Finding housing for a long period of time in Japan has always been very difficult for foreigners... but also for Japanese people themselves. Indeed, when you register for an apartment in Japan, you usually have to spend a lot of money before you can even move in. The renter is expected to hand an average of two months of Rikikin upfront, which is a refundable deposit. In addition to that, some owners may also ask for a certain amount of Reikin, which literally means "Gratitude Money": a gift to the landlord to thank him for letting you live in his apartment. Add these fees to what could be high rents in Tokyo, and you can end up spending an awful lot of money for housing. Also, as a foreigner, it's even more difficult to understand this confusing system and to have a chance to obtain an apartment quickly.
As a solution to this problem, ten years ago, shared houses started to appear. At first, they were called gaijin houses, literally meaning foreigner houses, because they would mainly be used by them (around 90% of foreigners and 10% of Japanese people). The phenomenon grew over the years and today, it is becoming quite popular, even among Japanese people, who outnumber foreigners in the residences!
A perfect example of a shared house is the new Oakhouse residence in Higashi-Koganei. It is about 20 minutes away from JR Shinjuku station, opened in April 2014 and is quite modern and comfortable!
Like any other shared house, Oakhouse is a big residence where people get their own room, but share the kitchen, bathroom and live together. There are about 160 rooms in both Western and Japanese style. The prices are rather cheap when you compare to those of a regular apartment, and you can easily get to meet people this way!
It was very exciting living there as the Oakhouse has great features, such as a tennis court or a fully equipped work studio! The house is sports-themed so it is full of little details related to sports, and residents often enjoy playing. It also has a beautiful common room with comfortable and chic wooden furniture where everyone gathers every evening, a giant wooden table as well as a big and convenient kitchen.
The manager, Yuji, is extremely friendly and does everything he can to get us to know each other, communicate, hang out together, even if sometimes we can't speak each other's language! From my first day here, he added me to the house's LINE (chatting app) group, "The Higako Family", which made it very easy to keep in touch with everyone. Often, we would share dinner and cook food from our own country, but also go out at the karaoke and enjoy the local attractions of Higashi-Koganei. It was great to meet people from so many countries and share so much together !
If you are coming to Tokyo for a long time, you might consider staying at Oakhouse. You have to register for a minimum of one month (there is no maximum stay!) and abide by a few rules (clean up right away in the kitchen or bathroom... and say hello when you meet someone!) but they are not harsh at all. It is very convenient as the rent is quite cheap, it's close to Tokyo (around 15 min walk to the station, then 20 min to Shinjuku station) and the area is very relaxing.