Asia,  Uncategorized,  Waseda

Different options of housing in Japan, Dorm vs. Shared House vs. Apartment

When you decide to study abroad, you might have questions about the different options of housing in Japan. Depending on your living style, you might prefer one or the other. I will be making pros and cons list of the different options for housing in Japan.


Different options of housing in Japan: Dorm

Dorming would be the most standard and easiest way out of all of the different options of housing in Japan. Most exchange students and international students chose this since its the easiest and simplest way to get in. I was an exchange student at Waseda University and lived at the Nishi-Waseda Dorm. In a future post, I plan to write my full experience on that dorm so keep checking back to see if its up for those who are interested!

nishi waseda dorm
different options of housing in Japan
My side of my dorm room

Dorm Pros:

Every dorm usually has a dorm manager who manages the whole building and the students. They will help out with any problems like mail, fixing any electronics in your room, and adjusting to the dorm. They also live in the dorm so if there is an emergency, he is ready to help. If anything, there are also RAs, (Resident assistants) who are Japanese students that will help you if anything is needed.

There usually provide transportation from the airport to the dorms on certain move-in days. This will save so much time and effort to move everything yourself and figure out how to get to your dorm. When I went, they provided us with a bus, and riding on the bus and looking at the new city that would be my home for the next year was a bit emotional.

Most dorms have housekeepers! My dorm had one so every day she would mop and sweep the floors, clean the sinks and take out the trash. Because the system of taking out the trash is so painfully annoying, it was great that we didn’t have to do it ourselves. Of course, we have to clean our rooms and bathrooms, but not having to worry too much about everywhere else was great.

Dorms has the best security systems and is very safe to live in. The one I lived in had two doors to get through with a key for extra safety, and during the day, the dorm manager would be there to handle people and deliveries. There are also cameras in case anything happens. Also past midnight, there was a security person who would walk through the dorms to make sure nothing was wrong. There was never a moment where I felt unsafe in the dorms.

Dorms are typically walking distance to the universities. Mine was about a 10 minute walk. Since Tokyo is such a busy and crowded city, not having to go the train during rush hour was amazing. I don’t think there was ever a time in which I had to squeeze myself on the train. At my home university in NYC, I live about a 45 minutes away via public transportation, so being able to wake up 30 minutes before class and still making it on time was great.

The amenities that were provided to us were so convenient and saved time and space from having to buy these items. This can of course depends on the different dorms/schools but the ones that were provided to me which either were accessible 24/7 or through the dorm manager. Some of the amenities that we had was a laundry room for every floor, a blowdryer, a clothes iron, and a vacuum.

The dorm that I was at frequently had mini get together during holidays like thanksgiving and christmas, in which they provided free food! It was a great way to meet people from other floors and get a free dinner!

Dorm Cons:

This depends on the school, but for me, if you opt for a roommate, the your roommate will be chosen at random. There is no kind of system to match with someone. Once your dorm and roommate were decided, there was no way to change roommates. Having a roommate is a great choice for those who are trying to save money, but remember that getting along with your roommate may be harder than you think.

Depending on your dorm, the bathroom might be shared with either you or the floor. This really varies with different schools and dorms but there can be multiple variants. Some people may have a toilet, but no shower and vice versa. Some may just have neither. I was lucky and had a bathroom that I had to share with my roommate, but this its self was very annoying since we had to figure out cleaning schedules and such. I know the other dorms were complaining about how dirty the shared bathrooms were. When picking a dorm, but sure to make sure these things.

It was so hard to hang out with other people from other dorms since the dorms were very strict on guests and who comes in and out. This can be a problem for someone who is saving money. For example in the winter when you just want to hang out you can’t just chill outside because it’s so cold, but eating out can get expensive.

Shared spaces can get loud, crowded, and messy, and there’s nothing you can usually do about it. Sharing a kitchen means that the sinks and counters are dirty, or someone taking your utensils or cooking supplies. Since everyone hangs out in the shared spaces it can get loud at night. I remember sometimes I would be able to hear people laughing in talking in the kitchen while I was trying to sleep.


Different options of housing in Japan: Shared House

A shared house is living in a house with others. You usually have a room to yourself and share everything else with your housemates. It’s similar to the dorms but most times is not associated with the university.

osaka castle
different options of housing in Japan
osaka castle

Shared House Pros:

The great part of living in a shared house is that it’s very laid back and chill. It has so much more freedom than dorms and is usually cheaper than living in an apartment. You can become friends with your housemates and live with them is sure to be fun! Shared houses are very homey unlike the dorms and hopefully, it’ll feel like your home right away.

Shared houses have some rules on what you can and can’t do but most times you can bring over friends to chill with. This can depend on the shared house’s strictness. One time, I went to a shared house and I was so surprised at how nice the place was. Big TV, wall decorations, a couch, things that the dorm does have, but makes a place cozy.

Shared House Cons:

Shared bathrooms and Shared kitchens can get messy, but it shouldn’t be as bad as the dorms since there won’t be as many people using them, and you know everyone living there. Housemates aren’t guaranteed to be students, so if you want to live with students, be sure to see the requirements to be in living there. If it’s random, you might get people who already graduated and have jobs in Japan.


Different options of housing in Japan: Apartment

Apartments are great for someone who wants a lot of freedom and independence out of all the different options of housing in Japan. You can either chose to live by your self or with some else. You can find apartments though waseda’s recommended guide or google. Theres are so many factors that you can change depending on your lifestyle, like the size, layout and location. If your a student, there are many places with student discounts.

Shibuya
Shibuya

Apartment Pros:

No need to worry about others (unless you have a roommate) and great for people who prioritize being independent and being on their own pace.

You can come in and out and bring home anyone you want over. Your roof, your rules.

Apartment Cons:

Finding an apartment to your liking can be hard to find. It might take you a couple of weeks or months just to find the perfect apartment.

I never had to deal with it, but apparently taking out trash in Japan is the most annoying thing ever. You have to put trash in the appropriate trash bags and they have to be placed out for collection on the appropriate day. Also something to note thats important is if you’r going to have to pay for the Wifi/amenities or that is already in the cost. Living in an apartment takes much more responsibility than living in a dorm, or shared house.

You also have to watch out for the cost of moving fees since they can get expensive. Also, make sure to see if your apartment has a dryer/washer in your unit. Remember to also keep in mind what areas you’re looking for apartments, you probably won’t be able to find an apartment closer to your university than the dorms.

Japanese apartments can be tiny, often, the cheapest apartments are a studio, which are just a singular room.

Because you are living on your own, it is much harder to make friends, and you’ll have to make more efforts in school to make friends either through having to talk to people in your class or joining clubs. You’ll have to make effort to keep in contact with the people you meet to maintain your friendship.

Because apartments are usually not associated with the school, there is usually no one helping you settle in to figure out how to live on your own. It is always too good to keep a friendly relationship with your landlord in case something happens.


Out of all the different options of housing in Japan, I would definitely recommend living in a dorm. It will make your year abroad much easier! My year abroad was so much fun and I hope I can make yours better! I hope you now understand the different options for housing in Japan. I also made a bunch of youtube videos while in Japan and all my travels so check it out! I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to save money in Japan!


Email me at pennylesstravels@gmail.com for consultations to plan your trip to Japan or more!


If you want to know about how my day in the life of an exchange student at Waseda University, check out my youtube video! While you are there, subscribe to my Youtube Channel!

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Some Useful Sources when traveling to Japan:
My Japan posts: Pennyless Travels Japan posts
Youtube Channel: Just Coneys Corner
Food/Travel Instagram: @coneystravel
General Tourism information: Japan Travel Website
Best E-sim for travel in Japan: Airalo
Airport pickup pocket wifi: 4G WiFi pocket wifi

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