Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cultural Surprises

I've been here for 2.5 years and I still get the occasional "oh, I didn't know that about Japan.." moment.

So today I went to pay my April gas bill, which was surprisingly 2500 yen (about 1000 more than usual).  I say surprising because my boiler broke during April and I didn't have the use of it for 8 days, so I should have used significantly less gas than usual.  Anyway, the woman conveys to me that there is an additional charge related to the boiler.  I look at the receipt she's pointing at and see "800 yen", which coincides with a charge the village office handyman guy told me about - for a new cap on top of the boiler. So then she adds things up and shows me the calculator and the total is 11,760 yen (about $120).  Wait, what?  It suddenly clicks that I am being charged for the entire boiler repair.

Here is where the cultural surprise fits for me: it is my understanding that a renter in America is usually not held financially liable for wear-and-tear breakdowns with installed appliances, such as a hot water heater, a dishwasher, or central air.  If something breaks you call your landlord and they fix it.  Right?  Well, apparently (!) in Japan (or just here?) I am responsible for these things.  I'm sure the hot water heater has seen many renters, but it just happened to break on my watch.  Which is all sort of ironic since, being conscious of my energy usage, I probably use less hot water than any other person on Zamami.


ReBekha said...


Mom said...

Interesting you're being charged for that repair. You are exactly right - in the U.S. it's standard practice for the landlord to pay for such repairs (like when the stove element went out in our rental last week!). So does this mean when the building needs painting, new roof, appliance repair, etc. you'll be charged a proportionate share? I know you have cheap rent but it still seems like the school should be picking up the tab.

Dave said...

I really hope we don't have to pay for the paint because (a) it needs painting and (b) that would be a hefty charge to force upon the people who happen to be living in the building at the time. Same with the water heater - I barely use it and I bet 6-8 residents had use of it before I came, but it broke for me. :( yeah, the thing is that the rent is so cheap so I'm trying to be cool about it in that sense. I'm still sooo far ahead of the game by moving out of that old house and into this apt.