In Tokyo, many people from abroad choose to live in what is known as a Share House. I think they have them all over the world, so you might have already heard of it. Basically, you have your own bedroom, and then you share a living space, kitchen, shower, bathroom, and laundry machine with other people living in their own bedrooms that are connected to the same suite. Sometimes share houses in Tokyo are called Gaijing Houses, because a lot of foreigners (gaijing) will live in them together without any Japanese people. I’ve only seen one such share house, and it was pretty nice, except nobody who lived there talked to each other. But, there are also other kinds of share houses, in which many Japanese people live themselves. Many times these share houses focus around a theme, such as cooking, outdoor activities, etc. The people living in the house share a common goal or interest, so their living is based around that, and that is how they socialize and live together. As I’ve said before, this semester I am living with a homestay family, but since that only lasts one semester, I had to find another place to live for next semester. I found a themed share house such as the one I mentioned, and I’m really excited about getting to live there! So I will tell you a bit about it.
The house I’m staying in is focused on language exchange, so it’s for English-natives that are learning Japanese and Japanese-natives who are learning English. In order to live there, you have to be serious about learning your target language, and contribute to the house by coming up with language-learning activities or events that focus on language exchange. But, it’s not hard. You can plan and hold any type of event at the house, like a party or a presentation or a teaching session. For example, and English speaker could hold a cooking class but only teach in Japanese. In the house there are about 18 residents, half of which are Japanese-native and the other half English-native. Actually, right now we don’t have quite as many English speakers as Japanese, so we are looking for a few more to balance it out. Anyway, I personally learned about this share house when one of the founders of it sent me a message on a language exchange website that I was using before I came to Tokyo. He just sent me a message saying that he and a friend were trying to start a language exchange share house, and asked me if I wanted to go to a meeting about it. I was pretty nervous so my housemate went with me to the first meeting to make sure it was legit. I was pleasantly surprised by how awesome it was.
The two founders gave a really professional presentation and were really funny, too. Everyone at the meeting, mostly Japanese people at this point, was a young person working in Tokyo. They were all really cool people. I was able to make a lot of friends there really quickly, since they all wanted an English-speaking friend. After the first meeting, I went to more, and then I started helping the founders with translating the concepts of the share house to English and getting the word out. The share house was in the process of being built during the first few meetings, but after it was finished we started having meetings there and people got to preview it. On the opening day, a TV crew that was interested in the idea came to do a short report on us. It was so cool! I got to be on Japanese TV.
The share house itself is a really nice 5 story building, and we also have roof access. I already have my room for when I move out of my homestay. It’s a little expensive, but I feel like I am paying for the awesome environment and getting to live with people I really like, and of course getting intensive language lessons every day. I have later learned that this share house is a few steps above most share houses, just based on other ones I’ve seen in Tokyo. I hope that after I move in, I can improve my Japanese a lot. If you move to Tokyo, I really recommend finding a share house such as this if you want to become part of a community and work on your language skill. If you’re moving to Tokyo soon, you could even think about staying in the same one I’m in!