
The real estate guy explains this to me: If some students move into a place and are noisy, that landlord will most likely take up an anti-student policy. And when they say “No Foreigners,” it’s not necessarily just weird round-eyed Americans like you and me–it’s anyone. Like I said earlier, the reason–or the purported reason–I was unable to rent the first place was because of some Filipino guy. Cut back to the real estate office: The guy is really selling me on this one place, pointing to the part on the listing where it says that foreigners–like pets–are “OK.” I ask him to confirm this, and he does so with a giant smile on his face. He then lets out a giant “USO?! (What?!)” and puts down the phone looking slightly flustered. Turns out just recently a Chinese guy that lived there got really drunk and punched a hole in a wall, making the whole apartment block closed off to foreigners.
Later at A-Button, Shin-san–the owner–tells me about his experience looking for a place. He says that as someone who’s self employed, it was tough for him to find an apartment. Lots of landlords are old, dumb people, and get very wary of people who run their own businesses, because a steady income is not guaranteed. The guy who runs Garten also apparently had similar trouble.
There’s a reason for all of this: Landlords are like this because–as I understand–it’s really difficult to kick people out. So long as they pay their rent, they can stay. As such, before the rental happens, landlords have a ton of power, and the right to be very picky. But once the place is rented out, there’s not much they can do.
So how does this story end? Am I writing this post from under a bridge in Akiba with other hobos? Am I living out of a manga cafe near Kita-Senju station? Am I living in Kita-Senju station?
…no, thankfully not. In the end I managed to find an affordable place in the same neighborhood, and it’s great. So all’s well that ends well, I suppose.