My New Apartment Situation

When I went to pick up my key to my new apartment, I asked the receptionist at the agency to look up some information about my soon-to-be new roommates. I was then informed that I’d be living with five people: Four guys and a girl. An American, a French, an Australian, a Brit and an Italian.

I was indifferent to their nationalities but was mostly grateful that at least one of my roommates would be female. My biggest fear was that I’d end up with some post-college ESL teaching party boys with their beer bongs and loud music. Or some “I heart Japan and it’s the best place in the World” weirdos, because those people’s obsessions with this country teeter on the fanatical level – It’s scary. I figured that if I had a female roommate, at least I’d have someone to roll my eyes at when life in the ghetto got too intense.

I was surprised upon arrival, however, to find that the Europeans, American and Australian had mysteriously vanished. Perhaps they had once upon a time resided there, or perhaps they never did at all and it was just a glitch in the computer, but all of the people gathered in the living room were from Asian countries.

There was the Chinese grad student. The Taiwanese pop singer, the two (recently unemployed) Thai boys and the two (“sometimes three”) Indians. Apparently, my five bedroom apartment is home to seven (sometimes eight) people. No one could tell me the Indians names, or what they did for a living. “They cook a lot,” was all I was told.

Although it’s a little crowded, and the apartment is a mess (more about that in a second) I’m pretty excited about the arrangement. I debated a lot with myself about moving into a ‘gaijin house’ (foreigner house) as they’re called, and I worried that I’d be distancing myself from Japanese culture even more than I already am. But I think that even if it’s not a ‘Japanese culture’ experience, it’s still a uniquely Japan experience. Plus I’m getting a chance to live with people whom I’d rarely have a chance to live with in the States, certainly not all under one roof. I’m really looking forward to getting to know all of them.

Already, the Taiwanese girl and I’ve become fast friends. We watched American Idol together (OMG I have satellite TV again!) and she braided my hair and told me that I was the first person she’d ever met with “real green eyes”. Ha ha.

The apartment set-up is bizarre, in that the living room is littered with the left-over belongings of past residents. Even though the Taiwanese girl has lived in this apartment for the past three years, she’s never bothered with throwing any of it out. So as a result, there are old suitcases, guidebooks, camping equipment, a soccer ball and a kite all collecting dust in piles in the living room. The worst is the bathroom, where the shelves are crowded with half-empty bottles of sunscreen and vitamins and tubes of toothpaste, all of which are glued in place with a thick layer of green mold and mildew.

What’s weirder still are the post-it notes and hand-written signs that are tacked up everywhere, some of which are so old the paper is yellowed and the hand-writing is barely visible. Some of the notes are written in Korean, some in German (one of them says “Don’t forget to lock the door!” and another lists instructions on how to work the remote control on the TV). The best are the EngRish post-it’s! One of them says: “Put toothpaste in your eye. You will wake up.”

I’ve decided to ration those ones out by only posting one per day. I’ll call it: “The Daily Dose of EngRish”. : )

There are even goodbye notes dated from two years ago, taped to the wall by people named ‘Axel’ and ‘Miles Davis’. “These were the best six months of my life! I will always remember you!”

I feel like I’m living in the graveyard of long-gone ESL teachers. Or else some sort of living, ‘fully-preserved’ museum tribute to 2006. It’s really, really bizarre.

I’ll post pictures soon.

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Comments ( 12 )

  1. Kira Petersson-Martin

    That bit about the gunge in the bathroom amde me shiver. Yuck. Didn't you say in the last article that someone comes up to clean the bathroom? Blech.

    Well, maybe your new Taiwanese friend will let you throw some of that stuff out? The bathroom stuff, at least. Then again, maybe not.

  2. Vin D. Alsace

    It's over-crowded, your roommates are picked at random by the company...and you pay twice the amount a Japanese person would"

    ""I heart Japan and it's the best place in the World" weirdos, because those people's obsessions with this country teeter on the fanatical level - It's scary."

    Reading this makes me pose a serious question for you--why in their right mind, would a white girl choose to live in Japan?

    The guys you're describing above are there for one reason--to get laid. They had no hope or chance of that back in their home countries, so they've come to Japan to escape their misery.

    But you? You remind me of my female friend (American) who lived in Beijing for 5 years. I seriously think you have to be a masochist. You're surrounded by Asian men who are intimidated by you, and low-self-esteem Western nerds who are there solely to chase Japanese girls. You're on the bottom of the social pyramid.

    Why not move to Italy or Australia where you would be adored by the local (and expat) men?

    I know this comment is random, but it's a thought that popped in my head when reading this.

  3. Reannon

    Hmmm well, that's definitely the million dollar question that every foreign girl here asks herself.

    I actually wrote an article about that for a website (I'll link to it as soon as it gets published)so it's a subject I know a lot about.

    Most women who come to Japan come with their boyfriends or husbands who's company's have transferred them here. Out of the 30 or 40 American or European women I know, only one came here on her own.

    It's tough because most foreign men come here looking for Japanese girlfriends and most Japanese men won't date foreigners because of the language barrier or because they're looking for a girlfriend who will cook and clean for them (which many Western women refuse to do).

    I can't remember the exact statistic but something like 150 Japanese men married American women last year. The number was even lower for British women (something like 50). But the number of Japanese men who married Chinese women was around 10,000. The numbers were equally high for women from the Phillipines, Korea and Thailand. So Japanese men ARE marrying foreigners, just not Westerners. Again, they're looking for a more 'traditional' husband / housewife dynamic.

    The number of Japanese women who married Western men is in the thousands.

    Anyway, so the odds that an American female can find a forward thinking "Westernized" Japanese man who actually wants to date her is near impossible. And even if such a man exists, where would you meet him? They're always at work!

    But lets say you do meet him, he'll probably be too shy and intimidated to talk to you or else you won't be interested...because you'll find out that his hobby is playing video games and he still lives with his mother. 71 percent (not exactly sure on that statistic) of men in their late 20s and early 30's still live with their parents.

    So the situation is pretty grim. My friend just broke up with her boyfriend and is actually MOVING back to England because she knows she'll never find a BF here.

    I'll post the article here with the actual statistics sometime in the next few weeks.

    I don't think I will stay here for five years like your Beijing friend. I'm actually planning several escape strategies and will probably leave sometime this summer.

    I hope people don't read too much into this rant. Of course exceptions to all that exist and I have two friends who are happily married to really great Japanese guys...But in general, I would say that the dating situation for female foreigners is pretty difficult.

  4. Reannon

    But on the plus side, I hear it's much worse in Korea or China. : )

  5. PushupYogi

    AAAAAAACCCKKKK!!!! Indian roomies??? Indian right out of India, or well-traveled ones? If it's the former, your clothes WILL smell of curry until you burn them... one more thing - my mum and dad are going to Japan for a vacation and I decided to join them for a week. 2nd week April. So since you're an insider, I was wondering if you could give me a little advice. If you don't mind and you have a few minutes to spare over the next few weeks. If its a yea, leave a comment at pushupyogi and I'll give you my email id. (you can delete/not publish this comment iyw)

    And of course, given the end of your post, I was reminded of this :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63bWYFGBTuE&feature=related

  6. Reannon

    Hi PushupYogi,

    Sure, I'll give you advice...no problem.

    Thanks for the video link! Cute mini-movie.

  7. Reannon

    Kira,

    Yeah, they clean the bathroom...but just the shower and toilet...nothing else. They won't touch or move anyone's stuff. It's really bare minimum kind of cleaning.

    Not that I'm complaining...it's nice not having to worry about that sort of thing. Although I'm sure the cleaning fees have something to do with why my rent's so high... : )

  8. Jade

    Your apartment situation seems interesting. My friends live in a gaijin building in ikebukuro, but they only have three roommates to each apartment and everyone gets their own decent sized room. I think it only costs like $600 a month, though not including utilities or cleaning services. It's actually quite nice, so not all gaijin buildings are like that...

  9. Reannon

    Hi Jade! That's a really good deal! You're friends are lucky! Yeah, some 'gaijin house' companies are beter than others. I hear Oak House offers some good deals. What company did your friends go through?

  10. koala

    Vin totally described my only friend living in Japan. Here he was short and goofy but when he came to visit Poland he wouldn't shut up about Asian girls. He lived in Australia, Japan and has a Tai girlfriend and all what comes out of his stories is how easy those girls are.

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