Now that I don't live in a shared house anymore, I can finally write about it.
Living in a shared house is a popular option for foreigners in Tokyo, although not so much in smaller cities. You'd struggle to find roommates in the countryside or even smaller cities, as sharing accommodations with friends or random strangers is an un-Japanese concept, and it's not usually part of the culture- most people live by themselves.
However, in places like Tokyo, where many foreigners and young Japanese who have lived abroad dwell, the concept is gaining popularity, and you can easily find roommates. So many of those old, traditional Japanese houses have been transformed into "guesthouses", so by having a quick browse around the web, you can easily secure yourself a new room, with very little fees.
As I'll tackle in another post soon, moving by yourself in Japan is extremely expensive: deposit, key money, realtor fee, fire insurance, lock changes, cleaning fee... it adds up to roughly three times the rent, and you must shell out that initial amount upon moving in. Not to mention how difficult it can be for a foreigner to find a place that accepts foreigners- it's no secret, many landlords refuse to rent to foreigners (for various reasons- could be racism, could be because we tend to move out often, or language barrier). Therefore, the choice is limited and I've nervously sat countless hours at the real estate agency, twisting my fingers because every phone call he made turned me down.
So come shared houses- not only is it cheap and simple to secure, but it saves you major headaches. Everything is already set up- the internet, appliances, and you can use all the dishes in the kitchen. Rooms are usually furnished, so you just bring your clothes and belongings, and you're set. And, shared quarters are a great way to meet friends, most of my roommates became good friends, and it's comforting to come home to a presence, especially when you live abroad.
My friend Justin wrote a blog post about shared houses, and he asked me to spill some stories about it, so I did. If you want to read some funny anecdotes and the reason why I left, hop over to his brilliant blog.
If he wasn't my friend, I'd hate him because his blog is so good.