More so than cheating and extra-marital affairs, rent in Tokyo is one of this city's residents' dirtiest little secrets. Rent amounts are asked for in whispers at parties and given in barely audible tones or sign language, if at all possible. "How many mats?" you'll hear. "I don't do mats, but it's around 20m2" will come the reply. "Do you have a 1K?" "No, but I've got a 2LK." Drug talk and illegal arms negotiations? Nope, it's real estate talk. People in Tokyo are embarrassed about how much they pay in rent, especially knowing that moving east to Chiba or north to Saitama they could pay a fraction for more space. But then you wouldn't be able to make bad decisions after a night of drinking to drop 4000 yen on a cab home because it's close enough to justify in your inebriated state. Hell, I've justified it when I'm stone-cold sober on occasion. Some people prefer clean air, open space and easy living, while some prefer bars that aren't all snacks, the thrill of a salaryman's body pressed close during the morning rush (and on trains that run underground at that) and more Starfucks than you can poke a stick at. I respect people in the inaka, their experience is certainly different from my Tokyo existence and interesting to me because of that, but it's just not for me at this stage.
Living in close proximity to everything in Tokyo is something worth paying for in my books, and I find it has warped my sense of perception when I hear myself proclaiming a 120,000 yen shoebox to be a fabulous steal to someone I've just met. Someone I've just met and yet we are already airing our dirty real estate laundry, taking pains to assure one another that we both have great deals on our small and expensive apartments. It's a sickness, really.
Imagine how tickled fucking pink I was when the beau casually mentioned a couple months ago that we would have to pay two months' rent as a renewal fee once our two-year lease is up in the near future. Let me me clear: not two months' rent towards a deposit (i.e., comes back eventually) or two months' rent towards the first two months of the new lease, but two months' rent down the fucking toilet, off to nevernever land, sayonara 300,000 yen (yes you can do the math), never to be seen again and not to be used for any apparent purpose. The thought that we are in fact paying yakuza protection money actually crossed my mind, I'll admit. What else could explain this blatant price gouging??? I don't have the time to look into it at the moment but I'll go out on a limb and say it's related to the archaic (is it even?) practice of 'key money', a couple months' rent paid to the landlord as a 'please continue to think of us favorably' gesture. Quite the gesture don't you think? Especially considering that my landlord is not even a person but a huge real estate conglomerate with a bank as it's parent company.
Moving out isn't an option (hello six months' rent paid in advance for a new place) and truth be told, I am quite fond of our 'mansion' with its clean white walls and shiny new appliances that talk back. It just causes a pain like no other to flush perfectly spendable money down the toilet. An attorney friend advised me to try and negotiate with the Suits or tell them to piss off, something about a contractual loop-hole. Unfortunately I'm a bit of a goody-good and would not be able to ignore the PAY NOW notices that would come in fast and furious if we refused to pay the renewal fee.
Fast-forward to last week. The renewal notice came in the mail and it turns out we only have to pay one month's rent to the toilet demons. Still painful but I suddenly feel 150,000 yen richer. Let's go on an island holiday! I exclaimed to the beau. Well, maybe not, but I'll be able to put more money towards my student loan, investing in my already-gained knowledge I suppose. The next time someone whispers how much they pay in rent to me, I am going to break tradition and loudly rejoice at how we dodged a bullet, proclaiming with pride that I only have to flush 150,000 down the crapper.