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Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Accommodation advice and visas


It's good to be able to report some positive experiences regarding finding accommodation in Japan. Here are a couple of letters we received.

Just a commute away

Mike Turner reads The Japan Times online in Oak Harbor, Wash. A 30-year navy man, he spent 23 years in Japan with his Japanese wife, and since retiring in 2004 has returned here frequently.

He writes: "I saw the posting in your article about C.J. looking for a place to live and had some thoughts. Unless its absolutely mandatory that she live in urban Tokyo, I would suggest to her that she consider living some place in commuting range of the city.

"Also, I would suggest considering some place near some of the bases in the area — Yokota, Camp Zama, or perhaps Atsugi. People in those areas are familiar with transient military and are sometimes willing to cut the fees to move in or negotiate the various rents and charges."

Mike thinks it's worth talking with some of the agencies that rent to military or civilians that work for the military.

"When I worked for the navy as a civilian at Atsugi, I lived in Ayase City, with a nice apartment furnished with used furniture and stuff from secondhand stores."

He paid three months' rent to get in, and his landlord "cut him some slack" so he could move in and then pay him when he began to receive his salary. His rent was about $550 a month (depending on the yen).

Mike's neighbor worked as an administrative assistant for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, and even after she was promoted to a new position in Tokyo from her old job at Atsugi, she continued to live in Ayase and commute.

"For her it was cheaper and allowed her to save money. She said her commute was about an hour each way."

The guy he rented from is another American married to a Japanese woman. John Dodson's company is Land Lord Reality, located at 1-30-19 Ogami, Ayase City, Kanagawa 252-1104. The phone number is (0467) 79-0887 and you can mail him at landlord@sagami.ne.jp. (A.J.)

A gaijin-friendly option

Dan writes regarding a recent inquiry about "gaijin-friendly" cheap housing. He says that the Urban Renaissance Agency has apartments for rent at a wide range of prices across the country.

"UR requires neither reikin (key money) nor a hoshonin (guarantor). Also, as rentals are arranged directly with the agency, no realtor's fee is required. I believe the only upfront money is the first month's rent and a deposit. The deposit is refundable upon moving out, assuming the premises are left in good condition."

Having lived in a UR building for several years, Dan reports that both management and maintenance were excellent. When he moved out, they refunded all of his deposit, except for a ¥10,000 cleaning fee. (And they told him that if he wanted to clean it himself, they would refund the ¥10,000 too.)

"The agency is not at all allergic to foreign residents," he continues. "On the contrary, it has a complete English translation of its helpful guide for tenants (about 100 pages, as I recall) that it provides when you move in. One can search the UR Internet site for available units. However, I recommend going to one of the consultation centers, as the counselors there have a wealth of knowledge about the various properties and neighborhoods."

A final piece of advice: If you do not speak Japanese, take a Japanese-speaking friend along. Their site (in Japanese) is at www.ur-net.go.jp/. (A.J.)

Visa requirements

B.D. has a family member coming to Japan and wants advice on getting a visa.

The good news is that for some years now, citizens of most European states, the U.S., Australia and other countries have not required visas for visits of up to 90 days.

For citizens of countries for which visas are still required, getting hold of one is a relatively easy procedure these days. You can get an up-to-date list of countries and their visa requirements at www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html.

Be aware: The three-month entry permission that most tourists and short-stay visitors are granted is not a visa, so it cannot be extended; nor can the conditions be changed. If you would like an actual visa rather than the 90-day permit, it can become quite complicated. Fortunately there are many offices that can do the paperwork for you.

If you have any trouble, you can contact Mr. Nakai via www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html. He can put together the necessary papers for you.

B.D. should also remember that his/her relative will be required to be fingerprinted and photographed on entering Japan. (K.J.)

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com and (03) 000-911. Send questions to community@japantimes.co.jp

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