What are student dormitories like in Tokyo, Japan?

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Here at 'Go studying Abroad' we look at hints and tips for international students who wish to study Abroad in Japan - Today's topic is 'Camps Accommodation in Japan'- What you need to know and things you must look out for'.

Student accommodation in Japan : There are numerous positives and negatives.

However, being an international student in Japan, you will slowly come to realise, that student dormitories may be a lot more stricter that you may have bargained for, nevertheless studying abroad in Japan and living in student dormitories is not so bad, if you do your research before you set off on your year abroad in Japan.

Before dwelling on the rules..

I will begin with the positives and benefits of dormitory life:

  1. Looking back, the key benefit of the dormitories are that they allow you to meet other fellow exchange students who may be in the same situation as you are. 

For example, If you are new to the country and wish to find people who want to actively visit the 'touristy’ areas (which many locals do not want to do), then living in the dormitory will easily allow you to meet other fellow ’newbys’ exchange students and you can all explore together! 

2. From my personal experience, by living in student accommodation and off campus, meeting and forming more meaningful relationships with other people is a lot more easier if you have many common similarities and interest, even if the common interest is visiting tourist spots, attending the same classes or living under the same roof. I am not saying that finding like minded individuals off campus is impossible, however it is slightly more difficult, even with the growth of technology and expansive number of apps (such as ‘meet-up’ ‘couch-surf’ and others) it is slightly more difficult to create such meaningful friendships. (See my other blog for more details on living off-campus)

3. Another key benefit, is that student accommodation is usually more affordable - For example, my dormitory fee per month in Tokyo was ¥36,000 ($335) per month. Which is very cheap compared to private accommodation or shared living spaces within the city, as they can cost from ¥40,000 +. Whereby the room will usually be very small, you may share a bathroom with various other people and in some instances you working space will me minimal, for example my friend lived in Yotsuya and she was paying ¥60,000 and the vicinity was very small, and it was on the 8th floor (PS. the building was not wheelchair accessible either) 

  • NOTE - Student accommodation within a building tends to be on the highest floor, (usually the 12th floor +) as usually, students would rather pay less compared to citizens with full time jobs (obviously). 

  • Think about it:  No one really wants to climb 12 flights of stairs if the can get the same room on the 2nd floor which would be the same price. Therefore, to make the rooms attractive to sell, the higher up the room the cheaper the rent.

Problems with Student Dormitories: 

  1. The strict rules - If you are coming from a western country, eg countries in Europe, US and others, coming to Japan and living under dormitory rules may seem like you are living as though you are back in primary school. (P.S If you wish to find out about living in student accommodation in Hong Kong click the link). However, compared to other Asian countries, Japanese University accommodation is most notably the strictest. For example, men and women have different wings, therefore if a male enters the female wing, or vice versa, it can be an ultimate loss of residence (they have cameras everywhere, so do not try). Personally, I never tried to enter the male wing, but I know a girl who did, however it was on the last day of living in the dorm so it would not have mattered either way as she was leaving. But, for most students, the thought of losing you room and being kicked out (especially being international), was enough to deter pretty much all students from breaking the rules. Therefore, if you think that you can do it, you will instantly assess the risk involved, and conclude that it is really not worth it. Also, on a liberal note drawing a fine line between the genders, completely disregards the individuals who are a little uncertain as to what their gender is, which i don't know about you, but i think this is a modestly traditional and outdated, especially considering Japan is a western and progressive democracy.

  2. The rules surround guests - This rule, i thought was more harsh - as firstly guests have to sign in and have to wear a badge (to illustrate they are a guest). Secondly the guests are only permitted in certain zones at certain times. For example the common room or the dining room was allowed and only between 9am-11pm. Lastly guests are not allowed into bedrooms, even if the guests of the same gender. Such rules I found to be the strictest compared to other dormitory rules, for example when i stayed in Hong Kong, the policy of the dormitor allowed guests, and they the guests were allowed in the bedroom. However, in Japan it appeared more regulated, therefore many students within the dorm usually had relationships with students from the dorm, as the stress of signing in and signing out of external guests , as well as the times external guests can enter, made it very difficult to see them, (unless you stayed at their place and they were not in a dorm). Most of my friends had boyfriends or girlfriends within the house, but over time they found the rules that regulated the dorm harsh.

  3. Some dorms have curfews - Fortunately for my student dormitory, we had no curfew. However, most (60%) of dorms have curfews for students. Again, it it like living in primary school. For example, if the curfew was 11pm, if you were not in the house before then. They will lock the door and you would have to sleep outside or in a friends place for the evening (assuming you made friends outside the dorm). One of my classmates lived in such dorm, and because my dorm was tightly regulated, she could not even stay with me for the evening as I was not allowed guests even though there was no curfew. Therefore I could not even help a friend in need, which sucked, and I had no idea where she stayed. I think the rule is really harsh, especially if you are a girl left in the streets and not allowed inside for bureaucratic reasons. I am glad that rule did not apply for us but please read the rules carefully as I would not wish for such event to happen to anyone, especially women . 

Overall, if you read the terms and conditions of your residency you will be able to assess which dorm is best for you. I.e if having a curfew is not for you, then searching elsewhere, however 99% of dorms have a no gender mixing rule, so finding a place where you can have a friend of the opposite gender in your room will be tough. However, that being said, overall I believe that dorm living has greater advantages over disadvantages. Just remember to read the terms before signing is my tip.

If you guys have anymore tips, leave them in the comments, they will be a great insight!

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