Your Guide to Being the Best Neighbor Ever If You Just Moved to Japan

Remember: just because it's normal in your home country doesn't mean you can do it in Japan.

Are you a resident in Japan renting your own home? Maybe you’ve had a hard time figuring out how to make sure you get along with your neighbors. If you’re looking to keep the peace where you live, take note of these tips and reminders when it comes to dealing with your neighbors. Remember that might be normal to your culture might not be the case in Japan. It’s always best to be respectful of the local customs and traditions. You wouldn’t want to cause trouble in your neighborhood.


Japan has strict and detailed rules for garbage disposal. It needs to be separated by type, such as recyclable garbage (glass bottles, cans, plastic bottles, newspapers, etc.); combustible garbage including food waste; incombustible  garbage; and oversized waste. You also need to make sure to throw it in a designated place and day. Otherwise, you will get a warning. The specific rules can differ depending on where you live, so check the information in your neighborhood. This is usually posted on the bulletin board of your building or can be checked on your municipality’s website.


Do not discard used cooking oil or food waste in the sink, otherwise, it may harden and clog the drain pipe. This can cause a bad smell, especially in the summer. You must harden the oil (you can buy the oil hardening powder at any supermarket in Japan) or soak it up with newspaper then throw it as combustible garbage. As with the food waste, you have to throw it as combustible garbage. 


We usually use the balcony as a place for drying our clothes or storing some belongings. However, make sure that your hung clothes are properly secured and won’t fall off and cause harm to passers-by. In some apartments, you are not allowed to grill food or even smoke on the balcony. If your balcony is used as an escape route in case of an emergency, make sure you do not place anything near the dividers of the balcony as it is made to be ripped off easily so people can pass through and use the same escape route.

Noises and odors

Noise is a common issue for foreign residents in Japan because in most cases, noises like chatting and laughing with family or friends was never an issue in our home countries. However, in Japan, people respect the hours when people are supposed to be resting like early mornings or late evenings. The thin walls of apartments make even the sound from your television reach your neighbor. Any unusual odors from your house or strong smell from cooking can also cause trouble with your neighbors. If you’re tempted to fry your favorite
tuyo, you might want to do it if you know your neighbor is out for a few days, ventilate excessively, and light up all your candles to dissipate the fishy smell.


Bathroom and toilet

Last but not least, water that overflows from the bathroom or toilet may also cause trouble with your neighbors, especially if it leaks downstairs. You may have to compensate for the damage to your neighbors residing below your room. Water overflows usually happen because your hair is blocking the drain or you flush anything other than toilet paper (like sanitary products) into the toilet. So, make sure to clean your bathroom and toilet, checking regularly for clogs.

At the end of the day, the rules really depend on the apartment where you’re staying. Some can be extremely strict while others are more lenient. The same goes for your neighbors. They can either be kind and friendly or simply want to have their own peace and quiet. Just be mindful of your actions and as the golden rule goes, don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.

 (12 December 2019)

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