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PROFILE
Yasutaka Himeno, head of Share-life TOYAMA was born and raised in the city of Toyama. He developed his own sharehouse business while working in the real estate industry. He always lives in a sharehouse or room share environment, both in Japan and abroad.

The story begins with local possibilities

In the past this website has been able to interview many sharehouse management companies mainly in the city about their road to success and the hopes and expectations that came hand in hand with their journeys. While we indeed have heard many a fantastic story from these city folk, we became interested in what a management team building a sharehouse in more local areas go through during the same stage. Confident that we would be able to discover an incredible story away from the city we headed off to interview Yasutaka Himeno, a man managing a sharehouse in Toyama.

 

Today we have the pleasure of hearing the story of Mr. Himeno himself, the man behind Toyama’s first ever sharehouse.

 

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The sharehouse theatre room

---Mr Himeno, you’ve never lived by yourself before, have you?

Mr. Himeno

That’s correct. I never had the chance to. When I was in university I went to the same campus as my older brother so we lived together in the same room, and when I started working I moved in with a superior from work. I then quit my job there and went to Australia where sharehouses were the norm.

---I see, you never had the chance to live alone, did you. So, what lead you to running your own sharehouse after that?

Mr. Himeno

I then returned to my family home in Toyama for a while. Now that I was an adult, however, and had to pay my parents around 30,000 yen a month to stay there, I thought to myself that I may as well live on my own. That said, I couldn’t find a good place for 30,000 yen a month. I guess it all started in 2009 when I thought of the idea to rent a large house and find people to live and share the cost of rent with me. At the time I wasn’t looking to make money, but there was a lot of interest when I advertised rooms for rent and I ended up renting out every single one. But inquiries kept on coming, so I thought I’d give one more property a go.

---There weren’t many sharehouses around that time, were there?

Mr. Himeno

There were sharehouses in Tokyo and Osaka but they weren’t really a big thing. I think they’ve really exploded in popularity these past 5 years. Like, I am no longer asked what a sharehouse is anymore.

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I want to increase the amount of real, family-like communities

---What is your main goal or purpose in managing sharehouses?

Mr. Himeno

My main purpose is to connect people from all walks of life and for them enjoy themselves, so I don’t really like large-scale sharehouses for 30-40 people.

---You mean you want people to connect on a deeper level?

Mr. Himeno

Yes. I actually want to build families that share their lives together under one roof. This is why I don’t really want to create a lot of private rooms in the name of profit, and because of it we’re having financial difficulties (laughs). Rentals in Toyama are really inexpensive, so you’re not going to pull a good profit by dividing a property into 4 or 5 rooms. Creating a sharehouse in a big building and making countless private rooms within it would be profitable, but there’s just no warmth.

---I suppose you feel that way because you have so much experience living in shared lifestyle environments.

Mr. Himeno

I guess I feel that living with others in an environment just like a real family would is one of my ideals.

 

---That’s great to hear. Does that mean that the sharehouses you manage are thriving with interaction and exchange?

Mr. Himeno

That’s right. There is even interaction between residents of each of my sharehouses. Like, everyone will be invited to a party at one house or something. Or we’ll record a video to celebrate someone’s birthday, getting in touch with past housemates and the birthday girl/boy’s parents to send surprise messages to include in it. It’s almost like something you’d do for a wedding reception. Past housemates also drop by the house to hang out quite frequently.

---So you still have ties to past housemates? It’s so great that the housemates actively plan things like this amongst themselves.。

Mr. Himeno

I try to encourage the residents to do things independently and not have me to it for them.

---What other kind of events and things do your sharemates plan together?

Mr. Himeno

They hold a lot of home parties. Once one sharemate got his hands on some boar and bear meat and decided to make a Japanese stew with everyone, and from there the idea spread and these ‘stew parties’ are held every now and then. Last time they had as many as 30 people participate.

---Do they also get together to drink often?

Mr. Himeno

Yeah, they do. They’ll often go out to drink or even head on over to another sharehouse where a jazz pianist lives to listen to him play while having a few drinks.

Shared living is filled with unexpected and encounters and discoveries

---What makes this job worthwhile for you?

Mr. Himeno

I personally really love living in sharehouses and by interacting with others I get to hear their stories. Sure, it’s fun to get pumped up about something you already had a mild interest in when getting together with people who have similar hobbies and talk about topics relevant to each party, but even so I think it is limiting. The best and most interesting thing about sharehouses is discovering things you couldn’t even begin to imagine.

---Could you tell us about a time when you discovered something new from the unexpected?

Mr. Himeno

Sure. There was a time when I was living with a girl who, as far as I could tell, was really loud and showy. At first I wasn’t sure if I could live with that kind of person, but she actually had her own solid way of thinking and could be quite a strong person. She was sometimes quite childish in her speech and actions, but she was really good at English and already knew what she wanted to do in the future at 19 years old, and here I was not knowing where life was taking me, just hanging out in Australia. She was really fun to talk to, and I realized that I could become good friends with this type of girl.

---I see, so you came to that realization through living with each other. Moving on, has anything changed now that you have moved to the management side of things?

Mr. Himeno

Through sharehouse management the opportunities to hear other peoples hopes and dreams has certainly increased. Everyone gets together before bed to have a drink and someone will start off by saying, ‘I really want to do such and such,’ and then idle chatter will evolve into a discussion about what everyone wants to do in the future. I really feel like my job is worth doing when I can encourage others to reach for their dreams.

---I really understand you there, I feel the same thing.

Mr. Himeno

Yeah, it’s really stimulating. Of course it’s also fun to talk about stupid stuff, but it’s just so stimulating to talk to your friends at night about your future dreams and I think there are plenty of opportunities to do that living in a sharehouse. Time intersects with the relaxed ambiance of the house and a strange but wonderful magic that encourages you to talk occurs… and afterwards when you retire to your room you can fall asleep almost immediately. I guess that what happens when you talk with others in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. It really feels like your own home, seriously.

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The chic, relaxed interior. It certainly seems like the place to talk about dreams together with your sharemates at night.

The purpose is not to increase sharehouses, but to increase sharemates

---Will you increase the amount of sharehouse properties you manage in the future?

Mr. Himeno

I do want to increase my houses, but more than that I want to create friendships between sharemates who share everything from their stories to their lives together. In order to increase sharemates, I must create new houses. So the main purpose is not to increase houses, but to increase sharemates.

---I understand, so you first and foremost want to increase sharemates, and as a result increase sharehouses!

Mr. Himeno

That’s it! I really want to create those kinds of friendships.

---Thank you for sharing your amazing story with me today!

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Mr. Himeno graciously allowed us to interview him for more than 3 hours, and as he spoke with a very lively expression on his face I could tell just how much he loves spending time with his sharemates.
 

Hearing stories of sharemates going off and getting married and projects like making birthday celebration videos with the help of past sharemates who no longer live in the house, it seems as though Mr. Himeno’s ideal of ‘living as though a real family would’ has already been realized.
 
Also, while conducting this interview I unexpectedly met an old acquaintance at the house and it sunk in how fitting it was to bump into each other in a sharehouse.
 

After the interview Mr. Himeno was headed right back to work to start on plans for a new sharehouse. We look forward to seeing what kind of house he creates and what kind of connections are born from within it!
Mr. Himeno, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to tell us such a fantastic story!
 
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Author/Hiroki Watanabe
Tokyo Sharehouse editor. Keio University student, third year. Working towards connecting society together through shared living and will go through rivers and over mountains in order to achieve this.

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