This is my first full winter in my second Japanese apartment and I must say I am a little disappointed. Since moving in, I’ve noticed several things that make me believe that my previous apartment was the better place to live overall: insulation, heating and air-conditioning, circuitry, and repair response times.
When I moved into my new apartment, winter was already well underway. I had a chance to do the walk-through but I didn’t notice any real issues. I went into the apartment with my jacket on so, things seemed to be okay. The things that struck me most, were the things I wanted: more space, and bigger windows. This apartment had just those things. There was a set of three, large window panels in the main living room area, and more living space.
Now that I’ve had a chance to settle in, and live here for a while (nearly a year), I realize that my current apartment has a much harder time retaining heat than my former apartment did…due in large part to the large windows. If I open my curtains the heat rushes out of my apartment like air out of punctured tire. The tatami bedroom also loses heat quite quickly, which is no fun when you’re trying to get to sleep. In addition, when I close the doors to the bathroom or the hallway (the coldest parts of the house), there are much larger than normal spaces at the base of the door. The crack at the base of the door shouldn’t be large enough to see clearly into the adjacent room, but they are. As a result…the living room loses a lot of heat.
If you’re getting a Japanese apartment try to get a clear gauge on how well insulated your rooms are. Check the air-conditioner, shut it on, shut it off…see how fast heat leaves the room. Stand near the windows and see how much of a temperature difference you feel. Check your doors and frames to see if their construction allows heat to escape.
In my previous apartment, about a year-and-a-half in, my air conditioning unit was replaced. I had a super-powered, efficient way to control the temperature of my apartment. This apartment however, has a very weak air conditioner. The unit can blow for hours on the highest setting, and the living room can still have an uncomfortable chill. It’s hard for me to tell whether this problem is because of the unit itself or the apartment’s insulation. In the summer, things were okay, because I could open the gigantic windows to try to let some of the heat escape.
Not being the best do-it-yourself-er, it’s hard for me to gauge how good the circuitry of an apartment is. But I do know that when I shower, have my small bathroom heater, and room heater going at the same time, the circuit breaker shuts off. I have had a couple of occasions where the breaker shuts off while I’m showering, and suddenly the water gets cold. I usually have to nimbly and nakedly have to dash to the kitchen to turn back on the hot water (why there isn’t a heat control switch in my bathroom is a beyond me). I never had that happen in my old apartment. I wish I knew how to tell you to check on this one before moving in, but I’m not sure myself (when I find out, I’ll be sure to tell you)
Sadly, you probably won’t figure this one out until there is some kind of issue. My previous apartment, though not the fastest at responding to a repair request, was far quicker than the service at this apartment. For example I called at least 7 months ago about my door bell, which is still not working, yet no one has come out to fix it 🙁 . By comparison, in my last apartment, when it felt like my A/C wasn’t doing it’s job, they sent out a technician during the next two weeks to check it out. Within about a month, the 1980s air conditioning unit was replaced by one that was more up to date.
Not everything about my new apartment is bad, not at all: it’s a larger space, there is a bigger bathroom, the apartment has an actual bedroom area, and it has REALLY hot water. However, if I had to do it all over again, I might forgo some of the space (since it is just me after all), for a better insulated, cozier place. I may be complaining for no reason, though. Maybe it’s just that winter’s not my favorite season. As I mentioned earlier, this apartment is cooler in the summer than my old apartment was, so it’s a bit of a trade off, I guess.
Anyhow, when you take those apartment tours, be extra critical! You have to dish out a lot of key money to move into a new apartment, is better to come across as a pest and be happy with your Japanese apartment pick, than to enter into a contract and be surprised later.
Happy apartment hunting…