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Micromanage my Life - Japan

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If an English-speaker wanted to rent an apartment in Tokyo for about one month is Airbnb the right place to be looking ? or are there better sites with better apartments that are more focused on Tokyo ?



And since I have ABSOLUTELY ZERO knowledge of Tokyo, where would be the recommended neighborhoods to be looking ? That is, what would be the closest Tokyo equivalents to a well-located downtown NYC place where ideally you can walk to a bunch of good casual and finer dining places / coffee shops / food provisions places and have very good access to subways to get you wherever. In my mind, Greenwich Village, East Village, NoHo, a less-touristy SoHo all could qualify, whereas LES is totally cool to go out to eat but can be slightly grungier than where I might want to live on a daily basis.



And if upon arrival I were thinking that I would start in a hotel for a handful of days, what Tokyo hotels might be worth considering ?



My mindset is as follows … I don’t speak Japanese and don’t know Tokyo at all, hence it might be a good idea to leverage off a hotel’s concierge services as I get my grounding in the city upon arrival. And since I presumably have to go to Kyoto and Osaka for a bunch of days, it probably makes sense to organize things as follows – 1) Stay in Tokyo hotel for 5-ish days. 2) Travel to Kyoto and Osaka for 5 or 6 or ? days. 3) Return to Tokyo for a month in my well-located apartment. Do we agree with my mindset ?


If I were to do this (mainly based upon finding an apartment that I like enough), the trip would start mid-September-ish


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I would highly suggest staying in a hotel for the first part of your trip. Almost all of the top restaurants will not take reservations from individuals. So the concierge is very important. Some of those restaurants list a couple of seats now and again on online reservation sites. On the off chance you are traveling solo, just an fyi, many of those restaurants on the reservation sites will not book for solo diners. And you should start your relationship with the concierge staff asap so they can begin booking your dining reservations. The top spots are notoriously hard to get into. Partly because they are small (some only 7 or so seats). And partly because their regular customers book months in advance. Most are fully committed the day their books open for a particular evening. It seems like most book 30-60 days out for the general public. 



The Palace

Mandarin Oriental 



Ori will be your best source for everything Tokyo (and other cities). He and Sivan have been invaluable with their guidance on my many visits to Tokyo. (Thank you again, Ori and Sivan  :) ).


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There are many serviced monthly mansions (a mansion in japanese means a not terrible apartment, vs an apa-to which means a terrible one. A serviced mansion means there's a cleaning service and very limited front desk services).


This one is pretty good with a somewhat less than ideal location (but not terrible by any means): 




Oakwood has several locations around town. They are good but not cheap.


There are bad ones out there so ask me before you book.


Note that officially they all have a one month minimum because of local laws, but many have a contract with a pre-broken lease for shorter stays.


AIrbnb / vrbo are pretty limited these days because it's hard to do legally and the fines are high. You'd need to find just the right place because many listings cater to groups of 8 chinese tourists who want to share a single room to minimize the overhead on their shopping spree.


With no Japanese you should certainly use a concierge (as well as booking sites like pocket-concierge that charge a fee, and ones that don't) 

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whereas LES is totally cool to go out to eat but can be slightly grungier than where I might want to live on a daily basis.


I resent this remark.


Oakwood has several locations around town. They are good but not cheap.


Is Oakwood the same "corporate apartment" service I remember from them opening one of their first places on Saratoga Ave., in San Jose, like 35 years ago?

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Probably. They've been buying small operators for the past couple of decades and more recently have set up their own suite hotels. 


As for neighborhoods - fancy hotels are largely going to be around Tokyo station, which will also be very convenient to fancy restaurants in Ginza and elsewhere, and to east side attractions (Asakusa, Ueno Park, Museums, Tokyo Tower, Imperial Palace, various shitamachi) but it'll be like staying in some mega version of midtown. Roppongi has largely been cleaned up (meaning you have to go into back alleys if you're looking for trouble, and you have to consciously make bad decisions to find it) but it's not very accessible... I'd consider it if the accommodations are great.


In a way, if you can stay around Omotesando after your hotel it could be ideal as it's a nice neighborhood with good metro access and also near hipster attractions (good coffee, natural wine bars, etc.). Even near Fuglen (where I know there are relatively many airbnbs) is not a bad idea - only one metro line really local to you, but a < 15 minute walk to Shibuya is not too bad. I think my bottom priority would be the hotels in west Shinjuku, Lost in Translation or not. 


I'll ask which hotel has a decent concierge service these days.

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Thank you very much … this is very helpful … much appreciated !



I'll surely have many, more questions ... but first I need to tune into Tokyo and get a roof over my head


And for you ambitious folks out there, please do find me my apartment !


Wow, impressive .. Orik takes up the challenge and takes a commanding lead ... folks, don't let Orik race away to victory all by himself ... get into the game !


Actually tripadvisor seems to have some nice listings, not sure what's the source. 


Probably an overkill but would be sort of ideal:




Essential Feedback

I don’t require 3 bedrooms (one good one is plenty), nor do I require a 100 inch HD projector (an 80 inch will do if the furniture in the apartment were upgraded a bit all around) but a nice, large roof deck never hurts and the price seems reasonable enough for the size of the place and bedroom count ... compared to the crapola I saw on Airbnb. In fact, a bit too reasonable, considering how expensive good hotels seem to be. So is that because 1) The place has ZERO reviews and is therefore a fake front for swindling sweet little Chambo ... or 2) The place has 1 bathroom for it’s 6-8 guests so only 2 people get hot showers in the morning ... or 3) It’s distributed over 3 floors and the 1 bathroom is not on the same floor as the good bedrooms, which clearly is not ideal.


All that said, beggars can’t be choosers and time is of the essence and this is my best option at this point in time … hmmm … hmmm … what to do ... what to do ...


Let me note that I am very busy right now ... and I'm totally serious so listen up ...


I have decided to crowdsource my mansion search !


And I’m willing to compensate lavishly, in one form or another, for whoever finds me my ideal pad !


Compensation works as follows ...


If it’s a place with MORE than 1 bedroom, I’ll offer you FREE accommodations in the unused bedroom(s) ! Yes, FREE !


If it’s a place with just 1 bedroom, I'm so sorry to say this but you will NOT be sleeping with sweet little Chambo dans sa chambre but I’ll handsomely reward you nonetheless. Let’s just put it this way … for all those out there who are currently driving an Uber or a Lift (not riding in an Uber, but driving an Uber) and are reading this right now, I highly advise you kick your client out, pull over to the side of the road and find Chambo his Super Shack somewhere in the greater Shibuya surroundings … and be prepared for your hourly wages to rise by at least ONE HUNDRED PERCENT for doing so …


Gentlemen and gentle ladies, start your (search) engines ! Micromanage my LIfe ! and get paid handsomely for doing it !

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It is amazing but there are 8 bedroom houses in Japan that only have one bathroom, because a Japanese bathroom is huge and complicated (must have dry room + wet room and wet room must have shower area and a talking bath). 


I don't know if that listing is genuine but there are more. Even on airbnb there are good ones at a good price. e.g. this one where we stayed for a couple of weeks between apartments:




Annoying 15 minute walk to every metro line but a nice place otherwise.

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Wow, we are making serious progress … this one is pretty interesting … this is getting in the ballpark !



Could this be home base for sweet little Chambo ! ???



Essential Feedback

Nice open layout. Good light, plenty of windows. The flow between the open kitchen and dining area receives a Chambo 2 thumps up. Quality of the furniture is now solidly moving in the right direction vs the prior. Size of 47m2 is perfectly fine. No 100 inch projector, but I’ll survive.



I don’t see any closet or drawer space though … so where do all my clothes / shoes / luggage go … hmmm.



And 15 minutes to and fro the subway every day, that IS a serious drawback.


How’s the dockless bicycle / electric scooter rental situation in Tokyo nowadays ? Is there a major invasion going on as there is in Paris right now? (Hard to imagine that Paris is going to put up with this dump-the-bike-anywhere infestation as time goes on) That could mitigate my long to/fro subway issue quite a bit … or could I rent a bike (or better yet buy a cheap used one) for home-to-subway transport and lock it up on each end ? Is that remotely realistic ? or am I totally dreaming ?


How is this neighborhood once I have arrived home ? ie are there a handful of pretty good casual places (or better) to eat within a ten minute walk ? or a decent coffee shop in the hood ? or can I provision some decent food items nearby to make a simple something chez Chambo ? Wouldn’t want to have to hike back to the metro every single time … ugggh



Hmmm … no availability until Oct 2 (not ideal but could be manageable) and then there’s a one month minimum rental, which is again less than ideal because I think I would probably going to Seoul in the low October 20s … that said, the price of this place is so reasonable that I could just eat the final week that I wouldn’t use … although I presume she’d negotiate a bit with sweet little Chambo



This one is under active consideration since the other Airbnb options that I have perused so far continue to be truly hellacious.



Come on, folks, get in the game ! Can’t you see that we are getting close … one more step up could be the undisputed winner … don’t let Orik run away with all the prize money !



It is amazing but there are 8 bedroom houses in Japan that only have one bathroom, because a Japanese bathroom is huge and complicated (must have dry room + wet room and wet room must have shower area and a talking bath). 


Not only that, but I love the 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartments that are being proactively marketed as working well for 7 lucky people !


And the listing even includes a very helpful pictogram to aid you in visualizing the serene sleeping setup for seven.


Check out photo 5 for this great place that I just saw …





I also admired the savvy marketing in photo 9 where the guy is showing off yet another apartment amenity - the generous toilet paper supply ! Can you hear him saying “And we have rolls and rolls of toilet paper ready immediately upon arrival ! What more could you want !” I’m surprised they don’t try to jam an 8th person into that "rest room” … I mean with all that soft toilet paper surrounding you in there, it could actually be the most comfy sleeping spot !

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Mo people, mo Prada. (but let's not speak ill of the Chinese - in a traditional Japanese household, everyone sleeps in the same room, on futons, on the floor, and everyone uses the same bath water, sometimes for a many days (after meticulously showering of course))


I was in Tel-Aviv recently and I can't begin to tell you how great it was to be able to just take myself where I want to go - especially when I was meeting my mom in her greenmarket stand in suburbia and it turned out to be pride parade with street closures and no taxis - hop on scooter (oddly called a Korkinet in Hebrew, a funny misconception of Trotinnete) and dump it on arrival, no fuss, $3.


But unless something very very recently changed, this isn't happening in Tokyo, where you can get heavily fined for riding an unregistered electric bike, so walking is walking. (Maybe there are some bike rental shops, I haven't looked)


Explore further with flexible dates, check if the minimum is really a minimum, and ask the managed mansion companies if they have special deals because often they'll offer you things like a high floor 70m2 place for the advertised price of a studio. 


I don’t see any closet or drawer space though … 


I don't remember, I assume there was a closet. 


And 15 minutes to and fro the subway every day, that IS a serious drawback.


Well, only 12 minutes to Omotesando Station apparently, but it might feel like more if it's raining or hot or both. Still there are places closer to the metro for sure.


How is this neighborhood once I have arrived home ?


So this is where Tokyo is a bit different. Loosely there are four types of districts:


Entertainment - these are regulated by the Yakuza and usually have a huge number of sex and gambling venues, bars, and casual restaurants (but make no mistake, some of the city's best restaurants are in such districts). Kabukicho is the most well known, but there's one in Shibuya (Dogenzaka), in Akasaka, a really gnarly one and an even gnarlier one in Taito, Roppongi, and a one that's superimposed over Ginza


Commercial - these are usually on the 2-3 blocks in from major avenues, often expanding away from Subway stations. If you look at this map section they're pretty easy to see. These will have many restaurants, and some bars, but most of the activity will end by midnight (there are always, always, a couple of places open until the first morning train). 


Office - dead at night and weekends but often bordering an entertainment district


Residential - once you move a couple of blocks away from main avenues there are very few businesses and lower buildings (often you'll suddenly run into a bunch of single family homes right behind commercial craziness) 


And everything is a patchwork of these. Not just in central Tokyo - you can keep going west or south for a very long time until you reach what you'd think of as a suburb with shopping malls and such. 


So if you look at that map again, you are within 10-15 minute walk of many, many places with the general spirit that it's a fairly upscale area so those places will tend to be better when they're high end. If you'd look at Ueno the overall picture will look the same but places will be better when they're casual. 


Hipster stuff tends to be on the west side, going all the way out to Kichijoji, but as with any other statement there are exceptions. 

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Arigatou gozaimashita, Orik-san


(And yes, I spent the weekend taking intensive Japanese online … I think I’m pretty much fluent now … well, almost)



Between you and me, Orik, I really thought this crowdsourcing thing was going to be a phenomenal success. Guess not .. or at least not yet



I’m starting to panic un petit peu because I’m seriously running out of time … so let’s focus on …



This Familiar Place …







1.Do you recall its exact location, par chance ?



2.Would you actually recommend my staying here ? Assuming I’m good with the long walk to the subway, any other hidden gotchas come to mind ? Because if I am interpreting you right, on the evenings when I’m not subway-ing my way to a serious gastro then I will have plenty of very good choices in walking distance of chez Chambo.



3. Is the lack of a License Number in this Airbnb listing a potential MAJOR problem ? Orik, since you’re an Airbnb expert, I’m curious what you think about the following … I find it interesting that there were a whole bunch of reviews throughout 2018 and then there have been NO reviews in 2019. Further, she says the apartment will be available starting at the beginning of October hence I’m scratching my head and wondering if the reason it’s not available until then is actually because she is waiting on getting her license number or something (and not because the apartment is rented out). And if you notice, where the license number should be in the listing, there is the following slightly unusual comment :


Other reasons | Hello Thank you for your interest at the lovely Gena`s Minami Aoyma apartment. I am the owner of the apartment and will welcome your monthly and longer stay in Tokyo. Thank you Nika



It’s slightly strange that the “owner” Nika is interjected here when the reviews all refer to Gena and how wonderful Gena is … and in Gena’s profile, she says she bought the place.



Is she allowed to rent without a license number ? Would there be some zoning / licensing / legal reason that she (says she) is only renting for at least a full month … or maybe is she allowed to rent without a license number (or with a different/easier-to-get license) if she rents it for at least a month ? You previously rented this place for less than a month, right ?



What do you think is going on ??? What do you think the story is ???



Net net – Yes I’m overthinking it but I’m seriously trying to avoid the catastrophic situation of receiving the following email 2 days prior to my start date “Dear Mr. Chambo, I am very sorry to inform you that our license number was not received in time and hence we cannot rent this apartment to you. Next time maybe or maybe next month !”

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1. Exactly in the center of this map


2. I think it's perfectly nice and I highlighted the only somewhat annoying aspect of distance to the subway. I don't recall any other gotcha.


3. If you offer a place for stays longer than a month and you're the owner you don't need a license (well, you might need permission from your building association, but I don't think this building has one) as you'd just be renting to a regular tenant. This is why, as I mentioned, many of the serviced mansions will only offer monthly leases that can be broken at a very small cost. I met the owner and there's no monkey business here, just some weird phrasing due to neither English nor Japanese being her first language. We did rent the place for less than a month but this was before the crackdown. 


If you're considering a monthly rental there are other places in a different category (not marketed as vacation rentals but as monthly furnished apartments, invariably in Japanese only) - let me know and I'll see what's available. 

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Is Nika indeed the true owner ?


Not that it really matters but … it seems like Gena was managing the place (on behalf of Nika) and making believe she was the owner (based on her profile) until the crackdown and the laws / regulations changed. Then the true owner, Nika, steps in to clearly establish that the true owner is directly involved (because maybe nosy neighbors were asking questions / complaining or whatever) and hence is allowed to do monthly rentals without a license.



Still has/had me wondering why there are no reviews in 2019 and why it’s not available until October.



The answer could very well be that it’s been rented longterm and the lease ends at the end of September.



Why does any of this matter, you might be saying. Because Chambo likes to avoid any and all problems … or at least see them coming in advance.



Guess what happens if Chambo signs up for a confirmed reservation starting October 2 for a month (or 3 weeks) and then the long term tenant decides at the last minute that he wants / needs to stay another month or two or three. Guess who is likely to get hosed ? Sweet little homeless Chambo !



AFAIU she can cancel for whatever reason and I’m homeless :-(



May not be good for her listing because it shows that she cancelled with minimal advance warning (and I avoid such places LIKE THE PLAGUE) but she can do it.



I’m not just imagining this stuff.



My sister was just in France, bouncing around from place to Airbnb place, like a soccer ball, following the US women’s team. Just prior to the semi-finals in Lyon, she was in Paris for a few days. Her confirmed Airbnb cancelled just prior and she had to totally scramble to find a new place for her, her hubbie and her twin girls. That was fun ! Worked out semi-okay but the place was semi-under construction blah blah blah



Okay let’s carry on …



I think I will follow up with this Airbnb to see what the situation is and to see if she will consider renting for a bit less than a month.


This place is presumably rentable from Oct 2 to Nov 1 (30 days * $158) for $4727 + cleaning + fees = $5466.


If you're considering a monthly rental there are other places in a different category (not marketed as vacation rentals but as monthly furnished apartments, invariably in Japanese only) - let me know and I'll see what's available. 


If you are ready, willing and able that would be super appreciated.


Tokyo dates would ideally include Oct 1 to Oct 23/24. After Tokyo, I’m going to Seoul and I’ll know my Seoul start date later this week, I hope.


If the rental needs to be a full month then my best guess is …

   Sept 24 to Oct 24, for example … and maybe I actually start a couple days after Sept 24 or

   Oct 1 to Nov 1, for example … and maybe I leave on Oct 23/24 and then you can go use the place


If I can break the lease early and effectively pay a pro-rata then I’d most likely be renting for Oct 1 to Oct 23/24 and maybe starting a few days prior to Oct 1.


That’s the idea.


Ideally a place with a bit of character and not some soulless cookie-cutter corporate condo but I simply don’t know what’s out there. Views don’t hurt !


For a place that is clearly better than the above Airbnb place, I’m ready, willing and able to pay more … if it is a fair and appropriate premium. Obviously zero desire to pay more for no good reason but I’d pay more for a kick ass place.


That said, my instincts tell me that the above Airbnb place is very very good value.


Less rent, mo Geisha … oops, strike that please, admin help ! my backspace key isn’t working, twas a typo … Less rent, mo Sushi !

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