Luckily I have a haafu friend who went to Japan for 6 months right before me. I planned my trip quite late and didn’t even think of what I was going to do there or where I was going to stay. So he told me about his place: the Guesthouse.
In the 2000s, with the influence of several TV shows like Friends (1994), or The lovers of the Sharehouse (2013), a Japanese dorama (TV series in Japanese), the popularity of room-sharing increased, especially in Tokyo, where the rents are extremely expensive and always more young people choose the lifestyle of celibacy. Since then, a lot of real estate started to invest into “Sharehouses”, a place where each resident gets his own room, but shares the bathroom, the living-room and the kitchen with his roommates. Then, it started to expand with sharehouses made exclusively for women, or guesthouses, for foreigners and open-minded Japanese, and you can even find sharehouses for a specific ethnic community (like a Chinese-exclusive house for example). The advantage is clearly the cost.
The guesthouse where I lived is located in a residential neighborhood a little bit in the outside of Tokyo – 25 minutes by train from Shinjuku –, and contains about 45 rooms displayed on 3 floors. Each floor has a bathroom, a washing machine and a vacuum cleaner, and the 3rd floor is reserved to women. The huge kitchen is equipped (rice cookers, pans, plates, etc.) and you could find a piano, a TV with video games (Wii and PS3), some exercise equipment and books. The rent, the electricity and water, the internet, and the household are all included in the price of 40’000 Yens (around 400€) per month, so I think it is financially the best alternative in Tokyo.
It was the first time I really lived alone, so it was the perfect balance; I could have some time alone in my room and be around people in the living-room when I felt lonely. Plus, there is always someone to cook with you. In general, the people who choose to live there are really open, so it was no problem for a shy person like me to socialize, and it is the best way to meet local people and make new friends. Even if you speak little or not of the language, Japanese people are willing to make effort to communicate if you show interest. It’s an enriching experience to meet so many new people with all different backgrounds.