If you’re new to how some Japanese people see foreigners as far as neighbors are concerned, please allow me to give you a word of advice: they may very well expect you to be loud or otherwise obnoxious, especially if your potential place of residence is say, an apartment that very rarely has foreign tenants.
Granted you have successfully weaved your way through the myriad of trials that is applying for renting an apartment in Japan, there are a few things you can do to set your neighbor’s anxieties at ease.
First and foremost, if you speak Japanese you should definitely use it as much as possible and be polite when doing so. However, if you don’t speak much Japanese here are a couple scenarios and phrases that may help you.
If you run into your near neighbors while moving your things into your new place for the first time, a “こんにちは” is always a good starter. Next, you should use some kind of basic greeting. You could use the following example.
はじめまして. 301 に引っ越してるスミスと申します. よろしくおねがいします.
Hajimemashite. San maru ichi ni hikko shiteru Sumisu to mou shimasu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
Nice to meet you. I’m Smith, and I’m moving into apartment number 301. I hope we can be good neighbors.
Please note that “yoroshiku onegai shimasu” can be translated to English in a variety of ways. It usually means that from this point on something is expected of the person you’re saying it to, depending on the situation.
It is also a token of good will if you come bearing gifts for your new neighbors. If you live in an apartment complex with many other tenants, it may be a good idea to keep the gifts to 3 or 4 neighbors on either side of your apartment. This can be a fairly cheap gift of snacks, mini towels, etc. You can use this situation to introduce yourself with the above example sentences to neighbors you haven’t met yet, as well.
After you’ve settled in to your new place, you may quickly realize that Japanese people appreciate quiet even more so than people in your home country might. If you’re going to make noise, it is generally safe to do so in between 9 AM to 7 PM, and even then you are expected to take countermeasures to lessen whatever noise you’re going to make as much as possible.
For example, if you’re going to play guitar, close all doors and windows in the room you’re going to play it in. If you have an electric guitar, it would be wise to either keep the volume on your amp low or just plug in your studio headphones.
Additionally, if you decided to bring your extensive home stereo system complete with subwoofers and surround sound, you more likely than not will not be able to use it to its fullest ability and have happy neighbors at the same time. Unless you will be living in your own house, rented or otherwise, these kinds of sound systems are generally considered 迷惑めいわく・annoyance at any time of the day.
While Japanese people have times that they keep to themselves, in many instances your neighbors will say “おはようございます”, “こんにちは” or “ こんばんは ” to you during times of passing. Especially if they are neighbors that you see fairly frequently, a friendly greeting is likely to put you in good standing with your neighbors.
When it’s finally time to move on, it is customary to leave your neighbors a parting gift of similar value to the gift you gave when you moved in (though some no longer follow through with this custom). As you give this gift, a
Kore kara hikko shimasu. O sewa ni nari mashita
I’m moving, thanks for everything.
As a general rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to think about how your actions will affect your neighbors, be it through sound, proper use of community resources or how you conduct yourself. If you think it might cause trouble for your neighbors, it is best to be on the safe side and not do it.
Since Japanese people generally do not expect foreigners to understand these customs and nuances, they will be pleasantly surprised when they see that you are well mannered and that you are striving to be a good neighbor to them in the best way you can.