Sunday, April 18, 2010

Buying a House in Japan Part 1 - House or "mansion"?

So, now finally I'm getting around to start this new hit educational series on house buying in Japan. In case you have any specific questions that you would like me to dig into on this subject, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail on it and I will see what I can do.

As me and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman had tied the not and considered moving out from the relatively small rental apartment in Ikebukuro we were staying at before. When considering our options, we decided that we did not want to rent anymore but invest in buying.

The first question that came up was what to target; a free standing house or a "mansion"? In Japan, what goes as a "mansion" is what is commonly known outside of Japan as an "apartment" and can be just one room and is nothing fancy. The origins as to why the Japanese borrowed that word into the language and decided to apply it, not to a spacious house with a ballroom and tons of bedrooms, but to a regular apartment is lost to me (does anyone happen to know?). There are also "apartments" in Japan and the general difference between a "mansion" and "apartment" in Japan is that the latter usually are older, have thinner walls and is generally quite crappy by Western standards.

There are conveniences you get with a mansion that you don't get with your own house, quite a few places offer dry cleaning services, have rental rooms for visiting family, better security and if something breaks down having it fixed is usually taken care of by the janitor. But we decided that we wanted to have the privacy and freedom of having our completely own place including the plot of land. So that's the direction we headed off to when we started looking for a house!

Coming up next: The search - where to buy and where to not buy...


aimlesswanderer said...

An interesting place, Japan, I also wonder when this strange definition was adopted.

To me, it sounds like "mansions" are like more expensive apartment complexes where you pay for the convenience, security and maintenance, and have less to worry about.

A strange concept that "mansions" have rooms for visitors to rent - before you think about how tiny the places are.

"Apartments" are places where you have to do everything yourself and are thus cheaper.

ThePenguin said...

On the etymology of "mansion" as a moniker for apartments: once again blame the English.

Kevin said...

It was always explained to me that:
Mansion = reinforced concrete, newer buildings
Apartment = wooden structure.

Mr. Salaryman said...

I think Penguin basically solved the mystery here!
So the origin must come from these huge real mansions which housed flats, and then the Japanese adopted the term for nicer and better built apartment buildings compared to the cheaper "apartments" with the wooden structure.

I'm impressed, so now Penguin have taught me the origin of both "mansions" and the Japanese financial year structure while I taught him why Piipo-kun has the name he has; I'd say I'm still ahead!

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