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Essay

Room to grow

By Samantha Loong

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Spring is just around the corner. It's the beginning of the busy moving season, as people begin moving out of and into jobs and homes. So it's interesting that the kanji for real estate includes fudou, meaning "no movement." While the word refers to the land and its fixtures, I think the idea of "no movement" is also appropriate to describe the attitudes of some realtors and landlords.

Moving house costs a lot ― not only financially, but also emotionally. In Japan, my non-Japanese friends and I have experienced indifferent customer service, unnecessary questioning and frosty attitudes from realtors and landlords, even if everything is being conducted in Japanese. There was the agent in Tokyo who, when she saw my name on the form, dropped her polite way of speaking and said: "You know most landlords won't accept foreign tenants, right?" And there was the realtor in Kobe who interrogated us with questions that even he admitted he wouldn't usually ask a potential Japanese tenant. "What are you going to do with the third room? You better not be planning any wild parties."

It's understandable that landlords want to know they have a tenant who can afford the rent and treat the property and neighbourhood with respect. However, being assumed to be the worst is frustrating. New Zealand's landlords are also prone to making assumptions about potential tenants, but unlike Japan you would never see on a rental property advertisement the words "Foreigners accepted" ― which to me seems to have the same tone as "Pets OK."

So I will always be forever grateful to the landlords and realtors in Japan who have treated me like any other renter. Especially my latest landlord. Not only did I get an opportunity to meet and talk to her, but she agreed to rent out a home that has been in her family for generations to two non-Japanese people. The neighbours, whose family also has lived in the same house for several generations, are probably a little apprehensive. But if anything, we're the ones who are the most nervous. Everything we do (or don't do) is probably going to reflect on all other non-Japanese people.

Our new home has a garden. In order for things to grow well, soil mustn't be packed too tight. It needs to be loose enough for air to get to the roots. I think that soil is a bit like people's attitudes towards others who are different. If the soil is too rigid, nothing will grow. As we put down our roots in our new neighbourhood, I hope we can learn from our neighbours and vice versa. The land and the house itself may be unmoving, but as for how we view and treat each other, there's always room to grow.

引越しは成長の機会?

春は引越しの季節。筆者は日本で部屋を借りるとき、不動産仲介業者や家主に外国人だからという理由で冷遇された経験がある。かたくなな態度をとる人たちを見て筆者が思うことは…?

The Japan Times ST: February 23, 2018

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2018年5月25日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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