Many foreigners choose a Japanese studio apartment as their first apartment because of the reasonable rent. (Way more on why rental costs can become UN-reasonable here. The fact that the ESL teacher came with few belongings and so doesn't need a lot of rental space is a big deciding factor in choosing a studio apartment or flat. And lastly that the bulk of these single occupancy apartments are close to train lines, shopping and subway lines making getting to work easy. And getting out for a night on the town even easier.
As we mentioned on our Tokyo apartments page, most of these ultra stream-line studio apartments spare no frills. Then again when your average studio apartment is around 20 square meters how many extras can you expect? Many are in loft style so your sleeping area will be accessible via. a ladder. (Check out our pics to the right and below to get a better feel for how they look.) Sounds cool and it is until you had a couple too many drinks, need to crash and are trying to find your futon.
Most studio flats will have adequate space for a futon, kotatsu table for dinner and your laptop and a T.V. with a stand and place for your favorite dvds etc. Beyond that, after you squeeze a small table in the corner for dinner or study, you are pretty much at the balcony sliding door in terms of space. (One thing you might take to the bank is to beware of the terms "spacious or huge" in the ad copy you read when it comes to your typical studio apartment.
To make things easier to
understand, a studio apartment is basically a 1k or 1dk in size and again
18 square meters is not exactly "huge". No matter what the ad copy
says, 18 = 18. Math doesn't lie and never will. (Of course with a fish-eye-lens on the camera that the shot is taken with and nice lighting 18 square meters or so can look big. We snapped together a handy-dandy conversion guide on square meters, feet and tatami mats here. To help you get a better feel for size.
Pleasant or not many studio apartments will have unit baths. You know like a hotel room where the toilet and shower are in the same room.
Note that Japanese in general are not that fond of the idea of excretion areas and clean up areas being in the same exact room and so many, probably more than one-half, will be separate. See the pick below. Again, every flat is different but will be clearly laid out in the blue print they give you.
Yeah despite the small space of your studio flat, they figured out a way to squeeze in enough room to give you a bit of privacy in the toilet area. But then again these guys build airports in oceans so the engineering aspect of it shouldn't exactly come as a shock. Probably the best frame of mind is just to think "hey I'm paying for a bed and a place to hang my hat for a while and that's exactly what I'm gonna get."
ESL instructors coming in from areas like Spain or France have more difficulty in adjusting to the size of your typical 1k or 1dk Japanese studio apartment.
Squeezing living efficiency out of every square inch or centimeter is basically what the design is designed to do. But when you think about the fact that that space for separating the toilet from the bath has to come from somewhere i.e. the wall that separates them, it all makes sense. A 2 by 4 for framing the separation is after all about 2 by 4 inches in width and depth.
Balconies - Expect Around 2 or 3 Square Meters
Balconies? Yes, most apartments have them and they will be around 2
or 3 square meters. Enough to get your clothing dried and stand out
there with a smoke or drink after the grind and not a whole lot more.
The good news about the small balcony space is that regarding privacy, Japanese are pretty good on this front. You can expect dividers that extend all the way from floor to ceiling. Balconies are pretty much standard so if a place you are looking to rent doesn't have one you might want to keep on looking. The reason is mostly hanging laundry. Finding a laundromat, waiting for everything to dry not to mention the cost gets old pretty damn quick.
In general ESL teachers who have taught English in the rougher parts of Asia and the TEFL world are pleasantly surprised at how clean and no-nonsense the studio apartments are. Comments written will be usually dotted and splashed with words and phrases like "enough", "clean", "adequate", "everything I need" and occasionally "quaint" or even the "C" word: "cute".
And what do you pay for your 18 to 23 square meters or so? Well that folks depends upon the city and proximity to train lines. Tokyo prices will range around 80,000 yen a month ($800 USD) give or take a hundred. If you are lucky, your employer will cover some of the rent.
(Note: This level of generosity rarely befalls entry level English teachers.) Smaller cities drift down into the 60,000 yen range. And finally downright out in the country will fall into the 50,000 yen area.
The Biggest Factors in Prices are Influenced by:
Studio Apartments: Adequate Closet Space - A Common Complaint
Closets are often quite small or there just aren't enough of them. Your average Japanese studio apartment will have only 1.
Often making the most of your Japanese studio apartment will require a little bit of creativity like buying a dinner table with drawers underneath it for storage, shelving units above your washer with a small curtain rod to hang a few clothing items and in general stacking UP and NOT sideways with shelving units etc. Like the photo below.
Studio Apartments - When in Doubt: "Stack it Baby! Stack it!"
Garbage can neatly "squished" between cooking unit and wall. Knives and commonly used cooking spices conveniently on hand and on top of the cooking table or "gas dai" as they are termed in Japanese.
Above this and hooked to the ventilation are commonly used pans, mixing spoons, veggie peeler, graters etc. "Stack It and Max it" needs to be the mantra for those renting loft or studio apartments in Japan.
All in all, apartments themselves are quite similar so given this, where you need to do your homework is picking LOCATION and evaluating your surrounding area to make the best out of your little home in Japan. More on this coming soon in a future article. Keep an eye on the blog as any new articles posted gets blasted through the RSS blog feed.
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