What’s this folks? It seems we have a late entry! Nominated by Miss B. C. Renshaw, AZALEA HOUSE in Tokyo, Japan for the Accommodation Award “Most Deceptive Outward Appearance”! (Applause all around).
Alright, now that I’ve pretended to be a game show announcer, let me explain to you why I think that my dormitory would hands-down win this (somewhat questionable) award.
The saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” has never been more appropriate. My dormitory in Japan looks from the outside, and I’ll say it bluntly, like an abandoned prison block. It’s got the whole works – flickering fluorescent lights, barbed wire to prevent access to the roof, water stains down the walls, security cameras watching our every move, and that general prison-y appearance. Here’s a little collage I made for your viewing pleasure;
This couldn’t be more of a contrast to the cosy, clean interior of my dorm room itself. This place is fully carpeted and equipped with its own air conditioning unit, kitchenette, bathroom, and a sliding door leading to a small private balcony, featuring a bug screen for the summer time. Thanks to administration and the room’s previous tenant my place is also fully furnished; bed, desk, chair, bookshelf, wardrobe and even a full-length mirror were already in place when I arrived. The bathroom boasts a toilet, sink and mirror, shower (with amazing water pressure) and bath, and the kitchen is fully functional with electric element (which works surprisingly well), sink, cupboards, and a refrigerator.
My room has become my sanctuary since arriving in Japan; it’s a place I can relax and feel at home, somewhere study in peace, a place I can return to at the end of every day that is familiar and comfortable. I’ve made my room feel more like home by personalising it; I put up a couple of posters on the walls, bought a scent diffuser, put down mats on the floor, and decided on designated places for things to go.
The drawbacks, aside from the slightly dodgy initial impression (which we can look past because we don’t judge based on appearance), are few and far between. This place isn’t your cheapest option, although most are more expensive there are a few which are cheaper. On top of this, utility fees and washing/drying expenses are not included in monthly rent. There is around a 45-minute commute into Sophia university, and seeing as we’re on the north-western outskirts of Tokyo, getting into the central city will take around the same amount of time. Dormitory rules are also quite strict regarding having guests over, and especially having guests sleep over, but these rules are quite typical to Japan and you’ll pay a lot more to stay in a share-house with more freedom. In saying this, there were dormitories that I looked into that were far stricter, to the point of segregating female and male living areas by the use of locked doors and key-cards, and Azalea house is nowhere near as controlled.
These drawbacks however are far outweighed by the overall advantages of living in Azalea House. The surrounding neighbourhood is quiet and safe, with a kindergarten and primary school just down the road. The main street of the district (Heiwadai) is within easy walking distance, and offers multiple supermarkets, convenience stores, a post office, fast food, the local station and more. Although the train ride into Tokyo proper can take the better part of an hour, Shibuya and Harajuku (pop-culture centrals) are on the same line as Heiwadai, so it’s a simple direct commute. Azalea House might be home to 80 young university exchange students from around the world, but I’m often surprised by the fact that I can hear hardly anything from the rooms either side of me. Ahh, peace and quiet! Last but not least, if you’re new to living by yourself in Tokyo then the lady who works in the office on the ground floor during the day is an absolute angel and will help you with everything from paying your bills, to directing you to around the neighbourhood, to alerting you when the care packages from your mother stuffed full of chocolate arrive on the doorstep.
This is my first time living by myself at all let alone in a foreign country. So far I’m absolutely loving it. I’m learning how to better manage my time, how to stick to a routine, and I’m finding that I’m really enjoying the independence of having to cook and clean for myself and pay my own bills. My situation is by no means a definitive view into student accommodation in Japan, and is very independent compared other options like share-houses and dormitories with communal facilities. I think that’s one of the things I love most about it, but if you’re a very social person then something like this might not be quite to your taste. If you’re considering coming to Japan on a student exchange then I encourage you to check out all your options, and find one that suits you best!
Jya, mata! See ya!