When moving to Japan, one of the first things that is immediately evident is the fact that space (or the lack thereof) is a major issue here. Consequently, Japan is notorious for having tiny apartments. During my 3 years in Ehime prefecture, friends were constantly asking me if it was true that all apartments in Japan are the size of a closet. This used to annoy me to no end because it wasn’t true of my situation in Matsuyama city. Just like all the other ALTs, I had company housing. However, not all of the housing had been created equal. Some of my colleagues had very small apartments compared to mine. In Matsuyama, I had a very large apartment by both Japanese and Western standards. I had 2 separate rooms with 6 tatami mats each. So, I was able to separate my lounge from my bedroom. I also had a very large kitchen. In fact, my kitchen was so large that I could dance around in it and do pirouettes if I bloody-well pleased. But since I am a terrible dancer, I didn’t attempt too many ballet moves in my kitchen (lucky for my neighbours). All in all, I was working with a space of about 42 meters squared.
Fast forward to my current situation in Toyota city: I am sorry to say that my bubble has been burst. How rude! Unfortunately for me, this time around, the size of the company housing that I have been placed in can indeed be very easily compared to that of a walk-in wardrobe. No longer will I be able to refute the stereotype that Japanese apartments are miniature in size. As far as Japanese apartments go, it doesn’t get smaller than this! I have only 3 words to say: LEO PALACE 21! Anyone who has lived in Japan for a couple of years knows that Leo Palace housing is synonymous with being small & cramped. My new apartment is 19 square meters of tiny! Check out the pictures and see for yourself.
Generally speaking, these type of apartments are built for young, single men and women who don’t spend much time at home & simply need a space in which to crash at the end of the day. As evidenced by the pathetic amount of space in what can hardly be called a kitchen, it’s clear that these young workers don’t tend to cook very much. Most Leo Palace apartments tend to have a built in bed which, as in my case, you need to climb a ladder or wooden staircase to access.
In my mind, I can think of only 3 advantages of living in this kind of apartment:
1. For such a tiny apartment, the design actually lends itself to having a lot of storage space (at least in my case, this is true, but it’s not always the case).
2. The apartments come with the internet already set up for you. Thus, its one less headache that you have to deal with. As soon as I moved in, I was able to immediately get online and inform my friends and family that I was safely in Toyota city. In Matsuyama, I had to wait 1 month before the internet was set up in my apartment.
3. Some basic furniture and appliances come with the apartment. For instance, my apartment came fitted with a fridge, a washing machine, microwave and 2 tables and 2 chairs. So, when I moved in, it was nice to not have to worry about buying some of the larger appliances and furniture. However, I still had to go out and buy such items as a kettle, cutlery and crockery, etc.
1. Considering that the space is so small, the apartments are surprisingly expensive (usually between ￥45,000-60,000, ie. R4,500-R6,000). My rent is now more than double what I used to pay in Matsuyama (however, it must be noted that my board of education used to subsidize my rent by half… I miss that…*sob sob sob*).
2. 19 square meters is not a lot of space for a single person to deal with. Now, imagine navigating this space with 2 people occupying it! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!! The apartment is simply too small for 2 people to share. Since my boyfriend & I are sharing the apartment until we can find another one for him to move into, you can just imagine how cramped things are at the moment. At best, our tiny apartment forces us to get really close & learn to compromise on a number of issues. At worst, it’s an exercise in extreme patience. But mostly, it’s a cozy experience.
3. Seeing as the apartments are built to accommodate Japanese people, all of the fittings are quite low. So, what do you get when you put a large American (height 187cm) in a tiny Japanese apartment? LOTS of “OUCH”!! Poor, Marc. He’s bumping his forehead and elbows on everything but the kitchen sink.
So, there you have it. The pictures should give you a pretty good idea of what my living quarters look like. If you’d like to get an even more detailed look at the apartment, then check out this video which was made by my predecessor, Vash. She posted this video on Youtube when she first moved in 3 years ago. Anyone who Googles or Youtubes “Toyota city apartments” invariably comes across this video. What a crazy coincidence that Marc and I had both checked out this video before arriving in Japan, then it turns out that we got placed in the EXACT SAME apartment. We were lucky enough to get in touch with Vash after we moved in. She was extremely kind, helpful and was able to give us some useful tips and advice which helped us settle in. Check out Vash’s blog to see what adventures she got up to during her time in Japan.
Well, that’s it for now.
Until the next post, thanks for reading.