Jun 16, 2015

Living In Japan: Troubleshooting Common Apartment Problems

Living In Japan:  Troubleshooting Common Apartment Problems photo

Banal problems with your lodgings are annoying at the best of times.  Bring them with you to Japan (well, they’re already here waiting) and they have the potential to bring out tears.

Companies that recruit from overseas may promise to take care of your every domestic need but sometimes this support is slow to arrive, fails to materialise at all, or can be hard for some people to ask for.  Of course, if you’re with a Japanese partner, you’re problems are solved.  Those who need, or want, to be self-reliant however, will have to 'dirty the shoe leather' and get things done themselves.  

Hopefully, we’ve got some solutions here for some common apartment problems.  If you’ve anything to add (problem or solution), please post in the ‘comments’ box at the end, or head over to our Q&A section to ask your questions.

Noisy Neighbours

I don’t like the phrase ‘noisy neighbours’.  It sounds too cute and does a massive disservice to what is an almost psychotically annoying phenomenon.

Whilst the Japanese are a polite bunch, a combination of paper-thin walls and a few bad apples can mean a confrontation with next-door’s noise is a distinct possibility.

Two scenarios in this writer’s experience …

Over Excited Youngsters

The boyfriend next door, all giddy-eyed with new found freedom, used to entertain his girlfriend into the early hours.  Now I know what you’re thinking but there was none of that. It was just talking punctuated with high-pitched laughter.  Night after night into the wee hours.  The solution; get a friend to call the rental agency.  I later learned that they in turn called the boy’s parents.  Problem emphatically solved!  And lest I have to field accusations of being a miserable old git, the lad was constantly smoking outside of my door, so I don’t care!

TV Volume

The couple downstairs had a penchant for recreating the cinematic experience in their living room.  They must have invested in some pretty impressive kit, too; their sound system sent trembles through the whole building.  I’d seen them around and they seemed like nice people, but what can I say, I’m a wimp, so I didn’t confront them head on (I was also told that this isn’t the ‘done’ thing over here).  So, a friend and I penned a note to put in their letter box.  It worked a treat.  The note went something like the one below.  Feel free to use it, too.

テレビや音楽の音がひびいてきています。遅い時間はもう少しボリュームを下げていただけないでしょうか? よろしくお願いします。

The noise from your TV/music carries through to our room (ひびく lit. reverberates).  When it’s late, could you turn the volume down a little please.  Cheers.

Living In Japan:  Troubleshooting Common Apartment Problems photo

There’s No Power!

At the time of an earthquake you’re strongly advised to turn the gas off behind the kitchen stove.  In the event of a very sizeable shake, the gas supply automatically turns off anyway.  If you’re not aware of this, you’ll be having cold, post-quake showers for a while. To turn it back on, you need to locate the gas meter.  For people living in apartments, it’s usually behind a large panel just outside the apartment door.  Near the meter will be a sizeable button (it may have a cap on it).  Push (and hold) the button for a few seconds and the gas should come back on.

There’s a Futon/Some Laundry On My Veranda … And It’s Not Mine!

I once went away for a weekend and came back to find a futon trespassing on my veranda. After a few minutes panicking over the protocol of such a scenario, I discovered a lovely, hand-written note had been put through the door.  It was from the owner of the futon. The Japanese writing asked me to call round when I got back and she (the owner) would come and pick it up.  I brought it up to her door instead.  She looked mortally embarrassed. A few minutes later she came round with a cake!

I’m not sure if this is standard procedure, or just outstanding neighbourliness, but it certainly worked on me!

I’m Not Getting Any Post

So, you’ve just moved into your new place and you’re waiting for that parcel of goodies from mum and dad back home.  Except it doesn’t come.  They’ve forgotten me (out of sight, out of mind, and all that)!  Customs didn’t like the look of that custard powder, and now I’m on some kind of blacklist.  Maybe!  When this happened to me however, it was because the post office thought I still lived at my previous address (in Japan).  To be honest, it’s an unusual scenario but one that can be avoided if, just prior to moving, you fill out a 転居届/tenkyotodoke.  With this form you declare your new address and any old mail will be forwarded on for the next year.  In the mean time, if you’re still getting mail from the previous occupant, just leave it on top of the mail boxes (that’s what everyone does in this writer’s building).

Living In Japan:  Troubleshooting Common Apartment Problems photo

Staying On The Theme …

Ever wondered why the world’s rainforests are disappearing at a pace of knots?  It might have something to do with the staggering quantities of チラシ/chirashi/leaflets that get stuffed into post boxes over here.  You could try and combat this by taping a message to your post box declaring, チラシをおことわり/chirashi wo okotowari/No leaflets!.  One can also buy stickers to this effect.  Quite how effective they are is open to debate.

Somebody’s Coveting My Undies!

It’s not unusual for Japanese news to run a story about some sweaty-palmed pest (invariably male), who harboured unsavoury ideas about someone else’s (invariably female) underwear that was hanging out to dry.  I’m guessing most cases of missing undies go unreported.  However, it’s a common enough problem that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to report it.  

Call the police (119).  You’ll be asked, 事件/jiken/incident or 事故/jiko/accident. Answer, 事件/jiken.  Then explain the problem …

干してた下着がなくなっているのです/hoshteta shitagi ga nakunateiru nodesu/My underwear, that was hanging out to dry, has been taken.

If you saw someone take it, add on the following …

ベランダからとっている人を見ました/veranda kara toteiru hito wo mimashita/I saw someone take it from my veranda.

As we said before, if there are any common apartment problems you’d like to see added to this list, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.  Or, why not head over to our POSTS section to share some of your problems/solutions?

If you’re uncomfortable confronting any of these problems head on, the first port of call should be your apartment rental agency.



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.