People with common interests and goals find low rent and other benefits in living together

‘Share houses’ growing on purpose

by Koichi Tsujimura

Kyodo

While the use of “share houses,” where people with no connections with each other live together, are on the rise in Japan, dwellings occupied by people with a common purpose are also drawing attention.

In a quiet neighborhood in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, nine computer programmers and university students live together in a “concept share house” to learn programming from each other.

“We are not just good friends; we realize that we can absorb various things from each other because we have the same purpose,” said Kohei Sugi, 25.

This is the third share house Sugi has been a part of.

The nine got acquainted through colish, a website that lists various kinds of shared housing focused on anything from art and music to business and agriculture.

They moved into the Setagaya Ward house about a year ago. They meet up once or twice a week to exchange information, projecting their findings on a wall.

“I’ve learned lots of things and experienced the fun of programming,” said a 22-year-old student who lives there. He received a job offer from an information technology company after moving in.

Via the colish website, seven foreigners and two Japanese came to live collectively in a house in Chiyoda Ward to learn languages from each other. The use of English is banned once a week, as is the use of Japanese.

American Brendan Harvey, 21, a third-year student at Waseda University, moved in after finding a homestay with a woman in her 70s and her 40-something daughter less than perfect.

“I thanked them but wanted to talk to people of my generation,” Harvey said. “I now spend five times more time on conversations.”

The trick is achieving compatibility.

“Concepts come first and the pursuit of houses comes after,” said Colish director Kentaro Ohara, 30. “Life there is enjoyable because people with the same sense of values get together.”

A total of 18,649 such houses were registered on the Hituji Real Estate website, which specializes in share houses, as of March, up from 9,354 in March 2010.

Daisuke Kitagawa, 32, president of the company that runs the website, said demand is growing because of a rise in single people.

The average age of people who inquired about share houses last year was 28.9, with 77.8 percent of them women, the website’s operator said.

Another benefit is that people can live in higher-quality homes for relatively low rent by sharing. Demand will keep growing if builders continue to provide high-quality houses for people “who are discontent with studio apartments but have no plans to buy homes,” he said.