Once you find how affordable a long-term rental guesthouse in Japan can be, you might find you want to extend your stay in Japan. International guesthouses, colloquially called gaijin houses(foreigner houses) can be very affordable if you’re staying in Japan a month or longer. For example, you can get a room for 48,000 yen (includes electricity and gas) with a shared bath, kitchen and living room. That’s what five nights in a Japanese-style minshuku or ryokan would cost you!
The advantages of staying at a gaijin house are numerous. They are short term, and allow you to live in a furnished apartment-style setting without having to pay large sums for key money and deposits. Instead, you merely pay your rent up front via credit card and you can come and go as you please, or even leave for a few days and come back “home” at the end of the week. Your gaijin house can act as a home base from which you can leave some of your belongings so you can travel lightly on day trips outside of Tokyo, a weekend trip to Mt. Fuji or even a week-long trip to other parts of Japan on your JR Rail Pass. Gaijin houses can be found all over Japan, but most are concentrated in the Tokyo area.
These guesthouses are set up for longer stays and thus offer internet access, a TV/recreation area and English speaking staff. They tend to attract students and other budget travelers seeking longer stays. It is no frills accommodation, but unlike youth hostels, gaijin houses are usually close to train lines and convenient to all parts of the city. Gaijin houses are hubs for travelers to meet, share stories and get the lowdown on what to do and where to go.
Gaijin houses have been around as long as gaijin have but were previously only accessible to travelers after they had arrived. In the past, many foreigners used gaijin houses as a temporary residence while they searched for a job. But recently, they have seen the potential in advertising gaijin houses online to get advance reservations. This movement has been headed up by Sakura House, who owns 190 properties in the Tokyo area which are rented out on a monthly basis. Gaijin House Japan lists properties all over Japan, including Okinawa, and has a comment system where you can read about other traveler’s experiences.
The deals at gaijin houses are so good, even Japanese people are said to be taking up temporary residence in them!
Gaijin House Japan lists gaijin houses all over Japan and offers more upscale offerings. See their English website.
Sakura House has a website in English.
Amy Chavez is a columnist for The Japan Times. Visit her website at http://www.moooobar.com