Kyoto JET Programme teacher TS on being made homeless due to xenophobic landlord, and Kyoto Board of Education (who found the apartment) refuses to help


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Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Reader TS, for a lowdown on how the JET Programme might leave their NJ employees in the lurch in the face of xenophobic landlords. Debito Arudou Ph.D.

From: TS
Subject: Re: Housing contract liabilities as JET program is willing to leave us homeless
Date: August 20, 2019
To: Debito Arudou

Dear Debito,

I have recently learned that as a JET participant via the Kyoto Board of Education that I will lose my housing at the end of August. My landlord, school and board of education will not help me or my wife in recontracting our current place.

My school, Hokuryo, used a flat agency last summer (August 2018) to find adequate housing for my wife and myself. Due to their lack of due diligence and responsible research, we moved in and signed a contract all in Japanese (not explained to us when I first arrived) that the landlord and his wife did not want friends or family visiting my wife and me.

This problem came up in September 2018 when I had a fellow JET from Hyogo visit; I attempted to introduce her (she being African-American) to my landlord, and he promptly crossed his hands and said “no friends”. Next my school gets a call from my landlord, and I’m brought to have a meeting with my principal, English teachers, office staff, and the landlord and landlady. They explained that they don’t want other people (hinting at other foreigners) visiting due to safety issues and concern.

I replied that we trust our guests and also to remind them that nowhere in the contract I signed said this. I also said that if we had known all of this information in advance, we would not have agreed to live in that apartment. In our view, it was the school who decided to offer us this apartment without due diligence and explanation, and in any case I’m not going to say no to, for example, my parents and parents-in-law and force them to go find a hotel if and when they visit. I thought the JET programme was about cultural exchange, anyway.

Following that, over the past year the landlady has come and harassed us about visitors (even though, I repeat, it was nowhere explicitly written in the contract). She also mentioned she was not the one who accepted foreigners to live in the apartment; it was her husband.

Now here it is August 2019, and I am under the impression that my wife and I will have a place to live for the upcoming contract year with JET. However, this time the school delivers a new contract explicitly with stipulations of “no guests in apartment.” You can imagine my anger when I say “you’re forcing me to re-sign for something I didn’t want in the first place.”

So now because we have been given less than a month to find a place that we also hadn’t financially saved up for in terms of moving (it’s more expensive to live elsewhere). But okay, I resigned to signing again for just one more year and accepting their terms of no guests. But a few days ago, I have come to find out that neither my school nor the landlord want to re-sign the contract and thus, the new contract was just for show.

My school has also informed me that they won’t sign as guarantor for any apartment like they will for the other ALT at my school because the circumstances aren’t the same. Is that not discrimination?

I say this because I don’t believe this would have happened had my wife and I been of Caucasian descent.  I am Filipino-American and my wife is a Chinese-Pakistani Canadian Muslim.  The landlords have made it very clear in how they treat other foreigners. 

So now, with only less than 2 weeks before the end of the month, my wife and I cannot live in our current place, nor have the funds to afford to move and live in another… so what are we supposed to do?  How are we supposed to teach and fulfill our contracts but not have anywhere to live?  It is unacceptable the way we have been mistreated by this government program, our board of education and, most specifically, our schools.

I have attempted reaching out to both our prefectural advisor at Kyoto Board of education and a representative from CLAIR but neither can give us a solid answer in moving forward to remedy this situation. How are we to be JET Programme participants and be homeless? Is this my school and Board of Education’s passive-aggressive method of making us break contract? How is this cultural exchange?

Our treatment has solidified how temporary we as even foreign and migrant workers are in the eyes of the Japanese people and government.

Sincerely, TS

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13 comments on “Kyoto JET Programme teacher TS on being made homeless due to xenophobic landlord, and Kyoto Board of Education (who found the apartment) refuses to help

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    TS, why would you want to sign up for another year as a JET when the JET program has put you in this situation in the first place?
    Why wouldn’t you blow them off and go do something else instead?

  • @Jim Di Griz To be precise, the contracting organization is at fault here. It seems that OP is working for the Kyoto Board of Education. JET itself is essentially a recruiting and training program, and it has nothing to do with local working conditions. Of course, if the school cannot meet basic standards of decency, JET should stop posting there.

    I wonder what the back story is with the school and the board of education. If they knew the lease wouldn’t be extended, they could easily have advised OP months in advance. And OP doesn’t need the school to be a guarantor, as they should have explained. Sounds like some internal office/school politics somehow kept people from saying what really should have been said months ago.

    — OP?

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Oh, ok. Still, why bother? Life’s too short for this kind of Nazi crap.
      As for your second point, I imagine the school wants a white, blonde American, and the OP is Filipino-American, which is a concept they are unable to understand to start with. Their racist ideas of nationality and race are ag work.
      And his wife being Chinese-Canadian (great group of people who’ve made big contributions to Canadian society) is going to baffle and confuse them too! It’s messy for them intellectually- it challenges their world view, and the whole point of JET is to reinforce world views and imprint them on children.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Blood boils! “Outrageous landlord “the landlord and his wife did not want friends or family visiting my wife and me.”
    Who is paying the rent here!??

    had a fellow JET from Hyogo visit; I attempted to introduce her (she being African-American) to my landlord, and he promptly crossed his hands and said “no friends”
    So much for Omote nashi Japan!

    “Our treatment has solidified how temporary we as even foreign and migrant workers are in the eyes of the Japanese people and government.”

    Exactly, so you can do a runner and leave without notice. They cant expect loyalty from you. .

  • Anthony Dolan says:

    No need to lose your home. The lease provisions aren’t legally enforceable. Change the locks on your unit. continue to pay rent and refuse to vacate.

  • I was on JET. Never any problem. One question, you say you have no savings to find a new place. How is that possible? JET pays very well and many JETers have free rent, etc.
    Also, it is OK for them to not want people coming and going. We don’t know your situation. House? Apartment building? Are you partying late?
    I lived in an apartment (free) next to the landlords’ house and udon shop. I had people visit for short stays but respected my landlords and didn’t make noise or trouble and didn’t have lots of people over.
    So, in order for us to start screaming discrimination, we need more facts.
    Landlords in Japan can get away with many things. NHK had a show looking at older Japanese refused apartments by some landlords because they were old. Even a guy in his 50s, divorced and with a good steady job couldn’t find a place because he was older. A Japanese guy. So not racist, right?
    This is an odd case.

  • And, my god, ONE month on the JET and already having people visit, violating a contract you signed, and forcing a huge meeting of principals and teachers involved! Not a great start. Also, you said in your post that the contract did contain language (in Japanese) that no visitors were allowed. This is legal.
    Little sympathy. Why would you: invite someone to visit one month in; why would you not review terms of the contract with someone who could translate it — Kyoto has lots of lawyers and people willing to help free. I reviewed my housing contract with people, and I was in deep inaka! Why would you bother to introduce visitors to the landlord? Why wouldn’t you think more deeply about YOUR actions and responsibilities since you came here to do an exchange and NOT just whine and impose your values on people here?

    Sorry, no need to cry discrimination in this case. And, by the way, whites also face “discrimination” in Japan. Just ask Debito.

    Unwanted advice: find your own place and pay a company to be sponsor (cost = 10,000 yen. Surely you have that.You were paid 3.6 million plus benefits by the taxpayers of Japan.) Ask Japanese friends (if you bothered to make any, what being busy housing various JETers and relatives from abroad) to help you. Leave alone teachers, principals, staff and Japanese landlords who may have been “forced” to take in people they don’t want these kinds of troubles from. Or, as another post said: find a job outside of Japan.

  • TS, your story is confusing and self-contradictory in several places, but regardless, here’s a few points.

    First, if you are not already a member of a union, join one immediately. This goes not just for you but for all laborers in Japan. The time to join a union is before you have problems, not after. Further, even if you do not have problems now, you will have problems eventually, guaranteed. When the problems arise, consult with your union immediately. Even if there is no union at your place of work, there are countless unions throughout the country that anyone is free to join as an individual. Your union dues will be worth their weight in gold when the time comes. Also, and this probably sounds ridiculous, but keep a work journal documenting what you do and what happens every day at work. Carrying a tiny voice recorder in your pocket at all times would be even more preferable. I am 100% serious about this. When it comes to duke it out with the racist bullies at your place of employment, they are certain to try to twist and manipulate the facts to make you seem like the problem. Do not allow them the chance.

    Second, do not worry about moving out at the end of August. Japan does not regulate the housing market to prevent racist discrimination, but once you actually get your foot in the door, you have strong rights as a tenant, from what I’ve read online. (I’m not a legal expert, for the record.) I would strongly encourage you to spend a moment Googling the topic. Another commenter already mentioned it, but consider going ahead and changing the locks while continuing to pay rent.

    Next, and I cannot stress this enough, if you intend to keep living in Japan, it is imperative that you learn Japanese and do your best to avoid any services or employers intended for “foreigners.” “For foreigners” essentially means “for people who don’t know their rights and cannot help themselves when in trouble, so we can do with them as we please.”

    Regardless, I would personally encourage you to go ahead and make preparations to move as soon as possible. The racist maniacs who own your current building are certain to cause more problems further down the road. Can you imagine them cooperating with a request for repair or maintenance? Unless you’re in a very rural area, there will certainly be some units somewhere that you can get into. Obviously, given the racism problem, your options will be limited, but if you join a union, the union might also be willing to talk to your employer and put pressure on them to take responsibility and help you find a place as well. If you are worried about a guarantor, there are options for that as well. Again, try Googling it.

    Finally, let this be a lesson to you about living in Japan. You don’t want to go up against any group (ESPECIALLY employers) by yourself, and you want to avoid having to trust and rely on others to help you get anything done to the greatest extent possible. “I’ll teach you English for free if you’ll help me read this/deal with this problem” leaves getting things done at the whim of another person who doesn’t care about your problems.

    By the way, JET is not about cultural exchange. It is a propaganda tool used to teach children that “’foreigners’ cannot understand Japanese and must be spoken to in English” and to spread “genki cool Japan” to the English-speaking world. If they wanted meaningful “cultural exchange,” they would actively seek licensed native instructors and incorporate them in classrooms in a leading role, not make fresh college grads the pets of some obnoxious Wajin lughead “teacher” who might not even be able to actually teach English in English.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Well, JET certainly is about ‘cultural exchange’ it’s just that it lies about it; it’s not the point that the NJ teacher comes over and teaches about their western ways, but rather that JET is a clever scam to get young university educated westerners to come over to Japan, get blown away by all the Japan myths, and then go home and propagate (evangelize?) on behalf of the Japan tatemae in their future business/political/academic/social lives.
      And they do, don’t they? (‘When I was in Japan…’).

  • David Markle says:

    As some others have said, I can reiterate, just because the landlord refuses to renew your rental contract doesn’t mean you have to leave. Just continue to reside there and pay the rent. If the landlord blocks the account you can pay the rent into an account set up by the court for this purpose, or even make repairs in leu of rent if the landlord refuses. They will have to take you to court to get you out and compensate you for being inconvenienced. This will take more than a year giving you plenty of time to find alternatives. Hang tight would be my advice.

    It sounds like the B of E is going to hide under their desks until everything blows over and you either quit and go home or move on. The downside is living near a hostile landlord but it will be just as uncomfortable for him, so keep that in mind

  • I’m obviously missing the point. OP signs a legal document they don’t understand and claims wasn’t adequately explained to them. OP might or might not have violated that agreement, we’ll never know. OP takes the “its not in the lease” route, perfectly reasonable btw, if its not in the lease that overnight guests are limited or prohibited OP is well within their rights to have such guests over. The prudence of unnessecarily antagonizing your landlord unnecessarily is another story.

    Now, if landlord had said “no we won’t rent to foreigners get out!” then yes absolutely xenophobic landlord making poor OP homeless. Not what happened.

    Landlord goes you’re right we’ll fix it so there is no room for misunderstandings, heres things in writing you can understand just like you requested. OP decides to cry racism. Contracting agency goes we providdd you with perfectly reasonable accommodations, if you dont like them please contract a place that meets your needs.

    • It looks like you didn’t read the second half of the post. To paraphrase… The teacher was told “agree to no guests and we’ll give you a new lease”. He thought about it, was apprehensive, but eventually said OK, and then they said, “Nah, screw you, you gotta move out anyway.”

      One problem is the landlord’s motivation. The teacher says, but doesn’t explain, that the landlord has made anti-foreigner comments. He didn’t provide details.

      Another problem is the late timing and lack of support. His school should have told him several months ago that maybe he’d need to find a new place to live. They could have recommended a company like UR or a real estate agent that speaks English. Instead, they strung him along and dropped the bad news close to the deadline.

      In a perfect world, the teacher would have learned all about renting directly on his own, and saved up some money. But he (reasonably?) assumed his contracting organization was giving him reliable information, and now he’s in a pinch.

      One small good point is that it seems like he didn’t know last week that he can rent without a guarantor, and there are places available on relatively short notice. Now that he’s had time to research the issue, and given the comments above, he’s more informed, which should be a small relief. It doesn’t solve the money problem, though.


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