Monday, April 22, 2013

Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed - The Japan Times

Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed - The Japan Times

And occasionally, this happens.  I have a lot of sympathy for this guy.  Victor Rosenhoj, a student at Ryukoku University, heard those dreaded words we can shorten simply to, "No Foreigners Allowed."  Apartment denied. This is the kind of thing that can sour a person on Japan, and understandably so.  Quite a few people come here because they love some aspect of Japanese culture, only to find sometimes Japan does not love them back.  It's almost like romantic rejection.  Heartbreak.

Even when landlords rent to foreigners, there are still a few extremely goofy elements involved that make life difficult for ex-pats hoping to settle down permanently here.  The guarantor system can even make changing jobs a huge hassle if your employer acts as your guarantor but you find something better elsewhere.  It's easy to get things completely screwed up and end up costing someone whose only crime was having good intentions a pile of money, wrecking your own career in the process.

As you probably know, I'm engaged.  I started out way to the east, in Chiba prefecture, in a company apartment.  Then I changed jobs and moved to another city.  I was very lucky to have friends able to help me through the rental process-- and yes, there were apartments I looked at online that weren't available to me because of my foreign status-- and a new boss to act as my guarantor.  All I had to do was give a thumbs-up, stamp a few documents and show up on the correct day.

Then things became a little complicated.  My fiancee moved back to Japan from Canada and we decided to co-habitate before the wedding.  My apartment was fine for a single person, but not made for two.  Incredibly, we found a two-bedroom place just across the street, in the same complex.  I still needed to pay a lot of cash up-front and inform my guarantor.  I was concerned he might end up losing money on the deal, that they'd fine him because I was breaking my lease. That's the last thing I wanted to do to the guy after he'd done a huge favor for me.

This time around, however, things were different because my fiancee handled the deal.  I'm still not sure what went down, but the only penalties paid were a month's rent and a huge charge for canceling my Internet connection.  I spent a lot of money to put us in this apartment.  The relief was in not having caused anyone else a huge expenditure or any legal issues.

Then again, I've always been lucky when it comes to Japan.  Almost everything I've wanted has come to me at some point, and I've experienced no problems finding jobs, no horrifying discrimination.  Just a couple of minor dust-ups, one involving an aggressive drunk and another that was so ambiguous I'm not even sure what happened. Not long ago the buzz word was "micro-aggressions;" I've come across a few of those-- "Can you use chopsticks?" and the like-- but I chalk those up less to prejudice or racism and more to average people desperate to say something, anything, in English and that's the best they could come up.  A cliche.  Hardly oppressive the first time, mildly annoying the one hundredth.

Life here hasn't been perfect, but it's actually been less annoying than back in the US.  If I'd butted heads with people or found a less-than-receptive audience here then I'd feel differently.  However, having had an overwhelmingly positive time here only increases my feelings for people who, through no fault of their own, run into a lot of no, no, no.  I also try to keep a balanced perspective.  No place is all good, few are all bad.  Maybe I'm just cheerfully misanthropic enough to have low expectations of most people, so they're forever surprising me in a pleasant way.  Or maybe I'm just living in my own little soap bubble, floating through the air, staring at my own distorted reflection.

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