Hello House was the name of two dormitory style residences near Noborito station in Kawasaki, Japan. The two mostly identical buildings were named Hello House West and Hello House East. Most of the residents were non-Japanese English teachers. I lived in Hello House East for just over one year.
Each Hello House building had two dormitory wings and a common kitchen, shower room, and living room. The dormitory wings had two floors with toilet and laundry facilities on each floor. The rooms were 5 tatami mat size with an individual heating / air conditioning unit. All of the rooms came with a futon, under mattress and some sheets. Some of the rooms came with furniture from previous residents. I was lucky enough to have a desk in my room, but many rooms did not have any furniture. Costs for a typical room were 50,000 yen per month (approximately $500 CAD) plus electricity.
The rooms were pretty quiet, except for the few located directly above the living room. You needed to be a heavy sleeper with a quiet sex life in those rooms.
Outside the kitchen was a wall of shelving for food storage. Each room was assigned one area for food storage. Inside the fridge was the same. The kitchen itself was stocked with plates, glasses, pots, pans, and basically everything else you could need to cook. Since most of the residents were working different hours, there were never usually big traffic jams in the kitchen. As with any communal living environment, dirty dishes were a problem. Just because you were mature enough to move around the world and live in another country doesn’t mean that you were mature enough to wash the dishes you used. The most annoying problem with the system was that occasionally food would “go missing”, usually when someone was drunk or broke. Fortunately missing food wasn’t a regular occurrence.
The kitchen was next to the common living room which came with plenty of seating, a TV, and a bookshelf full of abandoned books from previous residents. All residents could borrow books from the bookshelf and leave unwanted books with the shelf. One of the most interesting features of the living room was the dozo table. Dozo is Japanese for “here you go”. The idea was that if there is anything you don’t want or need anymore, you can leave it on the dozo table and it is up for grabs for other residents. This was really helpful for stocking up your room, and great for reducing the amount of junk that you needed to pack when moving out.
The shower room had a big, deep Japanese style bath tub (which nobody used) and a number of private shower stalls. When I lived at Hello House the showers were coin operated and cost 100 yen for 10 minutes. There was a digital display that showed how much time you had left, so you had no excuse for running out of time with a head full of shampoo. With short hair, I was able to wash myself, my hair and shave in 10 minutes. It wasn’t a relaxing shower, but it sure was efficient. If you were lucky, the previous user would have left some time on the clock which would be added to your 10 minutes. Near the end of my stay in Hello House I was gifted with a 18 minute shower for 100 yen. After a year of speed showering I really didn’t know what to do with the extra time and ended up leaving most of it for the next person.
Hello House was a great place to live for someone new to Japan. Since almost everyone was non-Japanese you automatically had something in common with the other residents. If you ever needed advice on where to go shopping, cheap places to eat, where to go for dry cleaning, where to get haircuts, or anything else about daily life in Japan, there would be someone around with some good advice. Like all communal living environments there were always some annoying things, but overall it was a very good experience and I probably ended up enjoying my time in Japan more because I started out in Hello House.