Monday, July 30, 2012

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Company dormitories and last minute packing

Sorry that it's been a while since I last posted an update!

I've been extremely busy having final parties with all of my friends as I'll be leaving tomorrow morning! I haven't even finished packing but I have one last飲み会 (nomikai or drinking party) tonight from around 6pm.

Just recently I received an email from one of the section chiefs from the company at which I'll be interning for the next two months. Originally he told me that the apartment would be naked in the sense that there would be no crockery or cutlery, but with this latest email he reassured me that most stuff would be there.


Attached to the email were seven photos from inside the apartment. It is a very spacious apartment and you will see those photos in a moment! Although it looks just like an apartment, it's being called a 社員寮 (shainryou) which means company dormitory. While it might come as a bit of a surprise, many employees of medium to large sized companies often stay in these dormitories as there are some key benefits.

The biggest benefit is usually that the rent is very cheap and some are even offered discounts on utility bills. One of my friends pays just 20,000 yen a month but he would have to pay at least 60,000 to live by himself in the same area. As the company usually owns the whole building, everybody in the building is an employee. It's like imagining a company taking over an apartment block and then subletting it to its employees. It is supposed to harbour camaraderie and coworkers can be safe knowing that they are going home to same place after a long day at work and a long night at an 居酒屋 (izakaya or Japanese style pub). As the company is not going to be paying me any salary whatsoever, they will allow me to stay in the apartment/dorm free of charge. Although I've not confirmed it, I doubt that they will make me pay for the utility bills either.

There are a few (draconian) drawbacks to living in such a place (at least as far as I've heard). These company dormitories are usually male only. While it is not immediately clear why, girlfriends and even female friends are not allowed in. I'm sure this makes it that much more difficult for men to find or maintain girlfriends, but at the same time I'm sure they find ways around it. Perhaps this is maintain loyalty to the company and get rid of any distractions, but guys need time to wind down right?

Another issue that might come up is that of company supervisors living in the same apartment blocks. I've heard from friends that these supervisors keep tabs on all of the employees living in the dorm, and report them to human resources when ever they step out of line. This can be something as petty as using the air conditioner too much during the summer when energy needs to be conserved. While I don't think that my company will deal with in such a harsh manner, I'd better keep my wits about me and make sure that I don't accidentally break any rules.

My host father actually told me that he had been living in a Mitsubishi company dormitory for about 8 years before finally moving in with my host mother. I suppose one of the reasons these dorms are attractive is that most young employees start off on salaries that do not allow them to live in a nice place by themselves. Having said that, my friend who works at a bank tells me that his salary more than covers the cost of an average apartment. When I asked him why he hadn't already moved out, he said that he is often working from 8am until 9pm every day, so the brief time that he spends at his home is just to sleep, so it doesn't really make much of a difference where he stays. While I can't say I would agree with that, I haven't yet experienced the long hours of working in a Japanese company so I don't yet have a fully formed opinion on the matter.

I didn't ask the company representative about the rules of the "dorm" at which I'll be staying, as there have been much more pressing issues to deal with (e.g. visa changes, alien registration changes, meeting arrangements and packing). One thing that left me a bit disheartened is the fact that there is no television, no telephone line and no Internet. There is actually an old television in one of the photos, but I'm going to make an educated guess that it either doesn't work or does not have an aerial. If they do actually let me finish work at the agreed time of 17:20, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all of that free time. Read a book? FAT CHANCE.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the photos from my apartment!

Let me know what you think!

I've been living with a Japanese family for almost a year now, so this is going to be a very different experience..

I'll endeavour to update more often as soon as I get access to the internet!

Thanks for reading and bye for now !


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