Another guest writer, Alissa Murray was one of many students who chose IUC-sponsored housing during her stay in Yokohama at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies. We should have one more housing post on the way, followed by one on funding, so stay tuned!
When attending the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies, one option for housing is to apply to stay in apartments found through the Center itself. During my year in Yokohama, I stayed in Star Heights, one of those Center apartments. If you’re wondering if the Center apartments are for you, here’s what you need to know:
Finding the Apartment
If you want to stay in one of the IUC apartments, you must apply fairly early; also be aware that, because Center apartments have much lower rent than average, there is usually a lottery to select who gets to stay in them. Signing up for the list is not a guarantee you’ll be selected. However, if you’re lucky enough to be chosen, all the hard work is done for you: the deals are made with the landlord/lady, and the apartment is ready to go whenever you choose to arrive. Almost all my utilities (except internet) were arranged before my arrival, and the house comes furnished there was no need to worry about furniture rental.
Pros: All the work is done for you – this is one of the easiest housing options.
Cons: No guarantee you’ll be selected in the lottery, and even if you are, you may not get your first choice of apartment.
Star Heights was an old building; on the rickety side, with thin walls and old appliances, and a little difficult to keep clean. The first floor did have some trouble with insects – though I lived on the second floor, and we had barely any. Once of the biggest advantages was the size, especially considering the low rent; there were two sizeable 6-tatami bedrooms, a small kitchen, a toilet and a nice, if old, shower/bath. Usually two Center students share the apartment, each taking one bedroom (I lived with my husband, so we used one bedroom as a living room; though each room has plenty of space for one person).
The other huge advantage of a Center apartment is that it comes furnished; ours had futons, sheets and blankets, new towels, chairs and tables, a TV and a fully supplied kitchen. The items are, like the apartment itself, generally old and a little flimsy – but they do the trick, and you don’t have to pay extra for them. There were functioning air conditioners/heaters in both rooms, and we were definitely glad for them at the height of both summer and winter, with the walls as thin as they were.
Because several of the apartments in the complex are reserved for Center students, Star Heights was one of two fairly common gathering spots for Center kids outside of the school– this is a great advantage for socializing and/or studying.
Pros: Spacious even when shared by two students; fully furnished; convenient location.
Cons: Not the newest or cleanest place once could choose to stay. Thin walls can make for noise and some trouble regulating heat.
The landlady lives right next-door, which is especially convenient for rent payment or if you have any questions or concerns. She wasn’t always easy to track down, but was always extremely helpful, and because she’s accustomed to Center students she’s attuned to, and understanding of, common troubles that foreign student renters may have.
The area comes across as suburban, though it is only 10 minutes from downtown Yokohama and 30 from Shibuya in Tokyo. There’s a fair amount of green, and mostly families live nearby. Aside from a few children the area is usually quiet and the neighbors friendly.
Within 5 minutes walk of the apartment are a train station, two grocery stores, two drug stores, a post office, a park, a water park, several little bars and a handful of cheap and tasty restaurants. There are also tons of little shops, which are open during the day and fun to peruse.
This isn’t, however, downtown; if you’re looking for restaurants, clubs, theaters, sight-seeing, or other evening/weekend entertainment, you’ll have to hop a train and look elsewhere; and if you’re out past midnight, you’re pretty much stuck out all night.
Pros: Quiet, nice area with all the basic necessities very nearby.
Cons: Not within easy walking distance of much else – you won’t find much going on here after 9 PM.
The local train station is Myorenji Eki, on the Toyoko Line (which becomes the Minato-Mirai Line at Yokohama Station to the south). Trains arrive regularly, though Express trains don’t stop at Myorenji – you’ll have to go a few stops north or south to switch to one if you want it.
Myorenji is about 15 minutes away from Minato-Mirai Station (where the IUC is located); 10 minutes away from downtown Yokohama; and about 30 minutes away from Shibuya station in the opposite direction if you switch to an Express train. It’s an extremely convenient location, especially for those who plan to be in Tokyo often.
The only downside is that once the Toyoko Line becomes the privately-owned Minato-Mirai Line, the price of the fare nearly doubles, which makes this line more expensive than the JR lines used by many other Center students. You’ll definitely want to buy commuter passes (as much as a 6-month pass at once) to save as much money as possible.
Pros: Extremely convenient train line; there’s also a bus stop nearby.
Cons: The line is one of the more expensive available.
Rent for my husband and I was 78,000 yen, or $700-800, per month. Usually that would be split between two IUC students, for closer to $400/month each.
Rent doesn’t include utilities – you’ll be receiving bills for your water, gas, and electricity separately. These are roughly comparable to the same bills in the States, depending on how much you use the heater, etc. Even with these included, it’s still the cheapest option available (other than a homestay).
Your internet costs will depend on the provider you choose. We set up hikari-fiber internet, one of the fastest available, and set it up to use a wireless router we brought from home. All five Center students staying in the complex then used the wireless, and we split the cost. This was a very cheap way to go, though the speed was highly unreliable at times.
Overall Impression: This is by far your least expensive option if you plan to stay in an apartment. The location is nice, quiet and convenient, you get to stay with other students, and the space is large and fully furnished. If you don’t mind an older, run-down space, it’s worth putting your name into the lottery for a Center apartment.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reply to the article below!