【Tenant’s Interview】 Neighbors’ stories vol.3
Here’s the third volume of our tenant’s interview series called 「Neighbors’ stories」!
With more than 2,000 rooms in over 40 different locations across Japan, over 10,000 people have experienced Social Apartment since we first opened. We believe that Social Apartment represents a new standard in what life in a shared property can look like and that living here can have a real impact on your life. People who lived with us experienced many things: laughing, crying, friendship, love, change, personal growth… Through one-on-one interviews, 「Neighbors’ stories」 will introduce the stories of the people who call Social Apartment home.
Coming all the way from Australia, this time we interviewed Phoebe, a resident from our NEIGHBORS FUTAKOTAMAGAWA, our first fully Bicycle themed property. Phoebe is living together with her husband and they have been staying at Social Apartment for a year now (from when this interview is published).
Social Apartment: So to start off, what brings you to Tokyo? Why did you decide to come to Japan?
Phoebe: Well, I came here for holiday about 2 years ago with my husband, and we traveled around Japan a lot, and we were just kind of in awe of the lifestyle that people seemed to live here in Tokyo. I mean it’s just so crazy, all the time, but at the same time it seemed like a really comfortable way of living as well. We’re from quite a small city in Australia, and this is like the complete opposite.
SA: Where in Australia are you from again?
P: Adelaide, in South Australia. It’s a very small city so I’m sure you haven’t heard of it!
SA: Well now we’ve heard of it at least once!
So what about Japan interested you before you came here for the first time? Why did you come here for your holiday?
P: We’d always kind of wanted to come to Japan, it had been in the back of our minds. Just the culture and traditions here are really different from many other places in the world. The mixture of tradition, and modern cool tech stuff is so interesting as well. We’re actually not huge anime fans, which seems to be the thing that brings a lot of people here, but we just really wanted to experience something completely different to Australia.
SA: So, how did you hear about Social Apartment?
P: I’ve actually been thinking about that recently, and I think it was probably from Gaijinpot, and they had put out an article about this new kind of living space with everyone having their own living space but also having communal areas together. It sounded really interesting to have that social experience, but to have your own space as well, and I know it can be hard to live in Tokyo in these very small spaces, so to have the communal areas was very appealing.
SA: Did you look at any normal Japanese apartments while you were looking for housing, or were you pretty set on this kind of social concept?
P: Well, of course I had to check out the other options, but there are so many hurdles you have to jump over; key money, and all that kind of “thank you,” gratitude money that you have to pay and it just all adds up pretty fast in a normal Japanese apartment.
SA: We can definitely sympathize with that feeling! What about Futakotamagawa specifically made it stand out to you guys?
P: Well, it wasn’t opened yet when we started looking. It was a brand new place, and I knew with my work I was going to be based in kind of the west area of Tokyo, and Futakotamagawa is in that area so I thought, if I do have to travel to Yokohama every day, this is kind of a good option for that. And it’s also a very residential area as well, very quiet, so we thought since we’re coming to Tokyo, this big city, we would still wanna feel kind of at home. So that’s why this apartment was really appealing to us.
SA: Yeah, Futakotamagawa is in a great location since you have this nice residential area, but by the station has all sorts of shops and things like that.
P: Yeah, a fifteen minute walk and it’s like you’re in an entirely different city! It’s a nice balance.
SA: Has there been anything about living in Japan that has surprised you? Living and visiting are pretty different, so did anything catch you off guard?
P: Culture shock? Well, just the way that things seem to run very smoothly here, in spite of the enormous population. Every is very aware of each other, trying not to get in each others way too much. Which I think kind of scared me in the beginning actually, and I was really nervous about offending someone, or stepping in the wrong place. You know, when you’re traveling, you have some leeway and people can tell you’re just here for a short stay, but when you’re seeing the same people at the super market or convenience store every day, you kind of have to get used to that flow of things a bit more. That’s probably what took the most getting used to.
SA: How has living in Social Apartment affected your life here?
P: It’s been really enjoyable. Really good. I was kind of worried before we came that I would have to be around people 24-7, but because you always have your own room, you can always go back there if you want. But being here is so nice, I feel like I’m on holiday everyday coming out into these lounge spaces. There are social opportunities if you want to participate, but if you want to be by yourself there’s really no pressure. And of course, if you get a letter from the government or something, and it’s all in Kanji, or you get a phone call in Japanese, you can always run out to the lounge and know that there is someone around who can help you. It’s such a plus.
SA: Definitely having Japanese people around is such a relief.
P: Yeah, and everyone’s really friendly so it’s great here.
SA: How has it been living in this kind of environment as a married couple? Has it been kind of good for the relationship, or bad for the two of you?
P: It was actually really hard when we first got here. We both had completely different schedules and we only saw each other about once a week. Which was hard, but that’s changed recently so we get to see each other a lot more now. But that meant that we had time apart to socialize with other people, which once something we’d never gotten to do in Australia, and a really cool experience for us.
SA: Before moving in, was there anything you were worried about? Especially concerning living with other people?
P: You definitely have to consider all of those perspectives before you move into a new place, and a new country as well. I think we were definitely worried about the language barrier more than anything, and just being unable to communicate with anyone new. Coming from Australia, where everyone lives in their own house pretty much, this is kind of a unique experience. I guess we were a bit worried people might find us strange since we can’t communicate in their language, or that they may be confused by our presence here. But at the end of the day, we thought that we just have to jump headfirst into this and see what happens, and make the most of the experience regardless of the results.
SA: And how has it worked out for you?
P: Really good, I think! We’ve definitely made some connections and friends here. There are other foreigners living here as well, from different countries, so you’re just in a really interesting melting pot experience. It’s kind of experimental in some ways, but it’s always fun, never problematic.
SA: Have you found that language has been as much of a problem as you expected it to be?
P: Less than I thought. Most people, at least here in Social Apartment, do have at least a base level of basic English, and we can communicate in more than just miming and facial expressions, which is really nice. If I have an issue that’s language based, like “I had this problem at the super market today,” they can explain things like “they were just offering you a spoon for your yogurt” or things like that. They tell you what words to listen for, and it’s really helpful for them too because they get to practice English as well. It does occasionally feel a bit isolating when everyone is speaking Japanese really quickly around you and you just can’t get a grasp on the conversation, but you can take it with a grain of salt.
SA: Living in Futakotamagawa, have you found any nice local places that you really like.
P: So many! There are so many good restaurants in this area, and there’s a good range of low-cost stuff that’s still really good quality to more high-end things. There are a lot of hairdressers around here as well with a good English level, which is real useful. I think our favorite is Soul Tree Cafe down the road. It’s kind of an American style diner, with a great atmosphere and vibe. And of course if you walk down to the station, there’s so many places to see and try when you’re down there.
SA: What kind of things do you like to do with your free time? Any hobbies, or places you like to spend time?
P: My biggest interest is Museums and art galleries, and of course Tokyo has like a million, so I don’t think I’ll ever see all of them. My husband and I’s other big interest is food. We like just going and checking out a ramen place, or finding cheap Michelin starred places is really awesome because you know it’s some of the best in the world and you’re only paying 1,000 yen. There’s so much to explore, especially with the Oimachi and Denentoshi lines. You can go anywhere with those so it’s really accessible.
SA: Yeah, you really have the whole city at your finger-tips. In terms of connections here in Tokyo, would you say that you’ve made some lasting connections here?
P: Definitely a lot of adds on Facebook, and of course the community LINE app is always going. But yeah, I hope they’ll be lasting connections! I hope that if some of the people here come to Australia and need a hand with anything they’ll feel comfortable just dropping me a line so I can tell them how to handle life without trains, or that they have to hail the bus to get on. I definitely hope that we’ll have some lasting connections.
SA: Did you study any Japanese before you came here?
P: I did a little bit in high school, but that’s so long ago now. It doesn’t really count.
SA: Has being here helped your Japanese?
P: Just being in Tokyo in general makes such a difference because you’re interacting with people on a daily basis, and if someone says “mochikaeri” you want to know that that means take-away. That goes such a long way, just using everyday words like that, just really simple. I’m not sure if I could string an entire sentence together yet. But having enough to be polite is important.
SA: Along those lines, do you have any advice for anyone considering coming to Japan, or living in Social Apartment?
P: I think that coming from Australia where you live in a house with just you and a couple of people, it can be really daunting coming to a place called “Social Apartment” and you might wonder what you’re getting yourself into. Just take the jump, and see what happens! Japan is a really nice place to be for an experience like this, even if you don’t have much language, which I don’t. You can still get by and have a really enjoyable time. You don’t need to be too afraid, well, maybe a little afraid in the beginning, but you’ll get comfortable with it eventually.
SA: Just one last question, what was your best memory here?
P: Definitely some of the parties here have just been outrageous fun! You’re in the situation, and you don’t fully understand everything, but everyone is coming up to you and talking to you anyway. And you’re sharing everything, and talking about what it’s like living in Australia, and why you came to Japan, and what you’re interested in about Japanese culture. It’s kind of crazy in the moment, but sharing those experiences, having that personal connection with people is the best part of it all.
SA: We’re glad to hear you’ve enjoyed it so much! Thank you so much for talking with us!
■ See their property below: