When visitors first come to Japan, there is a constant temptation to try and save money by cutting as many corners as possible. With relocation and transportation fees all stacking up, it can be galling to think about paying the ridiculous 敷金 (security deposit) and 礼金 (“key money”) fees that most apartment owners want.
One thing that foreigners attempt in an attempt to save cash is to stay in “incident apartments.” These are properties where bad things have happened. Due to their history, these apartments are often in convenient locations and 30 to 40 percent cheaper than other rentals on the market. However, before plonking down your cash and declaring that “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” it’s be worth knowing exactly what you are about to get yourself into.
These apartments have a number of names, all of which display the Japanese ability to understate horror. The most common term is 事故物件 (incident apartments), but I am more of a fan of 心理的瑕疵物件 (literally: psychologically defective property) just for the bizarre imagery that this expression conjures up.
Be careful not to confuse these with the similar 法律的瑕疵 (legally defective property). This describes apartments with actual 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!
At this point, 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.
For the types of damage, 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 a death in a fire and 熱中症 is a heatstroke death.
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! The moniker 死体遺棄 or 死体発見 means a corpse was dumped there, 腐乱死体 means that a rotting cadaver was found there and 人骨発見 is the discovery of human remains, usually when the place is being renovated.
Even worse are the deliberate deaths described with matter-of-fact descriptions. 刺殺 are fatal stabbings, 餓死 is starvation and 殴殺 is when some poor, unfortunate soul was beaten and left to die and 絞殺 is strangulation. Also: 孤独死 is dying alone from neglect, 住人が室内にて自殺 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.
Phew, 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, print out this list and make sure you ask them if any of these words apply. 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 that they are saving. By going into negotiations with the likely desperate landlord knowing exactly what to expect, you may be able to get an amazing new pad — as long as you don’t mind the fact that a worst case scenario has definitely already happened there.