Tokyo is a daunting city to live in. Whether a foreigner or Japanese citizen, its busyness and intensity are legendary the world over, and while amazing for business and convenience, it can be very isolating on a personal level.
The number of people living alone has increased dramatically throughout the world, growing 81% since 1995. Tokyo is among the top cities with vulnerable populations, both elderly people at the end of their life and young people unable to move forward. This move away from intergenerational housing in Japan and towards single small apartments is starting to create many social and economic difficulties in Tokyo– and one of the big solutions they’ve come up with is both uniquely Japanese and so simple its obvious: share houses.
What is a Japanese share house/apartment?
While a culture of roommates or shared apartments is very prevalent in America and other parts of the West, Japanese culture’s intense focus on privacy and familial bonds mean young adults are more likely to either live alone or with family members. But if your family home is from a rural environment, you may not have such a plush landing.
Enter the share house, a recent development in urban planning. More like a college dormitory than anything else, share houses (often called social apartments in Tokyo) usually include furniture and can be anywhere from 5 or 6 rooms to over 30. Each person rents their own bedroom space at a rate comparable or cheaper than fully renting a room of one’s own and usually includes an open coliving and coworking space for eating, lounging, and socializing.
This is a popular choice both for young foreigners looking to stretch their budgets and young Japanese looking to further international connections and stave off the loneliness of Tokyo living. For some, they take it a step further, and some entrepreneurs have created an even more elegant solution: the multi-generational share house in Japan.
How does a Japanese multi-generational living style work?
The problem of an aging population, especially one alone in urban environments, has become an increasing problem on Japan’s radar. For so long, it was one house for multiple generations of a single family– but with that being tossed aside in favor of cheap and minimal urban living, Japan is going through a cultural reckoning as to how to foster a healthy population. Nursing homes are prohibitively expensive for older residents, and young families (especially single mothers) struggle to find childcare or respite during the insanely busy lifestyle that accompanies city living.
This new form of mixed-generational housing has been created recognizing the yearning for connection while making it affordable for the average Japanese citizen living on a budget. They combine the care and kindness of senior housing with the youthful energy of babies and children, staving away loneliness and significantly increasing the quality of life throughout the generations that live there.
Advantages and disadvantages of multigenerational homes
Of course, there are significant cultural differences between the elderly, baby boomers, and millennial/Gen Z demographics. Japan has reckoned with an incredible amount of Westernization in the last century, from when most of the population lived in a very Japanese way, to the wonderful juxtaposition that is modern Tokyo.
Having generations living together under one roof poses a unique opportunity for learning from the past. In one of the most famous and long-lasting multigenerational apartments, Well Yokodai, the owner Mr. Toya described the joy of it as follows, “I think that it is effective to live in a small area, with a few private living spaces and a lot of common areas, where we can make use of each individual’s skills, time, and things….you can live your life more fully and freely by making use of the ideas of each resident.” When asked about the difficulties of making the rules for such a breadth of experience, Mr. Toya replied, “At first I thought it was better to have a lot of posted rules, but that did not last. Now, for example, when someone wants to learn how to cook with anchovies, people naturally become curious to participate and a sort of “anchovy club” is formed. I realized that more autonomy creates freedom for these kinds of activities to happen organically. Of course, there are problems but we share those too. I think it’s important to accept what you have.”
Whether multi generational homes or not, share houses create spaces where people from all walks of life can come to Tokyo and explore what it means to build a community in a staunchly urban environment.
Our share house in Nakameguro
We here at Metroresidences believe firmly in creating that kind of community– which is why we’re excited to launch one of our very first social apartments here! Less than ten minutes from Yutenji, a covetous neighborhood on the popular and convenient Tokyu Toyoko Line subway, and even closer to several supermarkets and convenience stores, our new social apartment boasts a variety of room spaces for all types and budgets. Besides having all of the luxuries of a serviced and furnished apartment, these rooms are available at a far lower price than many similar luxurious, modern rooms in the area, and offer the priceless added value of a community of both foreigners and Japanese residents. All genders are welcome, with multiple toilet areas and a fully enclosed single bathroom for privacy.
This sleekly designed building has the perfect amount of light and working space, and each room contains both a single bed and a simple desk, so you can work quietly in your room even if there are social activities in the co-living space. The huge, open kitchen also boasts brand-new appliances and all the utensils you’ll need to practice your cooking skills (for better or worse), as well as in-house coin laundry with dryer included. We hope people of all ages and backgrounds will join us for this social experiment in urban connection without sacrificing comfort or convenience.
More details: Frontera Nakameguro/Yutenji Social Apartment
No matter where you live, we at MetroResidences hope you enjoy your brilliant new life in Tokyo and keep yourself safe and happy wherever you end up!