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.