When looking for an apartment in Japan, there is a constant temptation to save money by cutting as many corners as possible. With relocation and transportation fees all stacking up, it can be annoying to even think about paying the ridiculous 敷金 (security deposit) and 礼金 (“key money”) fees that most apartment owners want.
However, if you’re on a budget, one way for foreigners to save a bit of cash is by renting in “incident apartments,” or 事故物件 (Jiko Bukken) in Japanese.
There are the things that will definitely make you reconsider your options.
Jiko Bukken can often be found in convenient locations, and due to their history, they are sometimes 30 to 40 percent cheaper than other apartments on the market. But before laying down your cash and declaring that you’re not superstitious, it’s worth knowing what you are about to get yourself into.
It’s worth cross-referencing your potential apartment with the Oshimaland website. This website features very matter-of-fact descriptions of the things that caused the “psychological damage” to your potential abode and lets you decide if your sanity can handle living there.
What exactly is an ‘incident?’
Jiko Bukken buildings come with a number of names, all of which display the Japanese ability to understate the severity of the incident. The most common catch-all is Jiko Bukken, which just means something happened on the property. But there are also 心理的瑕疵物件 (Shinritekikashi bukken), literally “psychologically defective property.”
Be careful not to confuse these terms with the similar 法律的瑕疵 (legally defective property). This describes apartments with actually visible flaws such as foundation cracks or that failed a safety inspection. Admittedly, choosing between physical or psychological horror is not a particularly pleasant choice!
Some people may overlook a place’s past and instead focus on the cash they are saving.
事故死 is the most common one. This describes an accidental death. Naturally, there are a lot of things included in this vague description from the mundane to the horrific. A similar term is 車両事故死 (accidental vehicular death). Bizarrely, some of these are on the upper floors of tall buildings. I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination to work out how those accidents occurred.
Similar accidental deaths can include 高所作業中に事故 (accident suffered by someone working in a high place) and typically describes a workman who was killed during rebuilding or cleaning the apartment. Things then get a bit more sinister: 火災による死亡 describes death in a fire and 熱中症 is a heatstroke death.
Words to consider
Another bizarre one is 特別募集住宅. This means that the house was used as a “recruiting” spot for cults or other sinister organizations. While these apartments may initially seem attractive—after all most cults and criminal gangs in Japan are reluctant to recruit foreign people—this vague designation can often hint that your apartment will be a small, safe place in an ocean of surrounding cultist activity.
If accidental deaths and deranged cults don’t make you reconsider, there are the things that will definitely make you pause and reconsider your options—namely, dead bodies.
You might not want to delve too deep into the details.
If you see 死体遺棄 or 死体発見, it means a corpse was found there, while 腐乱死体 means that a rotting cadaver was found. 人骨発見 is the discovery of human remains, usually when the place is being renovated. て自殺 is suicide inside the residence, 飛び降り自殺 is jumping to one’s death and 首吊り自殺 is suicide by hanging
Even worse are the deliberate deaths described with matter-of-fact descriptions. 刺殺 are fatal stabbings, 絞殺 is strangulation and 殴殺 is when some poor, unfortunate soul was beaten and left to die. You might also see 餓死 or starvation. 孤独死 is dying alone from neglect, 住人が室内に.
If you are absolutely willing to search out a jiko bukken to save on rent, you might not want to delve too deep into the details.
Too good to be true?
Feel free to take a moment to google “puppies at play” to get some of that imagery out of your head.
If you are suspicious that the apartment your 不動産 (real estate agent) is showing is too cheap to be believed, ask them if any of these words apply. The building owner probably just wants to fill the building with tenants as quickly as possible, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
There are legal requirements that the people showing you around the property are required to tell you about any incidents that occurred there. However, be forewarned that landlords and moving agents are notorious for exploiting loopholes to try and get around this rule.
Of course, some people may be more than happy to overlook a place’s past and instead focus on the cash they are saving. By going into negotiations with the likely desperate landlord knowing what to expect, you may be able to get a great new pad—as long as you don’t mind the fact that a worst-case scenario has already happened there.