Share Houses in Japan: The Comprehensive Guide

A new trend in housing has been on the rise for the past year and it’s attracting more and more people, including travelers, expats and even Japanese locals. Share houses. While share houses are not a new concept, they are rapidly becoming the most economical housing solution for one of the world’s most expensive pieces of real estate. In the past these co-living spaces were known as “Gaijin Houses” as they mainly attracted cash-strapped foreigners with no access to guarantors (which are required for rental properties), but now they’re a hub for full-time students, young working professionals and adventurers.

What’s a Share House?

As the name suggests, share houses are rental properties where residents have their own bedroom and bathroom while sharing common areas like cooking and living spaces. Some more spacious houses will sometimes have a gym or a garden! Rent and utility expenses are shared between all the residents and rooms are completely furnished, making it a cheaper alternative to renting and furnishing conventional apartments inJapan.

In the past, the few Japanese residents who would live in these houses would typically be those that wanted to study English or were looking for foreign friends, but now many of these co-living spaces cater to a variety of residents that share similar philosophical values and common interests. This can create an inviting community to those who’ve just landed in Japan and are looking to make new friends, as well as provide exciting networking opportunities for working professionals all under one roof!

Let’s Look At a Breakdown of the Costs

There are countless websites that talk about the affordability of share houses but what are the costs exactly? Can a full time student working part-time or a digital nomad be able to afford to live in one of the world’s most expensive cities?

In today’s market, there are a number of reputable share house establishments that offer a variety of prices and quality of living space. Location is the biggest factor influencing rent in urban centres. Take a look at the table below showing a comparison of the costs and fees between two different share houses and a private apartment in Tokyo.

Takenotsuka III B Arden Itabashi One Room Apartment in Share House Nakano, Tokyo
Monthly Rent ¥35,000 ¥54,000 ¥71,000
Utilities Included in rent ¥12,000 ¥6,000 ~ ¥12,000 + installation fees
Property Maintenance Fee Included in rent Included in rent ¥3,500
*Deposit ¥0 ¥40,000 ¥0
*Key Money ¥0 ¥0 ¥71,000
*Fire Insurance ¥0 ¥15,000 ¥15,000
*Real Estate / Management Fee ¥15,000 to ¥35,000 ¥0 ¥71,000
*Cleaning Fee ¥0 If moving out within 3 months, there’s a fee of ¥20,000 + tax ¥25,000 *Deducted from deposit* ¥30,000 ~ ¥70,000
Guarantor Not Required Not Required Required.
Property Notes A two-story share-house with 11 private rooms. Rooms are fully furnished with a single bed, air conditioner/heater, desk, chair, light, fridge and TV. Cleaning staff come in to clean common areas, showers and toilets once a week. Located in a quiet residential area, 40 minutes away from Tokyo Station. A four-story building with 12 private rooms. Rooms are fully furnished with a single bed, air conditioner/heater, desk, chair, bookshelf and wardrobe. Other facilities include gardening space, terrace and rooftop. Located in a residential area, 30 minutes away from Tokyo Station. Minimum 3 month lease. Unfurnished 1K apartment with a small balcony, located 45 minutes away from Tokyo Station. The closest station is only 6 min away. The apartment includes separate bathroom and toilet, air conditioner/heater, reheatable bathtubs and wooden flooring. There’s also a free bicycle parking area. New Building (6 years). Minimum 1 year lease.
*These are initial move-in fees.

Moving in to a conventional apartment in Japan is an expensive operation, usually costing on average 6 month’s worth of rent, as well as having to shoulder the costs of furnishing the place. By giving up some privacy, budget travelers, students and young professionals can live a fuller life in a high cost cities like Tokyo without burning through their savings.

What Are The Advantages Of Share Houses?

Economical

Share houses are a real value for money and this may be the main reason why so many people choose co-living over private rental properties. The rates offered at share houses are much lower than those of Japanese apartments since most expenses such as internet, electricity, water, gas and maintenance costs are all included in the rental fees. Some costly move-in expenses such as key money and agency fees (which can end up costing up to 3 months of rent) are completely excluded, making share houses an affordable solution to the rental property market for young professionals.

On average in 2019, a small 1 room apartment in Tokyo can cost from 60,000 to 140,000 yen, whereas share house prices can range from 30,000 to 90,000 yen per month for a room.

More Space

City apartments in Japan are ‘cosy’ to say the least. An average 1DK apartment in Tokyo is less than 30 square meters (323 sq.ft) as shown in this ​article​ comparing the average living space in apartments in Japan. However with share houses, residents will always have more square footage overall to live in and at a cheaper price. Residents can still have their privacy in their own rooms while sharing spacious communal areas such as the kitchen and living room. Depending on location, some share houses can also have office spaces, rooftops, entertainment areas, gardens and even gyms.

Easy to Make Friends

There are countless opportunities to meet new people in a share house, whether its a social gathering where neighbours get together to cook or share a meal, go on organised excursions or with a simply start chatting with a chance hallway meeting.

These places have a great sense of community and can make residents really feel like they belong there.

Not only are these co-living spaces the perfect way to meet people from all corners of the world that share similar interests to you, but it’s also an ideal way to continue your professional growth outside of the office. Share houses attract many different types of people from digital nomads, world travellers, young Japanese entrepreneurs and students to expats looking to make their mark in Japan. This creates a stimulating environment where similarly minded people can interact and form relationships.

Find Your Perfect Language Partner

Many Japanese people choose to live in a share house during their studies. Having a native Japanese speaker for a roommate is a great way to practise Japanese, and to discover Japan through the eyes of a local.

Great Location

Share houses might be an upcoming housing trend but they are very well established in Japan. A range of co-living accommodation can be found in the large cities across Japan. They’re often close to train stations, shops and city centres making work, travel and study super convenient and affordable.

Specialized Communities

Some share houses will cater to certain interests such as travel, sports, cooking. Some will specialize for the types of residents that common stay there such as digital nomads and aspiring young IT professionals by providing them with optic fibre internet, co-working spaces, printers and scanners. There are also share houses that aim to help single mothers by having an affordable daycare centre in the building.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Share Houses?

You Can’t Choose Your Neighbours

Before agreeing to leasing a room in a share house, you’ll always be able to see the space but you won’t necessarily meet all your roommates in advance! In most cases, living with other strangers won’t cause any large issues but different people have different personal boundaries and habits. There might be times when neighbours may be noisy or too lazy to wash their dishes after a meal. Being open-minded and flexible to others is a big part of living in a community!

Not Suitable For Everyone

These co-living spaces are often run by companies that have created a response to the increasing number of young people moving to cities in search of work, study or for travel purposes. They offer a higher quality of life for a lower budget and though it’s highly recommended for tourists and travellers staying for more than a month in Japan, it may not be suitable for large travelling groups or families since the rooms available are often limited to no more than 2 people.

Minimum 1 Month Lease

Travelers staying for less than one month in Japan, will find difficulty finding a share house to accomodate them as the majority of them have a 30 day minimum rental lease.

How to Choose The Right Share House For You

When looking around and weighing out your options for your new accommodation, there are several factors to consider.

  • Management The first step to looking for a well managed and organized share house that will accomodate to your lifestyle and not be the root of stress is by finding a reliable management company. When interacting with agents from these companies take note of how responsive they are, how well do they know the properties and how often they visit. Having an agent that will answers your questions quickly via email is a direct indicator of how they’ll respond to issues on the property such as a broken heater or frozen water pipe. If the management company seems unreliable, it’s better to move on.
  • Location Depending on the location and access to the nearest train station, especially if it's one where the limited express train stops at, it will influence the rental price. Consider how far you’re prepared to travel to for work or study and don’t forget about access to daily necessities such as a supermarket and convenience store. Management companies understand that share houses with central locations are more desirable, so to compete they often offer co-living spaces in newer buildings with lower rent.
  • Contract Before signing to any contract, it’s important to understand exactly what you are agreeing to. Make sure to understand the type of contract you’re signing, whether it’s a fixed term or a regular rental contract, what the expected fees are and the house rules. The contract must be specific to prevent any loopholes or scams from both parties.
  • House Rules Make sure you understand the rules of each share house you’re applying to. Recently, with the increasing need for co-living spaces in larger cities, in turn it has given way to the emergence of share houses catering to specific markets such as woman-only buildings, pet-friendly properties, remote-worker friendly houses etc. For example, in a woman-only house, no male overnight guests are allowed. Are there exceptions for family members? Can a male friend come over to hang out? Understanding the house rules in advance can help avoid potential misunderstandings amongst roommates.
  • Viewing Viewing a share house before signing a lease is very important! Make sure to make an appointment to view the property to get a feel for the atmosphere of the place and see the kind of people that are staying there. Is it a quiet and relaxed house? Do they have many events and parties? What’s the ratio of foreigners to Japanese people living there? These are some things you can take note of from just stepping foot on the property and talking to the manager of the share house.
  • Recommended Share Housing Establishments Co-living is modern way of living that encourages a sense of community, using shared spaces and resources to create a more convenient and fulfilling lifestyle. Below is a list of recommended management companies that provide co-living spaces throughout Japan. If the idea of ​sharing accommodation during your next stay in Japan appeals to you, here are some sites that may be of interest. It's possible to search for a share house by location, by train line, by budget, and even by equipment

Where to rent a room in a sharehouse ?

Tokyo Sharehouse

They one of the most comprehensive ranges of co-living spaces for different budgets in Tokyo. A fun feature of their site is searching share houses by themes!

Oakhouse

First launched in 1992, they offer a variety of share houses as well as apartments for rent in the Kanto region and most recently Kyoto. Prices can be higher than other management companies but they are known to provide comfortable and welcoming rooms.

Borderless-House

This company is well known across Asia, they also offer co-living spaces in Korea and Taiwan too. They have a great selection of share houses in the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe), however Borderless only accepts tenants staying for 3 months or longer.

Sharehouse

If you’re looking to live outside of Tokyo, Sharehouse has a range of options from the tropical island of Okinawa to the land of powder snow, Hokkaido.

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