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Jiko Bukken: Reasonable Rent and Apartment ‘Incidents’

One of the cheapest ways to rent new digs in Japan is to look for "incident" apartments, but what exactly is an "incident"?

By 4 min read

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 敷金しききん (security deposit) and 礼金れいきん (“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 事故物件じこぶっけん (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?’

“We swear it’s completely safe…now.”

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 心理的瑕疵物件しんりてきかしぶっけん (Shinritekikashi bukken), literally “psychologically defective property.”

Be careful not to confuse these terms with the similar 法律的瑕疵ほうりつてきかし (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.

事故死じこし 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 車両しゃりょう事故死 (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 高所作業中こうしょさぎょうちゅう事故じこ (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: 火災かさいによる死亡しぼう describes death in a fire and 熱中症ねっちゅうしょう is a heatstroke death.

Words to consider

Wow. Perfect!…A little TOO perfect…

Another bizarre one is 特別募集住宅とくべつぼしゅうじゅうたく. 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 死体遺棄したいいき or 死体発見したいはっけん, it means a corpse was found there, while 腐乱死体ふらんしたい means that a rotting cadaver was found. 人骨発見じんこつはっけん is the discovery of human remains, usually when the place is being renovated. て自殺じさつ is suicide inside the residence, 飛びとび降り自殺  is jumping to one’s death and くび自殺 is suicide by hanging

Even worse are the deliberate deaths described with matter-of-fact descriptions. 刺殺しさつ are fatal stabbings, 絞殺こうさつ is strangulation and 殴殺おうさつ is when some poor, unfortunate soul was beaten and left to die. You might also see 餓死がし or starvation. 孤独死こどくし is dying alone from neglect, 住人じゅうにん室内しつないに.

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?

Don’t just let an agent gloss over the weird stain on the floor.

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 不動産ふどうさん (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.

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