Cheap way to stay in Tokyo for a few months? (internship)
July 11, 2013 3:24 PM   Subscribe

I just got news that I got an internship at an architectural office (altough I just graduated as a a graphic designer) in Tokyo, which is crazy exciting. However, they can't offer any compensation (small studio) so unless I find another job next to this, I need some really cheap solutions. I just sent an email to the studio, asking them for assistance, but figured meta could help. My plan is to stay for 2-3 months. I saved up some money from side jobs, and don't mind spending it on this experience, but the less it makes a dent the better. My only idea so far was to work as some kind of au pair (I speak English, German, Dutch and Croatian fluently, I'm good with kids, but I am a guy, which I guess is not too popular a gender for babysitting), in exchange for a room. Any ideas? Also, some place where I could look for a small job on the side (preferably something where I could use my design skills, but don't mind a day job)? Also, how much can I expect to spend monthly if I'm, technically, still on a student budget? Thank a lot!
posted by ahtlast93 to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are cheap-ish (or at least not hideously expensive) ways to do everything in Tokyo except crash. The usual solution (not require much space or amenities) doesn't work here, cuz even upper middle class people make do without those things. Space is as tight here as water is in the Mideast.

You need to beg the office to find you a place to crash. The problem is that (per above) nobody has extra space in their houses. An extra couch? Ha! If only....

The only loophole I've ever found in Tokyo is crashing at night in an office. If they were open to that with their office, they'd have already offered. But perhaps you (or, more likely, they) can work out something with someone somewhere. Or maybe a me-fi can hook you up.

Good luck. It sounds extremely fun!
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:45 PM on July 11, 2013

Did you check the visa situation? Your choices re work might be restricted by the type of visa you would have.

Jasso (Japan Student Services Organization) estimates living expenses around 150,000 JPY/month and most universities quote around 100,000-120,000 (when one lives on campus, off campus housing might be priced differently?). There is plenty of info for exchange students on their site which might be helpful to you. Their job hunting guide (I assume some things might be relevant to your situation).

For example according to Sophia University in Tokyo:
Meals 30,000-60,000 JPY /month
Commuter Pass 5,000-10,000 JPY /month
Personal expenses 20,000- JPY /month (depends on lifestyle)
Japanese National Health Insurance 600-1,500 JPY /month (depends on resident areas)
Personal Accident Insurance 800 JPY /year (Mandatory)
posted by travelwithcats at 4:06 PM on July 11, 2013

not super cheap, but for completeness sakura house might be a good option..
posted by crawltopslow at 4:11 PM on July 11, 2013

This seems strange. Is this a Japanese company, or a foreign company? Generally speaking, outside of teaching English, a Japanese company will take care of junior employees, so they really ought to be stepping up to the plate and helping you find a place to live. They should also be paying you a stipend, for food, or feeding you in a cafeteria.

Sakura House seems like a good bet.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:42 PM on July 11, 2013

Check out Bamboo House and Yadoya Guest House.
Yadoya House has volunteer positions in exchange for dorm beds.

I also found this list of guesthouses in Tokyo.
posted by clearlydemon at 6:17 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

(I speak English, German, Dutch and Croatian fluently, I'm good with kids, but I am a guy, which I guess is not too popular a gender for babysitting)

I used to live in Japan and just came back a few days ago from my annual trip.

English is the only one of these languages that has any use in Japan. There is no au pair program in Japan. I think that "foreign man" disqualifies you from just about all of the few families who might want a live-in babysitter, and I have never heard of such a thing in Japan. Besides that, you are going to need to be able to speak with any children in your charge, and you do not indicate that you have any Japanese ability at all.

I think your best bet for a side job would be some sort of German-teaching. While English is by far the most commonly studied foreign language, I have found that some Japanese go for other European languages to distinguish themselves from the herd of English students. It seems to me that French is the most common choice, but I have to imagine that you could find a few German students in Tokyo. I envision one-on-one conversation sessions rather than any sort of formal classroom instruction. I think this is a bit of a long shot, though.

Also, while you do not mention your nationality, your visa may severely or entirely eliminate your ability to work. Since this is an unpaid internship of two to three months, I imagine that you are simply going to show up with a tourist landing visa. Some countries' citizens can work in Japan on such a tourist visa, but others cannot. If you cannot legally work, you are going to be pretty limited to something like conversation lessons. No one is going to hire you if you are not legal to work in Japan. Check The Working Holiday Program to see if your country participates. If so, there is a process to follow.

My experience is in sync with KokuRyu's regarding Japanese companies' assistance with housing for foreign employees. The difference here is that you are not an employee but an unpaid intern. I would not expect them to pay you anything but hopefully they can at least help you find a place. Sakura House seems to be a good way to go. Please be aware of geography so that your accommodations are within a reasonable commute of your office.

I think Jasso's and Sophia's budget guidelines are pretty low. I think 150,000/month is living expenses is unrealistically low. I could not imagine living on that in the rural town I used to live in, let alone Tokyo. I think 300,000 yen per month is more like it.

I think the safest course of action would be to bring sufficient funds to support yourself assuming that you never earn any income in Japan.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:28 PM on July 11, 2013

Staying at one of the guest houses like Sakura house, Oak house etc is going to be anywhere between 60 and 90,000 yen a month for a single room (usually incuding a bed, a desk, a chair, internet connectivity and a fridge in the room and a shared kitchen and coin operated laundry and drying machines) depending on which part of Tokyo you're going to be in. Cheaper if you're ok with and can find a shared room.

You should be able to do food for 2000 to 3500 yen a day if you eat out every meal; cheaper if you do it the cup ramen way or cook cheap meals.

Transportation will cost you about 10,000-15,000 a month since you're going to want to explore the city a little for sure in addition to your commute.

I think managing with 150,000 to 175,000 yen a month is definitely doable.

Keep an eye out on the metropolis and gaijinpot classifieds for work/shared accommodation opportunities.
posted by tillwehavefaces at 11:39 PM on July 11, 2013

Honestly, your question is hard to answer without more information, specifically about your visa situation. Is the company you'll be doing the internship for sponsoring you for a visa? If they are, the immigration website will have the guidelines on what you are allowed to do under your visa.

If they aren't sponsoring you, you're looking at some serious choices. Two to three months fits under the tourist visa time limit, and I've known people who have come here on that and worked. The people that will hire a person (illegally) on a tourist visa aren't looking for someone they'll have to pay a lot, or even treat well. If things go wrong, who can you go to?

Bear in mind that Japan has tightened rules on visa violations. While I'm not sure about penalties for working on a tourist visa, things like overstaying (by days, seriously) can result in a $10,000 fine and a ten year ban from the country.

So, scary talk aside, will you have a visa? What kind? If you tell us, we can help you more.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:29 AM on July 12, 2013

« Older What can I do to make my walking shoes look less...   |   Teach me how to narrow down my dissertation topic Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.