My second home in Japan was an apartment building called “Ooka City Plaza” in Numazu. Coming from the dormitory style gaijin house known as Hello House East, it was a big change. I will write more about the details of Ooka City Plaza in a future post.
Getting an apartment in Japan can be difficult if you are not Japanese. There are lots of up front fees, language barriers with contracts, and many reports of real estate agents not wanting to rent to foreigners. In order to keep the flow of conversational English teachers coming to the country, NOVA rented apartments all over the country for the use of their employees. NOVA would then place employees in their apartments, and deduct rent from the monthly salary payment. The rental charge was higher than what you would pay for your own apartment, but still reasonable considering the apartment was ready to live in.
Living in a NOVA apartment was a convenient option for new teachers. The apartments were fully furnished and stocked with kitchen supplies. All new residents got their own futon and pad, and a very useful guide for living in a Japanese apartment. The guide was written in English with illustrations, and covered everything from regular maintenance to garbage disposal rules to getting along with your neighbours.
Most of the apartments had 3 bedrooms and and one bathroom. NOVA made money if the apartment was filled to capacity, so they always tried their best to keep all of the rooms full. The apartments themselves were small by most foreign standards, but decent enough for Japan.
Other than finances and convenience, the other main advantage of NOVA apartments was that you would be living with other English teachers. This provided a built in support network of people who knew the area, and also understood the challenges of living far away from home. NOVA would often rent several apartments in the same building, creating small communities of teachers in an area. As long as everyone was getting along it was a good way to counter the effects of homesickness.
I have a lot of good memories from my time in my NOVA apartment. Other than some disagreements with roommates (which could happen anywhere), it was a good place to live while I was teaching in Japan.