They advertise it like this.
Recently we've been looking at the ubiquitous pay-by-the-month Leopalace apartments of Japan. ALTs are often placed in these buildings, because their managing company (that is, the apartments' managing company) plays down a few rules of traditional Japanese real estate, including nixing the need for a guarantor and being friendly, or at least open, towards foreign tenants.

Today we'll take a look at the furnishings and bathroom setup of your standard, run-of-the-mill 1K Leopalace.

But it'll probably look like this.
The furniture and appliances in a Leopalace are cheap. Think entry-level Ikea. Everything in my room had a nice wood-grain finish over it, but an accident several months down the line revealed that behind a lot of that pretty finish is about two slabs of plywood separated by a half-inch of air. When I had to buy my own appliances later, I recognized the models from my time at Leopalace: They are the cheapest models sold by the big-name manufacturers. Expect to be stuck with the entry-level bachelor pad 20,000 yen refrigerator from Mitsubishi, a 14-inch (but flatscreen!) television, and the one-wash-setting 20,000 yen laundry machine from Panasonic. If anything breaks down though, Leopalace is obligated to send someone out to fix and/or replace them for you.

The floors, for me, were hardwood. It was nice, but I've always preferred carpet, and I found out really quickly that dropping anything hard on wooden floors marks them all up. So, I measured my floorspace, then went to my local department store to buy a rug large enough to fill the entire bedroom. For me: Perfect!

The table I had was a hinged thing attached to one of the walls in the bedroom. You could use the hinge to collapse it against the wall, which might be nice if you purchase your own table to use in there. Otherwise, the table will probably stay extended at all times. It's big enough to have a light dinner with a visitor, and the 1K apartments come with two chairs. That table represents about half of the precious flat, waist-high surface area in your apartment, and it was a bit of a chore to always have to rotate that space between a computer, pen and paper, books, and dishes, relegating the other concurrently-unused items to the floor, bed, or sink. Buying another small folding table or a wire shelf on rolling wheels will give you extra space to keep your stuff on.

I heard one website describe making coffee in the Leopalace kitchen on a difficulty level akin to skirmishes in the Middle East... or something like that. Mine was small, but I got over it. I bought some wire racks to place above the stove, giving me some much-needed shelf space. That's really the main problem with the kitchen--the entire counterspace is consumed by the sink and stovetop, so you don't have anywhere to put things down like ingredients, a cutting board, or the bowl you want to put your now-cooked food into. Finding some creative solutions, like shelves that support themselves with spring loaded legs pushing against the walls of your little kitchen-alcove, will greatly ease your life in a Leopalace kitchen. By the end of my stay, I thought I was almost going to miss it. (But... I don't. Nothing beats having proper counter space.)

Leopalace offers apartments that have a separate bathroom and toilet. However, I don't think this is always the case. If that matters to you, you'll want to check that point thoroughly. I do have the experience of living in another apartment where the bath and toilet come packed together, so I can tell you what that's like: It's a setup called "unit bath" in Japan, often also found in hotels, and it's usually a slightly elevated, box-like room in which you have a bathtub just large enough for someone to stand in and take one step forwards or backwards (or sit in by hugging your arms around knees bent up to your chin) on the right-hand side, and a simple Western-style toilet on the left-hand side. In between them is a sink. A lever on the sink allows you to route running water through the faucet (which is also used to fill the bathtub) and a shower with a flexible rubber hose. If I remembered to close the lid of the toilet before showering, I found it to be a livable arrangement. (If you don't close the lid, the toilet seat is freckled with water droplets.) I like to dry myself off, particularly my feet, inside the shower room so that I don't get wet footprints in the rest of the apartment or leave the shower rug drenched (and eventually moldy). The true "unit bath" setup sucks for this, because there's not a lot of space to stand and towel yourself off between the bathtub and the toilet.

In Leopalace apartments that don't have the toilet and bathtub together, the bath is usually in a partial "unit bath" arrangement. That is to say, your bathtub and shower are still inside the same kind of elevated, hermetically sealed box-room, there's just no toilet on the right-hand side taking up space. This leaves half of the room empty and available for you to buy a Japanese-style bath seat and an oke to pour water on yourself.

By the way, the floors inside these rooms (even the ones with a toilet attached) are plastic and have drains, so you can take a shower standing inside or outside of the bathtub, although in the toilet-included variety it's much easier to stand in it.

Whew! That was a fair amount to move through. In the comments below, let us know of your own experiences in Leopalaces and any questions you have about living in one. Check out next week's article for details on Leopalace's included Internet connection service.

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