Saturday, May 24, 2008

The nightmares of renting in Japan

CBLIHFEKWD2EU7XMNHHOQKXHANZAZWMH  Prepare yourselves for a long post, there is a lot of junk I have to explain and cover in today's entry...
In my last entry, I mentioned I was in the process of searching for a new apartment in the city. Well, I'm sort of at an impasse now. For the past eight months I have been living in the foot hills of the Minami-Alps of Japan and have kept my peace about it for better or worse. I guess its time to review my options and see where to go from there. Well, here goes nothing!
The apartment I currently live in gets quite a few good marks from me, for example, the neighborhood is relatively quiet... almost dead, my neighbors are quiet, its clean, and the scenery is truly beautiful when the weather is good. Unfortunately, this is where the good ends and the bad begins...
There is a price to be paid for having too much of a good thing and that price happens to be that I am at least 12 kilometers from any form of entertainment and about eight kilometers from any decent restaurant or grocery store! Up till now my entertainment has been limited to what I can do in the solitude of my tiny shoe box apartment, which consists of random Internet surfing, video games, and sleep (fairly anti-social if you ask me but not by choice.) If it weren't for Yuko, my girl friend, I think I would have went nuts already from the isolation.
I may have added the following complaint about my apartment to the list of positive attributes but ever since I gained a couple new schools out in the mountains, living near my school is no longer a benefit since my car is now required for work. Another negative to add to the list is that my apartment is over priced for the area it is in. So how does it work out that I am paying the same amount of rent for the same model of apartment deep in the city? Blows the mind...
I love the area I live in for its scenery but other than that, but scenery isn't enough to justify the self-inflicted isolation and wasted gas money and time that is associated with grocery shopping and going to restaurants with Yuko. To illustrate what it takes just to get to somewhere worth while, it can me at least 20 minutes to get to any where interesting from my apartment by car and if you read my earliest posts, you would know it takes hours round trip by bike. I haven't used my bike much since the summer because I've seen every thing around my town and there really isn't any thing worth riding to unlike my first experience living in Japan where having a bike was the ideal mode of transportation. My first experience in Japan wasn't very rosy but I was just as deep in the countryside as I am this time around, yet there was more stuff for me to do in my other place.
Now for the other part of the story! Yesterday was my birthday (happy 27th birthday to me) and I decided to go out and look at some apartments with Yuko. The first place we went to ended up being a flop, the apartment wasn't as nice as I imagined and fairly trashy looking on the outside and inside. I just didn't see any reason to move into a dive to save 100 bucks a month if it is missing a fridge, light fixtures, and felt more cramped than my current place. So we decided to go my current rental company, Leo Palace 21 since their apartments are fairly new and comfortable enough for a guy like me.
72JBELV5RCPIKPQTAUYUV52VFXS5AJIVMan, was I in for a shock at Leo Palace. Before I moved to Japan, I was led to believe that once you rented a Leo Palace 21 apartment, you would be able to move easily between apartments if the need came. I couldn't have been any more wrong about this. Leo Palace 21 proudly advertises (boasts) that it stands apart from the common apartment realtor because they waive a couple big fees that come along with renting home in Japan. The fees I am referring to are Reikin and Shikikin. Reikin is basically a month's or two worth of rent that goes to the land owner with no chance of getting any of it back and Shikikin is at least two to three month's worth of rent and literally translates to deposit money, but doesn't serve any other purpose than to line the pockets of the land owner and real estate agency. Most renters can expect to get next to nothing back on the shikikin which is rediculous, since it is a security deposit after all right? These fees are highly notorious and in many ways unfair as they can, and usually do, bankrupt people who do need to move, hence the term (hikoshi-binbou) moving-poor. When you move, you better have a small fortune sitting in your bank account or you'll be eating boiled cabbage and water for the next few months!
1171827848857 I really am straying from the topic here, so time to bring it back to the point. Leo Palace advertises that they waive the fees of Shikikin an Reikin but in fact, they just reword a couple of the additional fees in your contract in order to get that money anyway. One of the additional fees was a moving fee of 31,500 yen (310 dollars), A system fee of 29,000 yen, and an additional disinfecting fee for the new apartment of another 15,750 yen! I am also expected to pay a cleaning fee of 29,920 yen (round it up to 300 bucks) for my old apartment and won't let me clean it myself to avoid fees. But this is just the beginning of the long running list of fees and charges, I also have to pay some other fees I forgot about but after calculating the additional moving fees and including the first and second month's rent I am REQUIRED to pay in cash up front (Japan is a cash only society, this has nothing to do with Leo Palace 21's policy), it all adds up to roughly 200,000 yen (2,000 dollars) to move! That's absolutely insane and would kill my meager savings. I know that half of that goes towards my first two months worth of rent but the other 1,000 dollars? Give me a break here!
F3A77E7MJU34OK6CADDUG6EQUJ34QO4B Leo Palace 21 doesn't even give loyal customers a break on moving into other Leo Palace 21 run apartments. They double dip into cleaning fees and give new move-ins better treatment in the form of the first two months being free. I never got that offer, but I kind of have the feeling my employer wasn't pushing for discounts or anything on my behalf, so live and learn on that one. Heck the first t ime I moved in here bankrupted me, I don't know if I can handle starting from zero again. The real scary thing about all of this is that I wouldn't get much of a better offer from another realtor for a comparable apartment. Sure, I can move into a dive and save a ton of money but I really don't want to fight giant cockroaches and live in a dumpy, dreary, old hole. I value natural sunlight, bright rooms, and cleanliness.
I plan to return to Leo Palace later this afternoon with Yuko to see if we can work out something to save a couple hundred bucks on the move. If I can get Leo Palace to cut out about 500 dollars worth of BS hidden fees, I'll gladly suck up the bill and move. The places they are offering right now are in an awesome location which is close to every thing I ever wanted like shopping, dining, and game arcades, not to mention a train station within biking distance.
1183680539698 So I am at a fork in the road here. Do I grin and bear the monotony and isolation of an unhealthy countryside life and stay in my current apartment, or do I suck it up and look at the bigger picture and move out to something I know will be much better. Either way I am starting to think coming back to America this summer isn't in the cards for me. I do want to see my new nephew Elijah but I want to save more money and I don't want to make my homesickness worse by getting a sample of what life may be back in my hometown. It doesn't mean I don't want to go back to America any time soon but I want to make my time in Japan count for something and not come back home with less money than I came with. I plan to come home in a few years with at least $10,000 to start my real life back in San Diego. Here's hoping for the best!

1 comment:

  1. Scotty,
    I really hope that it's not a few years before we see you. That would be really sad!