- On this show, Anthony talks about leaving Thailand, experiencing culture shock at the rudeness of the Chinese at the Shanghai Airport and feeling relieved to finally make it to Japan.
- He also talks about the challenges of finding an apartment in Japan which was more complicated than he expected.
Layover in Shanghai Pudong Airport
Before coming to Japan from Thailand, Anthony had a 10-hour layover at the Shanghai Pudong Airport. There was not much information about renting a day room online but there were two hotels located in the airport. Anthony’s traveling companion could not leave the airport without a transit visa so they stayed at the airport hotel called the Super Motel 168 for $75. It had a 1970’s look and feel to it with a smell that matched a place that hasn’t been cleaned in 40 years. The carpet in the room was badly stained, the furniture was littered with cigarette burn marks and the beddings were stained badly. They were told that there was internet access in the room but they could not get online. Thus, if traveling to Pudong Airport, it would be best to avoid this hotel.
In the airport, everyone else they encountered scammers walking around. A friendly Chinese woman suddenly walked up to them and offered to help. When they asked her where they could change money, she said they had to ride a bus to the city. But Anthony noticed behind her that at the end of the hall was a currency exchange. When asked if there was any other currency exchange at the airport, she said no. Realizing she was deceiving them, they began to leave her, but she still tried to sell them stuff. Similar to what tourists in Thailand are advised when approached by someone very friendly, be cautious and alert for frauds.
Arriving in Japan
Landing in Japan where customer service is the best in the world is a relief after coming from China. Everyone is helpful and everyone is running around trying to take care of the guests. After arriving at the airport, they headed for The Prince Shinagawa Hotel where Anthony stays every time he goes to Japan. While are many other hotels in the area, this is a good hotel for first-timers in Japan. There are many options to get there from the airport. There is a limousine shuttle bus that takes passengers directly from the airport to the hotel. There is also a train system called the Narita Express which travels from the airport to the hotel in almost half an hour. It might be a little difficult if one has luggage and has never taken the Japanese train system before. It’s also easy to ride the bus which takes about 1 hour. Getting out of Narita airport, one will find orange and black signs directly out of the door. Head towards them and say Prince Shinagawa Hotel is your destination. They will give you a little ticket with a gate number which costs around ¥3,000. When you go outside and wait in your gate number, the bus will arrive on time. They’ll give you another ticket for your luggage. The bus will head straight to the hotel without the hassle of worrying about changing trains or getting lost.
Another good thing is that the hotel is across Shinagawa Station, one of the main stations in the Yamanote Line. The Yamanote Line is a big circle that loops around Tokyo. Most of the tourist attractions that you may want to visit can be accessed through it. When you go to the ticket machine (instruction is in Japanese but there is an English option), push the button for discount tickets and buy the tokunai pass. This is a one-day pass which costs around ¥ 700 that allows you to ride all the trains in Tokyo. Compared to taking trains around the city separately and paying for the travel distance, this is a good deal if you want to go sight-seeing and moving around.
The hotel itself is large with four towers and different pricing for rooms. The east tower is the least expensive one and there are deals online that are less than $100 per night. Staying at the annex tower can cost around $200 – $300 per night. Some websites like Expedia usually have good deals booked with an airline in this hotel. They have all kinds of services available: internet café, post office, bowling alley, movie theatre, even an aquarium with a dolphin show. Around the area, there is a department store and several restaurants. You can find cheap Japanese noodle places as well as more expensive foreign restaurants. It doesn’t matter which tower you stay; you have access to all of these. Even if you get lost, you can simply instruct the driver to take you to Shinagawa Hotel and they’ll know where it is. In Narita airport, there are other tiny day rooms you can rent for ¥ 500 per hour which are also convenient if you have a layover in Tokyo, but the Shinagawa Hotel is highly recommended.
Apartment Hunting in Japan
Reality kicked in and soon Anthony had to find an apartment which turned out to be harder than he thought. The Japanese usually rely on the company, school or organization to take care of them and do things for them. Many Japanese who moved to Bangkok found it easier to move there than other foreigners because the process can be frustrating and can take so much time. Yet this does not seem to apply to the Japanese. All they do is hand over their passport to their company, which in turn, designates a person-in-charge in Thailand to head out to the immigration office and arrange everything for them. Coming to Japan under a work contract is the same; it’s easy because the company sets things up and the employee only needs to show up at the airport. If you go to Japan on your own, things may be more complicated.
The 1st thing that surprised Anthony was how many paper works and fees are required. For example, in filling out an application form, you need to write your name in Japanese. To do this, you can search online to learn how to write your name in Japanese. Some fees are not common in the west. It can even be quite expensive in the 1st month you move in. One of the most infamous fees which foreigners hate to deal with it is the key money or reiken which can be described as a bribe or gift. It’s 1-2 months’ rent you give to the landlord for free.
You also have to give 2 months of deposit, but this is common around the world. If you move out and the apartment is just as clean as you move in, you get your deposit back. You also have to pay for the key changing fee. Every time a new tenant moves in, the locks are changed. While it does make sense, one might notice that the fee can cost up to ¥ 15,000 (equals to more than $ 150). The price can be outrageous when you can buy a lock at home depot for 20 bucks.
There is also the cleaning fee which has to be paid when moving out. A certified cleaner must come in whose fee range from $ 100-500. Buying property insurance is also required. Then if you look for an apartment through a Japanese agency, the fees are paid to them, not the landlord. Paying the agency’s fee usually is a half or a whole month’s rent. On top of that, you have to pay for the 1st month’s rent. If you are renting a place for $800, you could easily be paying for over $4,000 to move into your empty apartment in your 1st month.
This is just dealing with Japanese rental companies that cater mostly to the Japanese, not to the ones catering to foreigners. Documents such as income statement, bank statement, plenty of copies of your passport are also needed. Many of them require at least 2 local contacts who are in Japan. What was difficult was that the real estate company wanted a phone number. Buying a phone card or number in Japan requires signing a contract. There have very limited prepaid options as well. But the irony is, to get a prepaid card, you have to have a home address or a utility bill to prove that you live in Japan. You can’t get the home address until you have a local number. But you can’t get a local number until you have a home address!
Thus, to look for an apartment through a Japanese real estate company require a lot of hoops to jump through and more paperwork. The advantage is that the apartments that the Japanese companies showed were nicer, larger and cheaper than the ones that cater to foreigners. If you can get through all their paperwork and deal with their processes, you will probably get a nicer place.
Going through properties in Japan can also be funny. Anthony remembers when he was in Thailand, the guy just took him upstairs, unlocked the door and went downstairs to watch TV while he walked around the room by himself. When he got to Japan, in every single property they viewed, a guy would run ahead open the door and lay slippers down the door for them to put on before walking into the room. When they would move on to the next property, the guy would gather up all the slippers, usher them into the car to the next property, run ahead of them, and put the slippers again at the entrance. Some properties they checked out looked new, while some were in Japanese style.
Another company they talked to was Tokyo Rent which was run by 2 ex-pat ladies and catered mostly to foreigners. The properties were a bit smaller and older, but it was closer to the location that they wanted. In the end, they went with this company because of the properties’ location, saving them the hassle of traveling in crowded areas. Their process was also a lot easier and the properties were within their budget.
Paperwork aside, there are a lot of rules living in your own house. The good thing about Tokyo Rent is that they clarify these rules and regulations to make things a lot easier for their tenants. They hook up the internet and they don’t charge a massive amount of fees.
Next week, our host will discuss finding and moving in furniture, because most apartments are unfurnished. While the host was excited to leave Thailand, he does miss it when recalling some things that can be done easier there. Still, he is looking forward to settling into his new life in Tokyo.