Actually Getting my Houses in Order

There are many articles and experiences (like this) recommending to seek out a dormitory or shared living space of some kind as part of your exchange studies plan. It’s part and parcel of the study abroad or JET life, they say, and will in theory net you connections that might last for the rest of your life, as well as spice up your stay in your partner university. I’m not sure of this though, partly because I’m sure there’s a bit of a generational gap between how old I am (37) and the people I’ll generally meet in the dorms, and also because I am more introverted than extroverted still, although not the kind of introversion that keeps one cooped up in their room. I like walking around, doing and trying things, talking to people within reason, and all that, but while I can be cordial and friendly, I don’t think that I easily make friends. Still, there are different types of sharehouses and dorms, and a good place to stay seems to be central to enjoying a good study abroad life regardless of whether I pick a dorm or not in the end, so examining all my housing options is a good thought exercise to go through anyway.

That being said, there are a few things I would be able to compromise on and others that are deal-breakers for me, and after a certain threshold I would also rather just try a homestay or try to find an apartment instead. The purpose of this post is to check out the Sophia dormitory options and see which, and how many, suit my need so that I can submit that housing application form as soon as possible.

There are also several issues with these analysis posts — I’ve never been to most of them, for starters, and all I know is what I can find easily on the web. People’s opinions vary, and because most of them don’t HAVE reviews, one bad or one good review can skew public opinion a lot. That’s why i think it’s great if people post reviews of their time at the dorms, as it helps future potential students so much. Another issue is that there’s a lot of context that I just don’t get, having never been there before. I can’t grasp how useful a specific railway line is, nor how crowded or delayed it can get during rush hour, for example. Or how easy/difficult it might be to transfer to other specific train lines at specific railway stations.

For starters, here’s a recap of the info in the last blog post:

HOUSING PREFERENCE 宿舎希望

Read housing information carefully from the link below before submitting the housing application. Housing allocation works on first come, first served basis. Those who cannot be placed to any of the housing options must look for housing by your own. You can rank only options that you are willing to move in, but please note that the available slots are quite limited and some housings are very competitive, so if you choose only a few options, you may not be placed to any housings, which means you must arrange your housing by yourself. You are strongly recommended to choose more than 4 options.

Housing List(宿舎一覧): https://www.sophia.ac.jp/eng/admissions/exchangeprograms/housingInfo_costs/index.html

(WOMEN)
– SOPHIA SOSHIGAYA INTERNATIONAL HOUSE / 祖師谷国際交流会館
– KASAI INTERNATIONAL HOUSE / 葛西インターナショナルハウス
– AZALEA HOUSE / アゼリアハウス
– DK HOUSETOKYO NERIMA / DK ハウス 東京・練馬
– DK HOUSE SHINKOIWA / DK ハウス 新小岩
– DK HOUSE MATSUDO / DKハウス松戸
– SOCIAL RESIDENCE HIGASHI-KOGANEI / ソーシャルレジデンス東小金井
– SOPHIA-ARRUPE INTERNATIONAL RESIDENCE / 上智大学アルペ国際学生寮
– FlatShare SHIN-Otsuka Campus / FlatShare新大塚Campus
– BeGood ZoshigayaEkimae / BeGood雑司ヶ谷駅前

PROMISE 誓約

I hereby promise:

1. I will enter any housing that is arranged for me by Sophia University without complaints or conditions and will not seek housing arrangements by other contracts.
2. After entering an accommodation, I will observe the rules and pay the housing fee by the designated deadlines.
3. In the case I am placed in an accommodation which requires me to pay all housing fees before coming to Japan, I will complete the payment by the deadline set by the housing. If my housing arrangement was cancelled because of my refusal to make the payments, I will not complain.
4. I am aware that the cancellation of the accommodation arrangement after being placed in a housing is not possible. If I am charged with the cancellation fee for cancelling the housing, I will make the payment without complaints.
5. I assure you that the information which I have submitted is correct.

And here’s a formatted, sortable table of the above options, sorted by the order I’m looking at them.

Name (English)Estimated Cost for 10 months (yen)Calculated per month cost (Room + utilities + cleaner fees) (yen)IncludesApprox. Time to Sophia by Train+Foot (minutes)
Sophia-Arrupe International Residence1,050,00095,000Utilities, Internet10
Sophia Soshigaya International House589,00045,000Utilities, Internet60
Azalea House635,00060,000Internet50
BeGood ZoshigayaEkimae880,00077,000-81,000Utilities, Internet35
FlatShare SHIN-Otsuka Campus800,00076,000-87,000Utilities, Internet35
Social Residence Higashi-Koganei780,00067,000-75,000Utilities, Internet60
Kasai International House for Women732,00063,000Internet50
DK House Tokyo Nerima710,00064,000Utilities (minus electricity), Internet50
DK House Shinkoiwa710,00064,000Utilities (minus electricity), Internet40
DK House Matsudo630,00056,000Utilities (minus electricity), Internet60

Sophia-Arrupe International Residence

Japanese name: 上智大学アルペ国際学生寮
Estimated cost: 1,050,000 yen (incl. Utilities, Internet) (Base: 95,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here
Address: 33-7, Shinanomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo
Constructed: Apr 2019
Room size: 9m², floor plan here
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con
Shared: Dining, kitchen, bathroom shared by 6-8 students. Laundry.
Total residents: 180, Sophia students only
Rules: Here, here
Curfew: None
Internet: ??
Distance from Sophia: 5-10 minutes (1 mins walk, 1 station train ride, 3 minutes walk), or just a 20 minute walk.
Other: A Living Group system made up of 7-8 members that live together in a unit and have a mentor leader. (One place says 14 members per group, that’s probably wrong). Training montage video.
Videos: Official, Official

These dorms are one of the nearest dorms as well as one of the newest ones — it apparently opened in April 2019 so the place is still probably in great condition, but also means there’s next to no online reviews for it. Well, I can change that. It has no curfew either, which is a super important consideration. This one does clock in with the highest housing fee out of the lot though, significantly higher than the second, even though it includes utilities and internet. Talking about which, I didn’t really find any information on whether the internet here is wired or wireless. The first video has holes on the wall that might be network jacks that I can barely see in one shot, but that’s the closest they ever come to showcasing that. This is a really important feature! Blah. But if we’re paying so much for utilities + internet, I can’t imagine that not being a thing.

Like the other official dorms, it also segregates genders (and apparently using a card system and prison-like plastic barriers to enforce that segregation outside of the central meeting area, according to those videos). I am absolutely not a party person, and I prefer the company of (people who identify as) my own gender anyway, but things like the No Guests rule as well as the gender separation are dumb. Look how early on in the second video the two people are forced into different directions. I think this is standard in most Japanese dorms though.

Still, the travel distance, proximity to the station, and lack of curfew are very important plus factors, and the Living Group thing seems like they put in significant effort into it (and it’s early enough in the lifespan of the dorms that this probably hasn’t broken down yet), so this would be a pretty good place to live in. There may be better options due to the price, though. Another worry I have is that even this might be too many people for me, since I’m an older student and actually enjoy my solitude a lot of the time.

The application process seems to note that this (and Soshigaya) are not decided on a first come first serve basis. It also only lists the Spring 2021 dates currently (1st round from Dec 07-Dec 18 2020 and 2nd round from Feb 10-Feb 19 2021) and has no information on when the Fall semester applications happen, but I can probably assume that the housing application form will help take care of that if that’s what they assign me to. Even though they have 180 rooms, they also only seem to allocate 30 rooms or so at a time per “application round”. They also seem to be recruiting those Living Group leaders from the application form itself, but that’s more a local resident thing than an international student thing.

Sophia Soshigaya International House

Japanese name: 祖師谷国際交流会館
Estimated cost: 589,000 yen (incl. Utilities, Internet) (Base: 45,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here
Address: 4-24-1 Kamisoshigaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-0065
Constructed: 1993 (Reformed in Apr 2012)
Room size: 15m², floor plan here
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator, toilet, sink
Shared: Kitchen, laundry, and shower as far as I can tell, are shared between one floor (which seems to be ~15 students)
Total residents: ~320, Sophia students only
Rules: Here, here
Curfew: None
Internet: Seemingly, rooms have their own wired Internet and common areas have wifi.
Distance from Sophia: Various routes, but 50-60 minutes by foot/bus + train, longer in rush hour, up to 90m or worse
Other: A Living Group system made up of ~15 members that live together in a unit and have a mentor leader.
Videos: Official, Unofficial (2021)Unofficial (2020), Unofficial (2014), Unofficial (2013), Unofficial (2009), Interesting Comments (2014)

From the most expensive option to the cheapest one! This is the second one I looked at, because this has the same sort of setup as Arrupa, with the Living Group system and all that. These dorms do explicitly have wired internet, as there is at least one video with a modem plugged into the wall, and the living guide explicitly mentions it this time. The price is also a lot cheaper (though it mentions extra fees like the bedclothes fee and I’m not sure if that’s tacked on to the overall estimated cost listed in the main housing page or not). The personal toilets and refrigerators are a really nice touch too and are a huge plus.

I also don’t mind the distance in principle, as I like walking and I like taking trains, though it definitely can get tiring waking up early every morning to get to school on time. The biggest black mark here isn’t the train ride to school, but the 20 minute distance from the nearest train station, which makes it a pain trying to plan an outing during the weekend or evening, even though I love walking in good weather. That and the double transfer to get to school. In addition, even not knowing anything about the Odakyu line coming in, there’s enough complaints about how crowded and delayed it gets during off-hours that this is a huge red flag, especially since I believe that the intensive Japanese courses, if I end up taking those, start at 9am daily.

The other major black mark against this place is just the sheer number of students living here. I can imagine a horde of students all moving as a blob together from the dorms to the station and then on the same train to the school every day to get there in time for early morning classes, hehe. Not sure how social distancing will work. But it sounds like too many people for me to be comfortable around. Also, instead of little units, the entire floor shares a kitchen and laundry room, and 15 people per shared kitchen seems a bit much in a post-COV19 world. Conversely, there doesn’t seem to be a shared living room space or anything per floor, only per building, so — and I know I’m contradicting what I just said a little ago here — it seems to me at first glance that people will tend to coop up in their room a bit more in the evenings, instead of having an excuse to mingle with the others on their floor. But overall the negative here is that the population is a little bit too high for me, more so than anything else. I like people, but I’m not a party person, and this kind of sounds like a party-prone house.

Despite the cost seeming significantly cheaper, these two negatives together put Soshigaya below Arrupe for me out of the two that I’ve looked at so far. I am not sure as yet if it is above the “willing to stay” line or not though, but because it has no curfew, and the personal toilets are a huge plus in a post-Cov19 world, it at least didn’t automatically put itself out of the running.

I assume reformed means ownership was passed over to Sophia or something. Maybe renovated. It was privately owned at some point before Sophia took it over though, as I understand it.

Azalea House

Japanese name: アゼリアハウス
Estimated cost: 635,000 yen (incl. Internet) (Base: 60,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here
Address: 3-10-18, Heiwadai, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 179-0083
Constructed: Established March 1986
Room size: 16.5m²
Personal: Bed (no bedding), desk/chair, air-con, kitchenette, refrigerator, toilet, sink, tub/shower
Shared: Laundry, lounge with tv, computer, microwaves etc
Total residents: 80, mostly international, mix of students from different schools
Rules: Here
Curfew: None?
Internet: Wired, wireless (it sounds like wifi is not through the entire building though, only in the 2nd floor lounge)
Distance from Sophia: 45-50 minutes. There is a direct train though.
Other:
Videos: Unofficial (2009)

This was the initial dormitory that I had my eye on, and like all the other ones I have looked at so far, it has both significant plusses and minuses.

Plusses include no curfews, and not even much in the way of rules. It isn’t very big, and while it isn’t located in a big nightlife area or anything, 10 minutes walk away from the station and 35 minutes or so travel by train to Sophia isn’t terrible. The price is on the cheap side comparatively, but it doesn’t include utilities, so it’s probably closer to 750,000 yen or so once all is said and done. The kitchenette and personal toilet and shower are also awesome, especially in a post-Cov19 world. Very hygienic, I can tend to my own space and not have to worry about others, and can even take late night showers and stuff if desired.

What is weird is that this dorm, and I guess most of the other non-Sophia-owned dorms may be similar, is not restricted to only Sophian students. It specifically names Gakushuin University, Gakushuin Women’s University, Tokyo University, Sophia University, and “others”, as well as medium-term researchers and visitors to the city in general. While it’s interesting, this is basically not much different than living in my own apartment because I’ll probably have little in common school-wise with most of the other people there. I’m sure I can make a few friends, but I won’t be able to get help with school issues, for example. In addition, it’s mostly international students/visitors without really a mix of local students thrown in, so that aspect of it would be lost as well. That being said, being able to connect with students from other schools could occasionally lead to interesting opportunities as well, and I’d be able to get lots of privacy and time to explore the city on my own. They also claim to do restaurant and ski trip meetups twice a year or something.

There’s also no recent videos/reviews on the place that I could find, with the only one I could find being from 2009. It’s an older building as well. The kitchenette and personal full bathroom really is a plus though. Argh. Here’s a thread with some quick comments on the place.

Lastly, although no curfew is listed, there are Reddit threads and such that talk about semi-curfews or at least the need to call ahead to tell them you’ll be out late or something. That particular thread also features someone talking about the age and material of Azalea buildings causing things like mold. Interesting. The only reason I’d still consider this is for the kitchenette and private facilities, but then it has to beat me just renting a personal apartment to remain in the potential housing list, and I don’t think it does.

BeGood ZoshigayaEkimae

Japanese name: BeGood雑司が谷駅前
Estimated cost: 880,000 yen (incl. Utilities, Internet) (Base: 82,000-86,000 yen/mth, -5,000/mth if longer than 3 months)
Info page: Here, here, here, here, here
Address: 2-1-5 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Constructed: Sep 2019
Room size: 7.00-8.40m². There are pictures of basically every single room here.
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator
Shared: Kitchen, toilets, showers, laundry. Each floor has something like 4 toilets.
Total residents: 95, mostly international, mix of students from different schools
Rules: Next to none that I can find. Just no smoking, and 3 days advance notice if a friend/family member is staying over with you.
Curfew: None?
Internet: Wired + Wireless
Distance from Sophia: 30-35 mins.
Other: There’s no dryers and I’d have to hang up my clothes to dry in my room, or on the 4th floor rooftop balcony. However, although they don’t specifically mention it, these laundry machines are the same ones as in the FlatShare Shin-Otsuka ones and those ones are purpotedly free to use (i.e. not coin laundry).
Videos: Official (2019) — English, Chinese, Japanese

There are several interesting points with this one. Firstly, the Sophia page on this seems way off. I’m fairly sure the address is plain wrong, as the one on the Sophia page doesn’t map to anything, and I had to wander over to the Waseda version of the page to get the correct address. Secondly, it’s another one of those mixed University houses — Sophia, Waseda, and Meiji University were all mentioned as regular tenants, I believe. Thirdly, I believe the price on the Sophia page is a little off as well — they estinate 880k yen for a ten month stay, but I believe it’s closer to 800-850k, unless they’re counting the security deposit, at which point it balloons to about 865k-920k. Seems room-dependent though. Most of the other pages say rooms at BeGood Zoshigaya Ekimae range from 70-74k per month for those staying 1-3 months, and 65-69k (5k discount) if staying for longer. Clicking on the “See more detail of this property” link on the Waseda version of the page (2nd info page link above) also gives a calculated estimate of cost depending on how many months one plans to stay. So yeah, the Sophia page for this property seems really off (also see the FlatShare writeup), and it’s weird.

This residence is located a stone’s throw away from Waseda, and so is near what basically is a college town neighbourhood around that University, with lots of little things to explore, but far enough away that it’s still quiet(ish) and residential(ish), I believe. Due to its proximity, there’s probably a good chance that a good portion of the students living there will actually be Waseda students outright.

Bad things about this place include the steep price for what is a really tiny room. Much like Arrupe, one would probably paying for the location and convenience. Those rooms seem tiny and miserable and I’d want to spend as much time as humanly possible outside of them. One thing that seems to be a negative at first is the lack of a laundry dryer service either, with clothing needing to be hung up to dry. But then they showed a video of the balcony on the fourth floor rooftop, and I sort of love how charming and rustic that was. Reminds me of Singapore in how we use bamboo poles to hang out clothes to dry. I feel like because it’s a mixed gender place, and there don’t seem to be enough facilities for everyone to hang up clothes to dry at once, and everything is so darned cramped, that weird things will happen with clothing (especially for females) there though. The kitchen facilities are poor. Also, I saw no ironing boards anywhere in that video.

But mostly, I don’t like how cramped the rooms are. The narrow width of the room in some of the pictures gives me brief claustrophobic chills. If I have to have a smaller room, a room shaped closer to a square is far better than a room that is long but narrow. Some of the painted walls are also UGLY. I love the location though. It’s very near the heart of Tokyo and is 5 minutes walk away from one station (this one isn’t connected to a Sophia station though), and 15 minutes walk away from another (this one is connected, so direct train there). The staff giving guided tours of the place gives it major marks in my book too because that shows the level of care that they have.

FlatShare SHIN-Otsuka Campus

Japanese name: FlatShare新大塚Campus
Estimated cost: 800,000 yen (incl. Utilities, Internet) (Base: 76,000-87,000 yen/mth
Info page: Here, here, here, here
Address: 2-2-7, Minami Otsuka, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Constructed: Sep 2018
Room size: 7.5-11.25m², floor plans here
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator
Shared: 4 toilets per floor (shared between 16, 19, 19), 1 small kitchen, 7 showers, and one laundry room with 7 washing machines shared between entire building.
Total residents: 54, mostly international, mix of students from different schools
Rules: Next to none that I can find. Just no smoking, and 3 days advance notice if a friend/family member is staying over with you.
Curfew: None?
Internet: Wired + Wireless
Distance from Sophia: About 35 minutes with two different direct lines
Other: There are washers, but no dryers, nor any balconies to hang wet clothes out on, so I’d have to hang them in my tiny bedroom to dry them. However, the washers are free.
Videos: Official (2018) — English, Chinese, Japanese

The price on this one, like for BeGood ZoshigayaEkimae and a couple others, varies based on the exact room one gets. But 800k for 10 months here seems to be on the low side and doesn’t seem to count the security deposit either, crunching the numbers from the Waseda version of the page (which is far superior to the Sophia version of the page) gives a ballpark figure of 800-900k yen for 10 months, plus a security deposit of 64k-75k on top of that. And since the BeGoodZE number had to include the security fee to hit Sophia’s listed 880k, this should include that as well and would put this at basically the same price range.

The Sophia page for these non-University housing options is really bad though. I mean, just for starters, not only are the prices wrong, but there’s a glaring problem right away when both this and BeGoodZE show the same address and phone number (which doesn’t even resolve to a proper address in Google Maps). Why would such an important detail as this be wrong? Were they trying to put down the HQ address of the company or something, and why would someone ever do that to confuse students trying to decide on a place to live and are not looking for a HQ building somewhere to visit? It’s not like a residence’s address can ever change. And it is a major problem when one has to go to your primary competitor (Waseda)’s website to find out info on your own housing options!

Location wise, it’s 9 minutes walk away from one station and 18 minutes away from another, and both have basically a direct (but different) train line to Sophia from there, so that’s neat. I don’t know enough about the different train lines to tell which are the most useful ones yet, but they do claim the red (Marunouchi) one is one of the major central railway lines, and that seems to be true. (Sophia is on this line, too.) So very convenient in that regard. Another plus that can’t be understated is the walkthrough videos that they made, which shows that they care. That Mandy person appears in both the BeGood and the FlatShare video and is obviously some sort of housing rep for the company. The accompanying person is different for both videos, thus she’s probably one of the staff members of that building in particular, and neither one seems to speak English as well as Mandy, so.

The major negatives are again the cramped quarters and narrow rooms in particular. I know rooms are small but even in the video I can see they often have issues fitting two, never mind three, people walking into the sample rooms that they go into. I think anytime the width of bed is more than half the width of the room, that’s an issue. Apparently from viewing website pictures, there are other rooms in that building that are not quite that cramped though. Just like BeGood, the kitchen and laundry facilities are poor outside of the free laundry machines. All that would still be fine if the place was relatively cheap, but it isn’t, so we’d be paying extra for location (being near a major train station line), despite being located in a residential-seeming neighbourhood.

Social Residence Higashi-Koganei

Japanese name: ソーシャルレジデンス東小金井
Estimated cost: 780,000 yen (incl. Utilities, Internet) (Base: 67,000-75,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here, here, here, here
Address: 2-17-31 Midoricho, Koganei-shi, Tokyo
Constructed: Oct 1984 (renovated Mar 2014)
Room size: 9.0m², floor/house plans here
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator, digital TV antenna
Shared: 1 kitchen and 10 washer/dryers on the first floor, 2-6 bathrooms per gender per floor, minus the 4th and 5th which have 2 women’s bathrooms each. It seems that the women have 4 private showers on the 1st floor, and the men. have 1 private shower and 1 shared bath (with four public showers) on the first floor.
Total residents: 153/158/160/161/163, depending on who you believe. Everyone has a slightly different number! Mix of students from different schools.
Rules: No pets, overnight visits allowed if advance notice given, didn’t find anything else. Smoking allowed in a designated Smoking Room.
Curfew: Unknown
Internet: Wired, wireless
Distance from Sophia: Just under an hour, with a 20 minute walk and then a 35 minute train ride.
Other:
Videos: 3D Walkthrough, Unofficial Part 1, Part 2 (2017), Apparently they used to host an annual informal soccer (well, futsal) tournament called the Higako Cup (2017, 2016, 2015)

Despite being small, I agree with the lady in the unofficial videos (start of Part 2 video) that the room doesn’t feel claustrophobic, not like the BeGood ones (and several other residences kind of give off that vibe too). She shows her balcony with a bamboo pole to dry clothes on, which is nice since apparently washers are free but dryers are not in this place. The mood of the place seems pretty good too, and the 3d walkthrough is an excellent touch even if they only show the public areas of the first floor and a small portion of the second floor, out of five total levels (though the top two are smaller). Any prospective applicants to the place will definitely have to view that 3D walkthrough to get a feel of the place for themselves though.

Three things kill this place for me as a possibility though. The first is its sheer distance from Sophia. This pretty much ties Soshigaya in distance, although it doesn’t require a train transfer to get to Sophia, at least. It’s probably well over an hour during rush hour, though. The second is the age of the building, and you can see many signs of its advanced age in the 3D walkthrough, like doors where the wood is cracked open and paint is peeling badly. Judging by the clues (can you find them?) in that 3D Walkthrough, it was taken in April 2018, so that was merely 4 years after their supposed 2014 renovations/reparations

The third reason is the most damning one at all though, and is that there are too little facilities for too many people. Oddly, for a place with 150-160 residents, they only seem to have showers on the first floor according to their floor plan, and there are only 4 private showers for the female residents, and 1 private shower + 1 public bath (with pre-bath showers) for the male residents. And… that’s it? For 160 people? That’s not nearly enough. In addition, while the ratio of toilets to residents is barely acceptable (about 7 to 1), they’re kind of spread out all over the place because the building is fairly huge, and they look as old as the rest of the building does, so even with daily cleaning (and it might only be 5 times a week instead of daily), I feel that hygiene is something that will quickly fall by the wayside with so many residents packed together.

Kasai International House

Japanese name: 葛西インターナショナルハウス
Estimated cost: 732,000 yen (incl. Internet) (Base: 63,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here, here, pamphlet
Address: 8-15-14 Naka-kasai, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo 134-0083
Constructed: Mar 1988 (renewed Apr 2011)
Room size: 9.7m², floor plan here
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator
Shared: Kitchen, laundry, toilets, showers, bath
Total residents: 38, mix of Japanese and international, mix of students from different schools. Apparently is/was mostly Japanese.
Rules: Here
Curfew: Gates open 06:30 to 24:00, notice must be provided in the morning if staying out later (I think. it might mean for staying elsewhere overnight.)
Internet: Wired, no wifi
Distance from Sophia: ~50 minutes, and it requires a train transfer
Other:
Videos: Official (2014)

The price of this one seems a bit high compared to what the brochures and website actually says as well. From those, I counted about 670k-680k including Internet and electricity, and with free gas and water, but possibly without tax added to the price. Still, I suspect Sophia’s number is a bit off, especially since it implies you’d have to pay for all utilities.

That being said, this one has three (two and a half?) major reasons that it fails. The first is the sheer distance and train transfer needed to get to school every morning. It’s basically the easternmost ward in Tokyo and borders Chiba City. It actually also looks like a really pleasant place, with lots of parks and some nice waterfront access, but the distance and transfer to get to Sophia every morning would be a killer for me.

The second is the curfew. I don’t know if I’ll even ever run into issues with this, or if I’ll be far too busy, tired, or obedient to bother with late night konbini or exploration or festival runs, but I don’t want the option taken away, nor the rush to get home in time for curfew or get left out in the street or something, especially when it is so far away from Sophia. In fact, one look at this blog and its notes about the place and this immediately goes off the list. Thank you, blogger.

And finally, the third is the lack of information about the facilities itself, especially the number and state of the shared facilities. There are a few photographs, and I note that at least according to those photos the only showers I see are several communal ones in a small room, but even then I was unable to find out basic things like how many laundry machines and toilets there are. The building is also really old, even though it’s been “renewed” (is that renovated?) recently, but it’s suspect to me that they don’t show us a walkthrough of the place, and that there are barely any videos of the place at all despite it being an old building.

DK House Tokyo Nerima

Japanese name: DK ハウス 東京・練馬
Estimated cost: 710,000 yen (incl. Utilities (minus electricity), Internet) (Base: 64,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here, here, here, Facebook
Address: 3-27-10 Nukui, Nerima-Ku, Tokyo 176-0021
Constructed: Mar 1986 (Renovated Mar 2011)
Room size: 7.8m², floor plan here, building plan vaguely here
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator
Shared: Kitchen and laundry on 1st floor, toilets and showers per floor
Total residents: 177-179, mix of students from different schools
Rules: No smoking, no friends staying over (family is ok!), no gambling, gender separation
Curfew: None
Internet: Wired and wireless, but unlike most other places, apparently not fibre optic
Distance from Sophia: About 50 minutes by direct train
Other: Note about electricity: “Excess electricity is charged for each room at a rate of 30 yen per kWh. If you use more than 100 kWh of electricity in a single month, a bill will be placed in your mailbox after that month’s usage has been calculated and invoiced.” || Note about internet: “It’s only design for regular speed internet use. In case of access trouble or for high speed access, please contact the Internet service company by yourself. No online game or downloading.”
Videos: Official (2020)

Good points: The common areas look really spacious, and at least in the promotional pictures, they don’t look as old as the constructed date would have me believe. Even the rooms to a certain extent don’t feel as cramped as some of the other options that are around the same size. There’s also apparently a roof that people (and their wet clothes) can hang out on, which is really neat. There might also be some sort of local gym nearby that residents seem to get “free” access to — ie, from what I understand a usage fee has to be paid, but not the usual entrance/membership fees. I might be wrong, or it might be restricted to only those who sign up through a certain website, the details are vague as hell.

Bad points: Distance, for one. There is a direct train, which is nice, and the neighbourhood is supposedly a nice mix between residential and commercial as well, but it takes nearly an hour to get to Sophia, although this is comparable to several of the other housing options. The number of residents in this place is likely too high for me too, especially since I believe that while bathrooms are per floor, the showers, laundry and kitchen are ground floor only. In addition, from what I could see in the videos and the blurry floor plan, there only seems to be one set of 4 toilets per floor, and I believe they’re gender-shared to boot. Either way, that feels like too little for that many people, especially in (or just soon after) a pandemic! I can’t imagine this place being clean or hygienic at all.

Most of its competition (the other non-DK share houses) also offers fibre optic wired Internet, so it’s odd that this one is “regular speed” Internet and there are restrictions placed on it unless you pay extra for faster Internet. I doubt you will get back the portion of your bill for the “regular speed” Internet even if you do this, though. But I don’t like this, because what happens if classes go online due to a further Cov19 outbreak while I am there?

DK House Shinkoiwa

Japanese name: DK ハウス 新小岩
Estimated cost: 710,000 yen (incl. Utilities (minus electricity), Internet) (Base: 64,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here, here, here, Facebook
Address: 4-4-5 Shinkoiwa, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo, 124-0024
Constructed: Mar 1986 (renovated Sep 2009)
Room size: 7.6m² (plus 8 double rooms at 15.2m²), floor plan here
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator. Double rooms have personal kitchenette.
Shared: 12 coin washers, 6 coin dryers, kitchen, 16 showers, 18 toilets
Total residents: 155 + 8×2, mix of students from different schools
Rules: No smoking, no friends staying over (family is ok!), no gambling, gender separation
Curfew: None
Internet: Wired and wireless, but unlike most other places, apparently not fibre optic
Distance from Sophia: About 40 minutes
Other: There are 8 double rooms whose monthly cost are 100,000 yen instead of 55,000 yen. Higher fees too. This brings the 10 month cost to about 1,300,000 yen or so instead of 720,000 yen or so. || Like DK Tokyo Nerima, electricity costs extra after your first 100 kWh in a month, and High-speed Internet is an additional fee you have to pay for. Also, I really, really like this page.
Videos: Official (2010), Unofficial (2017), Unofficial (2020)

The blurb for the place starts off with “Our brand-new DK HOUSE Tokyo-Shinkoiwa couldn’t be in a better location!”, but really, the place isn’t brand-new by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it in a very good spot in relation to getting to Sophia. It’s not necessarily that BAD, it’s a full 10-20 minutes shorter than half the other options without rush hour factored in, but it’s still a significant travel time each day each way. A quick Google Maps search also seems to indicate that their claim of “The major JR stations (Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya) can all be reached within 30 minutes, and a mere 8-minute walk will bring you to JR Shin-koiwa station.” is quite false, though. And while this isn’t usually an issue, making that misleading claim is a negative in my book. Maybe it was possible when this place was considered brand new. 🙂

Dubious claims aside, the pictures of the place look pretty nice and spacious. The kitchens are also 24 hours, unlike her sister house, the DK Nerima. This place also has several positive reviews from former residents scattered around the web, like this one, and the 2017 video above, which are both decently good looks at the place. 8 minutes from a train station is also an acceptably good distance, although there was a complaint in the 2017 video about.the noise from trains as the building is located right next to the train tracks. This is actually not a problem for me though, as I love train noises, and I don’t need silence to fall asleep. Train noises are nice background ambient noises for me and I think this is actually a cool feature. All three of the DK houses (or at least Shinkoiwa and Matsuda for sure) also seem to have roof access. Laundry can be hung up there, I believe, but it’s a nice large roof with lots of open space, which is super cool.

The sheer size of the place and number of students here, compared ro the number of showers and toilets available, are again the largest drawbacks of this place though, together with the distance to Sophia. It otherwise looks like a pretty decent place, especially for meeting other international students, as long as there isn’t too much wear and tear from the age of the building. It’s still not what I’m looking for merely one year after the Cov19 outbreak, but otherwise looks like a decent place.

DK House Matsudo

Japanese name: DKハウス松戸
Estimated cost: 630,000 yen (incl. Utilities (minus electricity), Internet) (Rent: 56,000 yen/mth)
Info page: Here, here, here, Facebook
Address: 771 Hinokuchi, Matsudo-shi, Chiba 271-0067
Constructed:
Room size: Mostly 8.3m², one 11.8m² and one 17.1m² room that cost more
Personal: Bed, desk/chair, air-con, refrigerator. Larger rooms have personal bath/toilet
Shared: Kitchen, 10 coin washers, 5 coin dryers, 13 showers, 22 toilets
Total residents: ~164, floor plan here, building plan here
Rules: No smoking, no friends staying over (family is ok!), no gambling, gender separation
Curfew: None?
Internet: Wired, wireless
Distance from Sophia: ~1 hour including transfers
Other: Like the other DK houses, electricity costs extra after your first 100 kWh in a month. Also, this is neat. As is this.
Videos: Official (2011), Official (2011), Official? (2010)

This is advertised as “Japan’s largest share house with many working people and foreign students!!” and to me, this isn’t a plus at all. Even outside the pandemic. But as it turns out, the number of residents is about average for a sharehouse even though the private rooms aren’t particularly big. Maybe the common spaces are huge. I mean, they are, according to the floor plan, but I don’t think this is even the largest sharehouse (in size or students) on this page, never mind in Japan.

It’s still large though, with some good reviews, and at least one bad review that mentions a cockroach infestation on the floor that the management didn’t take care of well enough. It’s still probably fine though, and would make a decent choice, if not for the fact that it’s so far from Sophia University (it’s technically in Chiba, even). While this one is right off the list for that, I do appreciate that the DK Houses generally have pretty interesting and useful websites. None of them have good walkthrough videos of the property though, and that’s probably something they should really fix if the buildings look as good as the photos make it out to be, since it would be a great way to advertise their property better.

So what now? That was exhausting, and also took far longer than I hoped it would. They’re not the only choices either, there’s other options listed on the housing website like homestay programs (the homestay matchmaking form is neat) or various external housing places listed at the bottom here. In particular, I’ve seen several recommendations for Sakura House and several references to Oak House and BeGood while researching the above.

Which of the housing options above would I be willing to live in? My classes would start at 9 am or so Monday to Friday, so to me anything outside of 30 minutes or so would be off the list entirely unless they’re superb. This immediately cuts out everything but the most expensive Sophia-Arrupe, as well as the two also expensive BGJ houses, ZoshigayaEkimae and Shin-Otsuka, if I stretch the 30 minutes a little. I dropped the personal kitchenette requirement, and a personal toilet/shower would be nice if possible, but the only two that approach that are Soshigaya and Azalea, both of which have other issues. At least let’s not have one basically shared by 150 people though. Arrupe is also huge and has the living shard thing going on, and I’m not sure how I feel about that — it might be very positive or very negative.

Anyway, due to that, I know my top 3 are Sophia-Arrupe, BeGood ZoshigayaEkimae, and Flatshare Shin-Otsuka Campus. None of them really call out to me though — all three have significant drawbacks and are also really expensive for sardine cans. While doing research, I did as mentioned see several references to Sakura House and how one could find a share house or apartment really close to Sophia itself, so I also plan to look at that. And if both the price and the amenities beats those three dorms, then I’ll likely jump for that instead. After all, while I’m happy to hang out with and meet international students, and I’m sure I can make several fast friends, I don’t have those right now and from my current point of view, living a quieter home life gives me more opportunity to join a club (this is also probably a separate future blog post if I get accepted) and make more local friends instead!

Furthermore, even if I self-rent, I can still end up at Zoshigaya or Shin-Otsuka if I want to since they’re ultimately owned by private companies and are advertised on several public websites too. The only choice I’d lose out on is Sophia-Arrupe, the main draw of which to me would be the student mentor. It’s probably worth it though, since I could go for places like this or this instead. I also wouldn’t be locked in for the entire length of the stay like I would be if I picked a Sophia dorm.

Oh, and I was also worried about the process for committing to external companies for self-arranged housing, when I don’t even know right now if I will be able to go, but apparently the process seems rather painless.

So yes, for me, I think all the available housing dorms that Sophia offered just failed to be appetizing enough. Not the year right after Cov19, anyway.

P.S. As a sidenote, it turns out that, after having to actually use them, Waseda’s housing pages is leaps and bounds better than Sophia’s housing pages. I now would re-score that section into a decisive Waseda win.

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