Vijaya started living in one of Tulip’s shared houses in July 2015, when she first moved to Tokyo from New York. She stayed in Happy House Herb for a few months and then moved to Chilli Pepper and Cream shortly after its opening. Today we got a chance to chat with her at Kagurazaka Saryo, a well-known green tea and dessert cafe near Chilli Pepper and Cream.
First question, Vijaya, what interested you in our share house in the beginning?
I came to Tokyo with an English-teaching program but they didn’t provide an accommodation in Tokyo. Then I started looking things up on my own and went to see a few apartments with regular housing agencies, but they were all too pricey. I wound up meeting Norie-san [Tulip’s founder] at Happy House Herb. The price was really good and I could just move in without any hassle. No need to set up the electricity, the internet and so on. We arrived in July and a lot of my friends didn’t have internet in their apartments until December. Settling down in a share house was much easier.
So you have lived in Happy House Herb and you are now living in Chilli Pepper and Cream. What do you particularly like about these houses and how would you compare them?
I like the people a lot. I made a lot of friends in both houses. I like that Happy House Herb resembles what I thought a Japanese house would look like, but the thing that made me want to move out was that the room was a little small. I would always be in the common area. Even though I like the people I was living with, sometimes after a long day of work I just wanted to read and rest in my own room. What I really like about Chilli Pepper and Cream is that there is always this friendly environment, but I can also just crash in my room when I’m tired. The rooms are big enough for an American like me to feel comfortable. I also like that there is a tumble dryer and an oven in the common area. The location is probably one of the things I like most too. The neighborhood of Happy House Herb was a little quieter. I really like that, but actually, my current neighborhood is more suited to me.
How so? How would you describe the surrounding area you live in?
Kagurazaka reminds me a lot of my home in New York. Very metropolitan. It’s very cultural, but also very, very modern. I guess it’s more foreigner-friendly. The nicest thing is that you have all those small local Japanese shops, but at the same time I can just go to Starbucks and Burger King if I miss America. And it’s really close to Roppongi where I work. I can get up at 7:30 and still arrive to work at 8:00. The house is right across the station.
Do you have any favorite spots in Kagurazaka?
The Canal Cafe is probably my favorite. When I first moved here, I saw people paddling the boat up and down the canal. Then I found out that we can get a paddle boat at the restaurant. It’s a bit expensive but it’s worth it. I like the variety of the supermarkets we have here too. There is one with really nice salad and imported goods. I also found a really nice whisky bar when I was taking a walk on one of the small streets.
What are your favorite things to do in Tokyo?
Karaoke. It thought I was gonna hate it, but when I first went with my friends here, I ended up loving it. I also love going to the park. There are a lot of really nice parks around here, especially Shinjuku Gyoen. Though you usually have to pay to get in, they have some free days that I always try to go to. I also like walking by Yasukuni Shrine. Sometimes there is a flea market there.
Has living in a shared space helped or changed you in any way?
Back in New York I always used to share a bedroom with my sister, but I guess the way you interact with strangers is a little different. When you talk to them, you make more effort to get to know them. One day I was talking to this Japanese girl next to my room in the kitchen. Then I found out that she actually went to a law school in New York. And that’s what I’ve been wanting to do, so we could connect from there.
Have you had any challenges in the house? And what did you do to overcome or resolve those problems?
In my share house, we don’t really run into each other in an unpleasant way. There are only 8 people for three toilets and two showers. There has never been any time where I have to wait for a toilet, and there isn’t a line for the shower either. Tulip has a cleaning staff that cleans the common space every week, so I don’t have to clean after other people.
Do you have any other plans in the future while you are in Tokyo?
I’ll be here for one more year, at least. When I came here, I initially thought I would stay for one year, but then I got to liking it. When they wanted prolong my contract, I was like “definitely.” My plan in Tokyo is to keep learning Japanese. Ideally, I’m thinking of going to a law school here if I could. But it would take me a couple more years to master the language. I will see how things go.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about your experience in your share house?
As a foreigner, I would highly recommend it. Share house is probably the best option if you don’t know how long you are gonna stay. My program is bringing in a lot of English teachers, and I’ve been telling people to take a look at a share houses. When you first move in at a regular apartment, you have to pay like 4 or 5 times rent up front. Then you need to buy electrical appliances and all other things. People only stay for one year end up being in debt because they had to pay so much in the beginning. With me, I’ve been able to spend my salary on exploring Japan and traveling around Asia.