And sometimes those headaches will be literal.

Japan has a reputation as one of the most expensive countries on the planet, but housing isn’t always as expensive as the horror stories would have you believe. The trick is to find an apartment with an aspect or two that keep it from being perfect, but are also things you don’t personally mind that much.

For instance, I live in a third-floor unit in a building where there’s no elevator, and I have an old-fashioned balance gama water heater. Those are both minor inconveniences, but the trade-off is that my rent is a lot cheaper than most other similarly sized apartments in the neighborhood. For an even more extreme example, though, there’s Twitter user @SWBMZERO, who rents a studio apartment in Japan for just 15,000 yen (US$139) a month!

Surprisingly, it’s within a short walk (less than 10 minutes) of the nearest train station and has its own private bathroom and shower (amenities ultra-cheap apartments in Japan sometimes lack). The building itself is a little old, having been built 30 years ago, but the interior is recently renovated and even includes an induction-heat cooking stove. And no, it’s not an “incident property,” the euphemism Japanese realtors use for apartments with low rents because someone was murdered or committed suicide in them.

So what makes @SWBMZERO’s apartment so cheap? Well, it’s on the ground floor, generally considered the least attractive floor to live on in Japan. The unit is actually on a half-basement level, with the entryway a few steps down from the street. Now, ordinarily, that wouldn’t be enough of a drawback to knock your rent down to 15,000 yen, but there’s one other unusual thing about the apartment, as shown in this photo of it.

Yep, there’s a gigantic pipe running right through the center of it. In case you’re having trouble gauging its height, clicking on the above photo for the full-size version shows that it’s about 150 centimeters (roughly five feet) up from the floor, just the right position to smack the average-stature Japanese person in the face, or a taller person in the throat. And yes, it bisects the entire room.

▼ It’s not uncommon for inexpensive Japanese apartments to have visible interior drainage pipes, but they’re usually closer to this.

@SWBMZERO says it’s a water drainage pipe, and apparently it needs to be there because of how it connects to the larger city water system at street-level. Because of that, all the units on this floor have interiors like this, and yes, he mentions that he’s banged his head on it multiple times, though he describes the damage inflicted as a dull throb, as opposed to intense pain, although he adds that the textured contours of the pipe’s outer layer add some additional discomfort.

Luckily for @SWBMZERO, this isn’t something he has to put up with full-time, since the 15,000-yen apartment isn’t his primary residence. He actually lives somewhere else, and initially started renting the apartment as a place to hang out with friends or to relax when he happens to be in the neighborhood, and now he also uses it to store things he can’t fit in his main home. He adds that while his super-cheap apartment has electricity, water, and Internet, he hasn’t bothered to make a contract for gas service.

@SWBMZERO doesn’t indicate exactly where the apartment is, though he does say that it’s “not in a major urban neighborhood.” He also says that the units on the upper floors, i.e. the ones without pipes running through them, rent for 30,000-40,000 yen a month, meaning that his painfully inconvenient interior is financially benefiting him to the tune of 15,000 to 25,000 yen a month. Some would say that’s not worth the hassle, but for those trying to live as cheaply as possible, they’d likely find a way to adjust, since Japan’s 150-yen-a-night hotel isn’t a viable full-time residence.

Source: Twitter/@SWBMZERO via Jin
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