Again with the going to Japan thing...? Yeesh.
January 5, 2011 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Where should I stay in Tokyo for 2+ months? Any possible alternatives to gaijin houses, or which/where are the best ones?

Hi folks. I'm going to be in Japan, for the most part Tokyo, from about March 20th of this year to early June. I'm pretty much assuming I'm going to be staying in a place like Sakura House, but I figured I would ask you all what you think before dropping the cash on the deposit. I've seen armage's old question, and this one, and this one too. My desires are close to what armage's were (would like no curfew, no roommates—single apt., furnished, no key money), but I don't have any specific location requirements and I can afford probably somewhere in the area of ¥100000 (although around ¥80000 would be ideal). I also need consistent, dependable Internet access as I will be doing some remote work while I am there.

Here are my specific questions:
  1. Are there any alternatives to the so-called gaijin houses for the period I'm talking about? I'm assuming not, but figured I'd ask.
  2. Assuming I'm staying in a guest house, what is the best agency, in your opinion? Does it depend on the specific building where you stay? Reading the gaijinpot message boards suggests they are all stinking hellholes run by corrupt assholes, which I have a hard time believing, but I'd love to get a sense of what to actually expect.
  3. Where would you suggest to live, where I can get a decent, modest place to stay but also not be too far—that is, a 15-20 minute train-ride*—from a node on the Yamanote line? I am fond of Ikebukuro and Takadanobaba, and one of my friends is pushing me to stay near her around Nippori (or Asakusa or Akihabara...the last one I'm not super psyched about), but I don't really care where it is in the end if it answers my other needs. *To be clear: I mean a 15-20 minute ride to get to a station on the Yamanote line.
  4. I don't want to be surrounded by other foreigners, one of my main goals while I'm there is to practice my Japanese, which is pretty solidly intermediate (probably a little worse than JLPT 2 range at this point, which I'm pretty sure I barely failed this year). I assume this won't be a problem though since it's probably twice as expensive to stay in a place like Roppongi. Being surrounded by nothing but Japanese is fine, it's ideal, and the best way to improve is to be forced to do so...
  5. Quiet-ish is fine, although another thing I'd like to do is see some live music on a consistent basis while I'm there. This is "icing" though, see #3 and #4 for my main desires regarding location.
  6. I want to take probably a 1-2 week trip to Kansai (depends on how this lodging works out though), so, I guess factor that in...don't care exactly when I do that though.
I think that's it...any extra information you think would be relevant would be great. Thank you all for your help, much appreciated!
posted by dubitable to Travel & Transportation around Japan (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Obvious, but Craigslist? Not too much there, but this looks good and is a nice area:

I think it's tough to find a spectacular deal since apartments are so pricey in general over there. (I remember my horrible deposit...)
posted by ejoey at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2011

Somewhere like Leopalace 21, maybe? Your friend's suggestion to stay near Nippori and the east Tokyo area is pretty reasonable, I think, in terms of accessibility and prices. I also read somewhere that it's popular now for foreign visitors staying long term to find housing in the Sanya area (doyagai) in Arakawa Ward near Minami-Senju station on the Hibiya subway line, because of its reasonable prices despite its easy accessibility to central Tokyo. Sanya's not exactly the safest area to be in, mind you, and I'm only throwing out ideas here because you're a guy and speak Japanese.
posted by misozaki at 4:31 PM on January 5, 2011

I just spent an enjoyable winter vacation at K's House. They're cheap, but more importantly sparkling clean, and have individual rooms. The staff are unusually friendly and will happily recommend you places to eat and things to see. Other hostels, like Khaosan, are not clean, may have no individual rooms, and it's easy to catch a disease there.

I don't know if K's House would be a good fit for your lengthy Tokyo stay, but I highly recommend it for Kyoto, Hiroshima, Mt. Fuji, and Ito. If you're going to be in Tokyo that long Leopalace would be good but you might want to weigh the benefits of finding a host family as well.
posted by shii at 5:00 PM on January 5, 2011

Wow, these are great answers already. shii, I'll look into K's House, and thanks for the suggestion of a host family—never even occurred to me. Any idea how I would go about doing that?

misozaki, thanks for the tip on Sanya (this is it, right?); I'll check it out. As far as safety, I've lived in some of the less cool, more poor parts of Brooklyn so I have a hard time imagining how anywhere in Japan could possibly compare...but what do I know. Also, thanks for the leopalace link, very helpful.

And ejoey, didn't even think of CL...I'll check it out.

Thanks all! More information is welcome!
posted by dubitable at 5:54 PM on January 5, 2011

I would recommend searching for "Tokyo short term furnished apartment". 2 years ago my boyfriend and I rented a place in the Kagurazaka district, and it was great. The building is run by this company, but I think most of their units are a little above your spending range.

I think that we found that company by searching with Hikari Apartments. I just did a quick search through their short term rentals, and it seems like there should definitely be a place within your range available. It sounds like you're going to want to search for a "1R", "1K" or "1DK" sized apartment, listed from smallest to largest.
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 7:30 PM on January 5, 2011

D'oh! This is a much more helpful starting link for the Hikari Apartments site, sorry. You can search by prefecture, city and room size. A quick search brought up this place, which looks to be a couple of stops from a station that you can access the Yamanote line from.
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 7:42 PM on January 5, 2011

Yep, that's it. Apparently, the locals are keen to welcome foreign visitors as well as younger Japanese travelers who either don't know or don't care about the area's ingrained image of a place where day laborers gather and hang out looking for jobs. As you probably know, though, the skeeziest parts of Tokyo is nothing compared to what it must be like, say, in Brooklyn like you point out, and from what I've seen recently, the area near Minami-Senju station has really improved in recent years.
posted by misozaki at 7:44 PM on January 5, 2011

I spent some time living in a Sakura House a few years ago. I dealt with them monthly when paying my rent in cash, and they were never anything other than polite, friendly, and helpful to me. The house itself was old, cold, and creaky, and the bed was obviously a secondhand hospital cot, but it was cheap, deposit-free, and involved no hassles from the neighborhood or landlord (well, no unjustified ones -- for a while they were pissed at our place because someone wasn't separating their garbage properly, but that was our bad).

I have heard horror stories about them too, so YMMV, but since we were all dealing with the same office in theory I suspect that there may be a little "get what you give" involved there. Plus, maybe different properties have different levels of hassle due to ownership/neighborhood issues.
posted by No-sword at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2011

Craigslist is next to useless in Japan, IMO -- you'll have better luck with the classifieds in Metropolis.

What you want to look for is a マンスリーマンション -- a "monthly mansion", or month-to-month apartment rentals. Many companies also provide weekly (ウィークリー) rentals. The problem is that many of these companies that have English websites charge exorbitant prices because they are targeting the expat crowd.

This place -- Yotsuya House -- seems to be within your budget, and I can vouch for the location as I live a few minutes away on foot. (It's a 30 minute walk to Shinjuku, and you can be just about anywhere in central Tokyo in less than 20 minutes.) I recall seeing mostly young non-Japanese residents, and I expect there are a few students from nearby Sophia University living there.

80K for a furnished apartment in central Tokyo will be tough unless you don't mind living in a shoebox. I paid 70K plus utilities for a place near Waseda that was 4.5 jo -- a generous 7.5 square meters. It was a reinforced concrete building, which is definitely something you want to consider in a country with lots of earthquakes, but that requires a premium.

My advice as to where to start looking? Anywhere along the Seibu Shinjuku Line -- it's a straight shot to Takadanobaba and Shinjuku, and from stations like Nogata, Numabukuro, or Arai-Yakushi-mae you are only a short bus ride away from Koenji or Nakano. Prices are cheaper than inside the Yamanote Line and many other suburban rail lines, and there's a relaxed atmosphere at most of the stations along the route.

If you have any very detailed questions, or would like me to check out a place for you, drop me an email and I'd be happy to help.
posted by armage at 11:53 PM on January 5, 2011

Folks, sorry I'm so slow to respond, been a busy few days. Thank you all so much for your helpful responses. I'm weighing all of my options now and I think I'll try and reserve something this weekend. armage, that is extremely generous of you to offer to check a place out; I may take you up on it if it's not a tremendous pain in the ass, and thanks also for the Yotsuya House suggestion and location suggestions. No-sword, your response was really helpful for getting a feel for Sakura house—sounds about what I'd expected. Misozaki, Amethyst (forgive me, shortening your name...haha) thanks also for the follow-up and new info respectively.(やっぱり、大変助かりました。)
posted by dubitable at 9:26 PM on January 7, 2011

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