I have lived in shared accommodation in Tokyo since I moved to Japan. It’s in a good location, it’s cheap, and it has been one of the best experiences making my stay in Japan a lot more comfortable than a boarding house would.
I have had a good laugh while I have been here. It’s not like a hostel where multiple people stay in the same room and things can get a bit crowded. You get your own room, your own shoe locker, your own segment in the pantry to store your cutlery, dry foods, non-perishables, plates, oils, stuff like that. We get two bathrooms, four showers, four washing machines, and one hob in the kitchen. Not to mention a cleaner comes around once a week.
Because most of the people are here for ether holiday or work it’s not uncommon to go all day without seeing a single person. The best and worst part of living in shared accommodation at the end of the day is the people. If you end up with clean, quiet, respectful, like-minded people your experience of shared accommodation will be that of a positive one. However, if the opposite happens, “you’re gonna have a bad time”. Unfortunately, in my five months of being here, I have had a few “bad housemates”.
So I thought I’d tell you the stories about the, not so great ones, starting with…
The humming man.
I moved in August 2018. First impressions were great! My room had a fridge, air conditioning unit, desk, and enough outlets to suit me. The whole house was spotless and the three or four people that I had met seemed like great guys. I had just spent sixteen hours in the air and about four hours lumping my suitcase around Tokyo to get to my accommodation. The time was now three in the afternoon and my first day was spent introducing myself and wandering around trying to keep awake so that I can go to bed at a reasonable time and cut the inevitable jetlag recovery time in half.
Finally, the time is now eight in the afternoon. “That’s a reasonable time to go to bed, a little on the early side but I’ll just get up early tomorrow,” I think to myself. So I’m lying in bed, it’s pitch black in my room, and it’s quiet. The only noise I can hear is the low rumble of the fridge and the gentle blowing of cool air from the air-conditioning and I start to drift off.
Then another noise creeps into my focus. To begin with, I thought it was an electric razor or toothbrush from the bathroom down the hall. However, the pitch would change every now and again and I realized it was someone humming next door. Now that’s not abnormal. People hum, that’s not the strange part. The strange part was that he wasn’t humming anything with a tune or rhythm or any of the usual markers that he is mimicking a song. It was just mmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm. And the female voice coming from that room kept clearing her throat. Anyway, as interested as I was in knowing what the hell is going on, I was tired as hell so passed out pretty quickly.
The next day I wake up to the sound of the two highest and softest pitched voices I have ever heard. It was my humming and throat clearing neighbors. Now, I want you to close your eyes and picture this. Michael Jackson and a six-year-old girl with a super high pitched voice saying I love you to each other, over and over and over and over and over and over again. Imagine the most repulsively “in love” couple you can imagine and times it by a thousand. “I love you baby,” “no I love you baby,” “no I love you baby.” By the sound of their undeveloped voices, I thought there were a very feminine man and a very underage girl confessing their love for one another.
Gross! I thought. Forgive me for being a prude but this had gone on for 20 minutes, and that’s just how long I had been awake! God knows how long they had been doing it for. Anyway, I get up, go about my day, do some sightseeing, come home, and there seems to be arguing coming from next door. By arguing I mean her in a stupidly high cutesy, squeaky voice asking him WHY!? And him saying in a voice so high no man could/should ever be able to make “no” “I don’t know” “baby I love you” “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” It was at that point I had made my judgment! My neighbors were a couple of weirdos.
It transpires that earlier in the day she had caught him watching “Chinese porn”. I know this because she started screaming it in a pitch that made me fear for my windows. This was one of the many reasons she argues with him and this went on for weeks. Humming at night, “I love you” in the mornings and some kind of strange arguing sesh in the day. It occurs to me that I haven’t seen either of them in the three weeks I have been here. Never even hear their door open and close. Until that one day.
I was heading back to my room from the kitchen after making some toast and walking down the long corridor to my room (right at the end), and his door opens just to the left of my door. Out walks a small, kind of chubby, fully bearded man, in an open woolly pink bathrobe, rubbing his eyes like he had literally just seen the sun for the first time in forty-nine years. I am stopped in my tracks.
Number one, because I am blown away that a voice that high could come out of a fully grown hairy man-beast. Two, because he is now blocking my door so I can’t get past, and three, his open fluffy bathrobe is leaving nothing to the imagination, nothing! He was wearing nothing but an open bathrobe. Not one for male grooming (and he must have been cold). He stopped rubbing his eyes and squinted at me like he needed glasses. All of a sudden he opened his eyes fully in shock, squealed and jumped back into his room slamming his door. I jumped out of my skin and almost dropped my toast! All I heard after that was, “nothing baby” “nothing” “I love you” “I love you” and then came the humming! All bloody night!
For the next two weeks, I would catch the tails of his bathrobe around corners and disappearing through doors as if he would hear someone coming and run to safety. I assumed that he was an extremely frightened damaged guy and the humming must have been some sort of a coping mechanism. Anyway, They eventually left and I enjoyed utter silence from next door until my next batch of neighbors…