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PROFILE (L-R)
Mr. Koto (28): From Tokyo. 2.5 months in the house. Company employee (system engineer), Ms. Rie (36): From Kanagawa. 2.5 months in the house. Company employee (graphic designer), Ms. Watchi (34): From Hokkaido. 2.5 months in the house. Currently unemployed (formerly worked in advertising), Mr. Sekiguchi: Doctor ※ comes in halfway through the interview. 

The present and future of Share Place Higashi Kanagawa 99, 3 months since its grand opening.

“A small town of 99 people.” Since first hearing this catchphrase from ReBITA's project coordinator I’d made my way over to the property many times before it opened. The property and location are very enticing, and I wondered what would happen when 99 people started to live here, each time indulging my imagination the entire way back to the station from the house.

 

It’s been three months since the grand opening, and people of all different walks of life have begun to gather at Share Place Higashi Kanagawa (hereafter SPH99), and the tenants who had never met each other prior to moving in have started their new shared lifestyles together.

 

I headed on over to the property once more after receiving the opportunity to interview the people actually living in the house. During the interview we spoke about the current conditions of SPH99 and the kind of lifestyles these tenants wish to create for themselves in the future.

 

A building’s design and its facilities are important when interested in or considering living in a share house, however there are also those worrying about what shared living is actually like and what kind of people are living in them. If this sounds like you, then read on.

 

Without further ado, onto the interview!

 

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These tenants graciously agreed to an interview. Everyone had great personalities and we were able to have a nice, long conversation.

 
---First things first, tell us why you decided to live in a share house.

Mr. Koto 

I actually quit my job 3-4 years ago and went to Australia for a working holiday, sharing a room with friends while I was there. So, I have no real aversion to sharing and decided I wanted to live in a share house when I got back to Japan. 

Ms. Rie 

My story is completely different. I’d never lived on my own before and up until now was living with family. But, thinking that it was about time I left home, I searched around for a place in Yokohama but couldn’t really find a property I wanted to live in.

Ms. Watcha

What kind of property?

Ms. Rie 

Well, I want a big room, like a one room apartment with 16.5㎡ of space, a verandah and good exposure to the sun. But at the same time I didn’t want to spend too much money (laughs) I was also thinking about initial costs, and I couldn’t find a place that fit with what I wanted… and it was then I found out about share houses.

 
---Does this share house fulfill all of your requirements, Ms. Rie?

Ms. Rie

It does. Everything I could possibly need in my daily life comes with the house, so I could keep initial cost down, SPH99 rooms are spacious and the location is just fantastic.

 
---What lead you to living in the house, Ms. Watchi?

Ms. Watchi 

For me it was the Tohoku earthquake three years ago. I was living by myself at the time and was scared being alone afterwards. I only knew my neighbors by face so I couldn’t really depend on them. I began to think that it would be better to live somewhere with people you can count on when things go wrong, and came across ReBITA’s share house.

---I often hear about people who moved into share houses after the Tohoku earthquake.

Ms. Watchi 

I had a lot of stuff when I moved so like Rie, I was thankful for the large room. And the communal living room had to be stylish or I was out (laughs)

Mr. Koto 

My commute to work was terrible. It took 1.5 hours one way just to get to there from my old place, it’s was pretty painful. 3 hours commuting a day was such a waste of time.

Ms. Rie

Oh, I had a hard time to with my place because it was 12 km by bicycle to work.

 

Life changes when moving into a share house

 
---You’ve all lived here for about 2 months now, have your lives changed at all?

Ms. Watchi

It’s changed so much! I’m pursuing so many hobbies (laughs) I’ve even started running and mountain climbing, and we all climbed Mt. Fuji together. I also do bowling and got interested in coffee, even learning how to brew it myself from the grinding of the beans. All I need now is more time and money.

---You’re really enjoying the share lifestyle to the fullest, aren’t you! Do you share your hobbies with the other tenants?

Ms. Watchi

Yeah, everyone has their own hobbies and at first I have a go just out of curiosity, find that it is actually fun and get really into it… my days off are so packed with plans I’m always jumping from one to the next. I really don’t have the time to sleep (laughs)

Mr. Koto 

Watchi is pretty much always in the living room. When do you sleep?

Ms. Watchi 

I’m always up until 4 or 5 in the morning chatting away. It’s so much fun I can’t sleep. I need more sleep.

---So your life has changed entirely. What about you, Ms. Rie, any changes from before you moved in compared with now?

Ms Rie 

To be honest, I was never excited about going home when I lived with my family, but ever since moving in here I really look forward to it. I’m not always in the living room but when I feel a bit lonely I pop in and there is always someone there to talk to. Also, it’s really great that there is someone to rely on if I get sick or hurt myself. I’ve actually broken my leg at the moment and can’t move around a lot…

Mr. Koto 

I read a lot more books since I’ve moved into the house. I was never one to actually go out and buy a book to read, but now I’m always borrowing them from the others.

 
---That’s a different kind of change you experienced than the other two.

Mr. Koto

Well of course I have fun with the others, too. I spend a lot of time in the living room when I get home from work before retiring to my room at about 1am and set aside an hour to read before bed. It’s interesting to borrow books you would never choose to read yourself from others. Oh, and I’ve also started getting into making sweets and things.

---When you say sweets, what kind of things are you making exactly?

Mr. Koto 

Things like chocolate gateau and coffee-flavored jelly. I’m thinking about making pudding today.

---Wow, have you always been good at making sweets?

Mr. Koto 

I’ve always liked making sweets, but I could never finish eating them all when I was living alone. Living in a share house your housemates can help you eat them and it’s a good feeling when someone says something you have made tastes good. The kitchen here is also very spacious and easy to work in.

Ms. Watchi

His sweets are really good! But many people do cook in this house. Girls just easily whip something up in no time but when guys start to cook, they really get stuck into it.

(General practitioner Mr. Sekiguchi enters the conversation)

Just the other day, Gucchan (Mr. Sekiguchi) was making a curry from scratch at 11pm at night and went out to buy more spice when he didn’t have enough for the recipe.

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Hearing everyone, regardless of age or sex, talk excitedly about their lives here really left an impression on me.

~My favorite place~

 
---Other than the main living area I understand that there is also a theatre room, Japanese-style room, work room and rooftop terrace here in SPH99. Do any of you have a favorite place?

Mr. Koto

Mine is the seat I’m sitting in right now. It’s where I can best relax. The sun shines in on a clear day and it’s is really comfortable. Actually before the interview started I was having a nap here (laughs)

Ms. Watchi 

I love this sofa too.

Ms. Rie 

I love it here too.

---It seems everyone loves it here. I guess it's because it's a great place to sit back and relax?

Ms. Rie 

I think so. Also, the rooms that branch off from the center hallway in Building 2, like the Japanese-style room, are somewhat closed off and very relaxing.

Mr. Koto 

Yeah, a Japanese-style room really soothes the mind. A great place for a bit of reading, work or even study.

---I see. Is the theatre room beside the living room used a lot?

Ms. Watchi 

I do watch a lot of movies but it’s great for watching sporting events. We all watched the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony and the World Cup is in June so we’ll get together to cheer the team on. 

---Mr. Sekiguchi, with your job as a doctor you’re on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Are you ever at home?

Mr. Sekiguchi 

Yes, I do spend time at home. I often pop my head in the living room to say hello. My room is a garage type, which I love, and more than anything I’m thankful I can park the car I use for rounds here.

---How much does it cost to park?

Mr. Sekiguchi 

It’s free. That’s the great thing about the garage-type rooms. It really helps out those with cars.

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The sofa that Mr. Koto, Ms. Rie and Ms. Watchi love so much. It doesn’t just look good, it’s really comfortable to sit in.

Tips for getting along with housemates

 
---As the name implies, this is a large-scale share property to house 99 people. Do you have any advice on how to get to know others for those first-timers or those thinking about moving in?

Ms. Watchi 

I don’t think there is any need to worry about it because everyone is welcoming towards new housemates. It might be nerveracking to move in at first, but everyone has experienced the same thing. So all you have to do is take that first step and you’ll soon be great friends with everyone.

---Could you give us an example?

Ms. Watchi

Hm… well, if you bring a small gift for everyone when you move in everyone will come to you without you having to make the first move! (laughs)

---I see. Lure them in with food, right? (laughs) But I think it’s a great idea and something you can do straight away. What about you, Mr. Koto?

Mr. Koto 

Definitely greetings. Not just to be polite, but because communication often stems from those first initial greetings, and I don’t think anyone is going to be upset by a hello. I myself love hearing ‘welcome home’ when I get back from work, so I think greetings are really important.

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Sitting on the sofa and chatting naturally brings other people to the room. When people pass by they wave and exchange greetings.

The tenants talk about the appeal of SPH99

 
---I’ve asked you a lot of questions already, but tell me again what SPH99’s appeal is.

Ms. Rie 

When I came for a private viewing, the rooftop terrace is what made up my mind. You can not only view the city of Yokohama but on a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji. You’ve gotta see the view from up there at least once.

Ms. Watchi

I really liked the look furniture in the living room and actually looking at it close up it may be a bit cheap, but the house is the real deal. As expected of ReBIYA. (laughs) The house is located right in the middle of Yokohama so I recommend it for those who really want to experience this city. Even out running you can experience of the sights and sounds of Yokohama and even the central business district, Minato Mirai. You feel proud that you live here. (laughs)

Ms. Rie 

There is also a library on the way to the house from the station, so you don’t have to buy a book yourself. It’s also easy to return them, which is very convenient.

---It’s interesting that everyone finds appeal in different places. Living here is like that nursery rhyme ‘I wonder if I can make 100 friends’, isn’t it, because you can gain heaps of friends in no time at all.

Mr. Koto 

Well yeah, there’s no doubt about that (laughs)

---Do you feel any kind of aversion to living with 99 other people?

Ms. Watchi

Not at all. It’s not even that many people. It is a little hard to remember names and faces, though. I’m really looking forward to meeting to many new faces.

---Remembering names would be a bit difficult. The house hasn’t been open for very long, but have you had any mingling events at all?

Ms. Watchi 

We had an opening party when we first moved in and we periodically plan events. We do ‘nabe’ (Japanese hotpot) a lot. Also today, a couple of guys rented a car and are off to see the cherry blossoms before going to a hot spring.

---Sounds like fun! How do you go about letting everyone know about these events?

Mr. Koto

 We use facebook or a mailing list, as well as use the message board at the entrance of the living room.

---Message board? Are you talking about the whiteboard printed with a map on it hanging on the wall?strong>

Ms. Watchi 

Yes. There was already so much written on it when I moved in and I didn’t even know where the nearest supermarket or convenience store was, so it really helped me out.

---I see. It’s great to share your favorite spots with others.

Ms. Watchi 

Just the other day some people from a nearby ReBITA share house came over to hang out and told us about some great restaurants and bars where you can go to forget about your one-sided loves (laughs)

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The map on the message board is filled with everyone’s favorite spots.

Plans for the future of SPH99

 
---Finally, tell us what you hope to achieve in future together with your housemates.

Mr. Koto

Let’s see… well it’s way too comfortable in here and I spend a lot of time inside, so when the weather gets warmer I’d like to go out to eat or go on drives with everyone.

Ms. Watchi 

I haven’t travelled with everyone yet, so I’d like to go on a trip. I’ve done day trips but I’d like to see more of the country by traveling and staying overnight.

Ms. Rie 

It might be fun to turn the rooftop terrace into a beer garden! Ways to entertain ourselves broaden as more and more people start to live here so I’m really looking forward to it.

---Just by looking at your excited expressions I can tell that living here is really fun and fulfilling. Thank you for talking to me for such a long time today.

and it left a deep impression on me. They are enthusiastic in making the house into something great together, as if it were a story or play.

 

But it’s not as if they are short of breath, driven by a sense of duty to make it work - they do so in a relaxed, comfortable environment without a care in the world.

 

The transformation of SPH99, as well as its tenants, is carried out little by little as the seasons pass. If you are interested in the house now as well as what it could become, feel free to call up at any time.
 

 

The appeal of a town is made up of various factors, including the area’s history, industry as well as its community, and not just its population. In the same way, SPH99 is full of opportunities to transform into such a ‘town’. SPH99 will guide you to new heights, for it is a place in which people from all walks of life gather and will become the main force behind the desire to make the most of every day.
 
Author/Shinya Kagawa
Manager and editor of Tokyo SHAREHOUSE. Currently living in a share house and is proud to have visited almost 300 other share house properties. Being a tenant himself he aims to spread the appeal of share houses to others.