If you plan to live in or visit Japan for a month or more, one of the most difficult parts of the move is finding suitable accommodations. Some accommodations might not offer all of the amenities you are looking for, whereas others are incredibly expensive.
One great alternative for foreigners staying in Japan is gaijin houses, which essentially means a guesthouse or foreigner house.
This inexpensive accommodation is specifically for foreigners who will be staying in Japan for one month or more.
Gaijin houses are more affordable than renting an apartment, but they allow you to experience Japan without the expense of a traditional apartment.
Keep reading to learn more about renting space in a gaijin “house” in Japan.
What Is a Gaijin House in Japan?
In most of the major cities of Japan, you will find something called a gaijin house. This house stands for guesthouse or foreigner house. Occasionally, you can find these houses for weekly contracts, but they’re mainly rented out for monthly stays.
You won’t have to look very hard to find gaijin houses in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. There, you will probably be able to find gaijin houses with both shared rooms and private apartments. You can also find these houses in either Western or Japanese style.
These accommodations are specifically designed for foreigners. As a result, they are often highly affordable, come with short and long rental terms or leases, and have many styles to choose from.
For example, you can get a gaijin house that is either furnished or unfurnished. You can also look for private or shared rooms. The shared rooms will be more affordable.
Because most of these accommodations are designed for longer stays, they are often in the heart of Japanese cities. This will allow you to immerse yourself in Japan while having safe and reliable accommodation to call home. Some larger establishments will even have English-speaking staff for convenience.
Although the outright price of a gaijin house is cheaper than apartments, there are a lot of fees associated with it.
For example, there will be linen fees, and most utilities are not included in the monthly rent. It can also be difficult to find gaijin houses that do not have a minimum stay of one month.
With this in mind, gaijin houses are ideal for foreigners who will be staying for a month or more and want to save some money while still being immersed in Japanese culture.
Advantages of a Gaijin House
- Highly affordable
- Specifically for foreigners
- Long and short term leases
- Shared and private house options
- Amenities and styles to choose from
- Can come furnished
- Often located in the heart of the city around bus lines
Disadvantages of a Gaijin House
- Higher fees
- Some minimum stays
- Utilities often not included
What Do Gaijin Houses Offer?
What exactly a gaijin house offers depends on the style you select. You can find unfurnished or furnished rooms, depending on your style and budget.
Unfurnished rooms will be more affordable than furnished ones. There are also private or shared options, with shared rooms being the cheapest.
Furnished vs Unfurnished Housing
At the very minimum, an unfurnished gaijin house will come with basic kitchen and bathroom utilities. Instead of a bed, they will likely offer a futon instead.
These amenities might not allow you to live the life of luxury, but they can save you a whole lot of money while living in Japan.
In comparison, furnished gaijin houses often include a bed, linens, kitchenware, a study desk, and other simple furnishings. Sometimes, furnished units will have a futon instead of a bed, but they still offer the other amenities you would need or want.
If you specifically want a furnished living situation, a gaijin house is the way to go. Most traditional apartments will not come furnished, which means gaijin houses or apartments are some of the only options for foreigners looking for furnished accommodations.
Private vs Shared
Private and shared apartments are pretty much what they sound like. A private gaijin house will only have you as the inhabitant in your sleeping area and might contain a private bath.
Some apartments will be semiprivate in that you have your own bedroom, but you will share communal spaces, such as a living room, kitchen, and bathroom with someone else.
Some of the cheapest gaijin houses are completely shared. Much like a freshman dorm, you will share all of the areas, but you will have your own futon or bed.
How Much Do Gaijin Houses Cost?
The cost of a gaijin house comes in a pretty wide range. A shared apartment in Tokyo averages between 40000 and 100,000 roughly ($400 – $900)USD yen per month.
In comparison, you can count on a private apartment to cost at least 100,000 yen per month. You will have to factor in utilities, since utilities are often not included in the rent on standard apartments.
You can shop around the different options to find one that fits your budget. Remember, furnished and private units will be the most expensive, whereas unfurnished and shared will be the least expensive.
How Long Can I Stay in a Gaijin House?
How long you can stay in a gaijin house ultimately depends on your lease. Most apartments will require you to stay for a minimum of four weeks, but you can occasionally find apartments that offer minimum dates of a week. As for the maximum stay, it is up to the lease as well.
Tips for Choosing a Gaijin House
In comparison to finding other accommodations, selecting a gaijin house is a bit easier. Because it is specifically designed for foreigners, the process is more simple and comes with fewer requirements.
In fact, you don’t necessarily need a guarantor or long-term visa, though there are some individual apartments that will require these things.
Still, the process can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some tips in mind whenever you are choosing a gaijin or shared house.
Look for the Least Square Footage You Can Stand
Even a small difference in size can make a huge difference in the price of your apartment. For example, just fifty extra square feet can add hundreds to your rent. You will want to find the smallest square footage you can find if your budget is tight.
You don’t want to be uncomfortable while you are traveling. If you are traveling with multiple people, you would want to find the smallest area you can stand while still being comfortable. The importance is finding a middle ground between comfort and price.
Opt for Shared Housing If You’re Up for It
If you further want to bring the prices down, opt for shared housing. Shared housing might not be the most ideal, but it will be the most affordable option. Especially if you’re coming to Japan with a friend, getting shared housing can be a lifesaver and allow you to save the maximum amount and still enjoy living in Japan.
Most of the time, you will not be able to pick your room mates, unless you’re coming with someone specifically. If your staying alone, you will be matched with a housemate you don’t know.
This is generally very safe since individuals staying in the gaijin house are just like you, foreigners looking for a safe way to live. However, there may be clashes of personalities.
If you are worried about living in a shared housing scenario, opt for unfurnished apartments instead. This will lower the bill a little bit without forcing you to live with anyone. For maximum savings, opt for an unfurnished shared housing with a private room for sleeping.
Read the Fine Print
Just as you should read the fine print for renting an apartment, make sure to do the same whenever renting an apartment from a gaijin house. Even though this accommodation is a bit easier to get a hold of, it still has a lot of technicalities and hassles you’ll need to look out for.
Because of the convenience associated with gaijin houses, there are a lot of fees associated with this accommodation type. Make sure to read the contract to learn exactly what fees you will be paying.
Some landlords will squeeze in as many fees as possible to make extra money.
See Pictures of the Accommodations First
Generally speaking, gaijin houses are of good quality and offer exactly what they say they will. Even so, you always want to see pictures of the accommodation first. This ensures that you get exactly what you are looking for.
Never put down any money without seeing pictures first. Even though it’s rare to find disgusting or unsafe accommodations, it is not impossible. Only pay once you know you are getting a habitable and clean apartment, house or room.