I'm going in tomorrow to put my John Hancock on a new apartment contract. This will mean the first time I've signed my life away in Japan to a 2-year lease. Basically, this commits me to living here for an additional 2 years, which is something I've thought long and hard about, and have decided it's something I want to do. That doesnt' mean I won't be back for a visit, I plan on it either around Thanksgiving time, or perhaps for Christmas, depending on the job situation.
I'm taking a 3DK here in Hiratsuka. Japanese apartments are measured by the number of rooms involved, plus some measurement of what the dining room/kitchen involve. My 3DK could be construed to be a 3 bedroom, but then again, so could my first apartment, where my 'bedroom' was a tiny storage room with no closet. There are 2 tatami rooms of 6 mats each, plus another roughly 6 mat carpeted room with a tiny sunroom-type place for drying laundry in bad weather. The area isn't as nice as my previous apartments, there are no views of Fuji from my bedroom window, but then again, I'll be paying half the price, with my choice of one roommate.
It's located NNE of Hiratsuka station, just north of a big Nissan R&D center. Lots of my students work there, I guess. It's not a difficult ride, about what my first place was. It runs about 66,000 yen (a bit over $600) per month plus utilities. The price isn't too bad, considering what Nova teachers pay, but the up-front costs are insane. I've ranted before in emails about the living situation. Basically, you are expected to shell out roughly 4-5 times the monthly rent for the 'privelige' of renting the space, and that usually doesn't include the first month's rent. I've managed to negotiate with the realtors, through some Japanese friends, who will give me a slight break, and will allow me to include my first month's rent in the up front fees.
There's a thing called reikin that translates as 'key money,' or a gift to your landlord for their graciousness in renting the space to you. It's more or less against the law, but lots of people still do it, and many realtors find a way to slip it in under other fees. I looked at one place that wanted to charge me no deposit or key money, but over $1000 in 'cleaning fees.' Talk about crazy. This place should be better. I'll have a roommate, one of my co-workers who's leaving in August. She has the complete furnishings for an apartment, down to the light fixtures (no, apartments in Japan don't come with light fixtures or light bulbs). I'll buy them off her when she leaves, and I'll inherit a fully furnished place. I'm happy because this means I'll be paying nearly half the rent I pay now, and will allow me greater freedom, i.e., I can quit working for Nova and take another job and not have to worry about being thrown out of my house. All in all, not bad. Wish me luck, moving day is March 1st.