In case you were wondering what housing in Japan looks like, here’s a glimpse into where I lived in Iizuka, a city in the Fukuoka prefecture, on Kyushu, the southern island.
It’s called a jutaku, and it’s an apartment block that is dedicated to housing teachers and usually has a discounted rent. I lived here when I was an English Assistant Language Teacher with the JET Program. At the time, there were seven other JET ALT’s living in the complex and the rest were local teachers.
The rent in teacher’s housing varies according to where you are. I paid the equivalent of about $200 a month for three rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom, with a small balcony mostly used for hanging clothes to dry since dryers aren’t super common there.
I knew other people who lived in a different town and paid nothing at all! Still others in neighboring towns were on their own with housing. It wasn’t luxury by any means, but it was plenty of space for just me.
I basically never went in the room to the left of the kitchen. Teacher’s housing doesn’t turn over like a normal apartment. You don’t move all of your stuff out and clean up so you get your deposit back. It’s basically like moving directly into someone else’s place. Therefore, the spare room became a bit of a junk heap of things previous teacher’s didn’t feel like taking with them. I’ll admit, I contributed some myself when it was time for me to go.
My apartment was pretty compartmentalized, with doors closing off every room. This came in handy when heating or cooling the space because I had one wall mounted mini-split in my living room only. So I removed the doors to my living room and bedroom and those were my two climate controlled spaces.
The floors in the living room and bedroom were traditional tatami mats. I bought a couple of rugs to put over them since I think tatami is kind of scratchy.
I inherited a lot of furniture from the former inhabitants but at least the bed was my own. Totoro too. 🙂
The toilet and the bath area were two separate rooms. The toilet was a traditional squat kind but there is a converter you can buy that lets you sit on it! (Lots of apartments in Japan have western style toilets these days. Our jutaku just happened to be very old and hadn’t been updated.)
I didn’t have a shower in my apartment, just a bathtub. (Again, more because the apartment was super old – I don’t think this is the norm.)
The bathroom itself was a “wet room” where you could use buckets to wash yourself off before getting into the bathtub. It’s not uncommon for households to save and reuse their bath water for multiple days which is why you’re supposed to actually get your body clean before you get in the bath.
There was no hot water in the bathroom. Instead, there was a heating element inside the bathtub that you could turn on once the water was covering it. This required a lot of advance planning for your bath since it took a while for the water to warm up. The heating element was at the top of the bath so I had to periodically stir it to distribute the heat evenly.
I ended up getting a membership to the gym down the road that had actual showers.
Yardwork at the jutaku was a collective effort with mandatory participation once a month. At the time I hated it but in retrospect, I think it’s kind of a cool way to take care of your space. There was a green swath behind the building and we would sometimes have a little community picnic out there when the work was finished.
This apartment complex was older and less updated than a lot of places in Japan, so take my photos with a grain of salt! Before I moved to Iizuka, I lived in a house in a neighboring city called Chikuzen. While the house wasn’t much to look at from the outside, it was brand new and pretty awesome.
For more about teaching life in Japan, check out my post about School Sports Day.
wow, that is very interesting, thank you so much for giving that insight and for sharing with us. That is a great idea to do so and honestly, I would love to see a lot more like that taken from real life all over this planet. If I get a chance, I might pick up on this idea for my blook and I sure will keep you in the loop. Once again, thanks a lot and best wishes to you from Germany. Sovely
Thanks! Yeah I remember when I was about to move to Japan I was scouring the internet to find all I could about “everyday life” – I would have LOVED to see some posts like this! 😀 Let me know if you run with the idea, would love to hear about it!
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Very enlightening. With the covid threat now, the idea of shoes not allowed inside the main area becomes Very relevant now.
When you think about it, it makes total sense! Ever since living in Japan, my home wherever I live has been shoe-free. 🙂
Hi Teresa, I loved coming across your article because guess what? I used to live here!! I lived in this juutaku between 2011 and 2013 and worked at the Iizuka BoE. Does Hayashi-San still live there? She was so lovely and welcoming with all JETs. I also heard a rumour that this building has now been torn down? I was trying to look for clues in your photos as to who lived there in my time but not sure. I don’t think it was mine, I was up on the top floor on the far right, if looking from the carpark.
Anyway, thought I’d say hi and thanks for posting these super nostalgic pics xx
Oh wow, that is so cool! How neat to come across the place you used to live and it being such a small little town – small world after all indeed! I was here from 2008-2009 I believe, so a few years before you arrived. I went back there in 2016 but sadly didn’t make it by the old jutaku so I’m not sure if it’s still there. It was pretty old so I wouldn’t be surprised if they did tear it down. Kind of sad to think it’s not there anymore! Thanks for commenting, it’s fun to think of all the scores of other teachers who have come before and after in that place! 🙂