Sharedhouses: Shiohama House (World Unite!)

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From October until March, I stayed at the World Unite! sharehouse. I would like to tell you my view before you go there and decide to stay in World Unite! (Shiohama House, Oizumi Mansion in Kiba).

I hope I can do my part in getting people to know more about the companies especially World Unite! as the only information I was able to find before coming to Japan was speaking to the CEO, Chris Engler or from a previous person who stayed in the sharehouse, Dillan.

My detailed account is from October 2016 to March 2017 so even though things may have changed, I’m sure it’s still similar even until now. This is an extremely long post with pictures.

World Unite (Shiohama House):

Although it is not a scam, World Unite! was a company that promised many things to young working holiday workers a range of things that weren’t delivered. I was not impressed. A lot of people were not happy and left after a month. I went from October 2016 to March 2017 in an attempt to find a job in translating or journalism and try to secure a working visa before I left for Korea in July/August. If I could have left earlier, I would have if I had more money. Bare in mind as well that as it is a German-run company, the majority of residents speak German or are of German descent so if you are looking for a place with a range of people from different backgrounds, don’t go here. 

One thing to be aware of is if people find World Unite through the website, there’s an  €800 invoice plus on arrival you pay a deposit of ¥35000 which no-one is aware of (apparently this is normal when you move out but a majority of residents living there were not aware. I feel like I am still owed 1/4 of that invoice money back. Majority of people have never left home being under 24 years old and unable to afford to move out). If you are booking with a German company, my roommates told me by whatever third company you book with it depends how many months you book and how much they charge. So for me by myself it was ‎¥35000 but for some it was ‎¥27000 – ‎¥40000 (with or without deposit) which I think is not fair.

Let’s do a rundown through of this invoice with additional details and things I picked up.

Before + After Arrival

  • Preparation documents – Given to me at the airport by an ex-staff member. But everything is from the Skype “training.” 
  • Intercultural Training – Given by Chris the CEO. Intercultural training was given to me but not to many people that stayed there. Some were given one day notice and quite frankly, if you’ve been to Japan, studied the culture or have a degree like me, it was a waste of time. Mainly, it was the CEO talking about cultural differences etc.
  • Arrangement of accommodation (Details and Pictures Below)
  • On arrival, pick up from Haneda or Narita Airport by public transport and drop to accommodation. Given by ex-staff member and Chris. The pickup system can be a mess as when I left my gate, the ex-staff member wasn’t there for another 10 minutes. who went to the wrong terminal. Some people told me they had Alex (the only bilingual staff member) who did not make himself noticeable for more than 10 minutes of their arrival. He clearly did not care.

Finding Employment + Interview Help

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  • On-site assistance including:
    • Immigration Department (Residence Card) – Given.
    • Residents’ Registration Office – Given.
    • Tax number – Given.
    • Opening a bank account and mobile phone contract – Bank account – yes. But not the mobile phone contract. I asked Alex and a resident of the house to help me but they were so unhelpful, I went to a BIC Camera and had the staff help me instead.
    • Japanese Language Course – I don’t recall this. There was no on-site assistance that I knew about.
    • Local orientation – Given but dead.
  • Assistance with finding a job (Details Below)
    • Help with job application in Japanese (preparing your CV/resume in Japanese) –
      I came to Japan with mine already done. From January, they no longer offered help with resumes but if you’re prepared, just forget their help and search for jobs by yourself. Also what most people were never told upon going abroad was (simple things but there are some forgetful people): credit and debit card (credit card or cash is more accessible to use in Japan so bring some money to live on beforehand), interview clothes (please see here), Japanese translated CV (I can provide you with a template) and basic Japanese language skills from what I can remember at the moment.
    • Tips and Preparation for job interview – I never got help with Tips and Preparation for job interview or jobs from other sources because once they heard me speak and write Japanese, they assumed I could take care of myself. The whole point of a company is to look after you no matter how good your skills are. But they stopped helping me even when I messaged the staff about assistance.
    • Registration at the employment office – Out of everything on this site, Hello Works is probably the most helpful thing they helped with. It is an Employment service center which helps foreigners find jobs. But in actuality because Japan is still an old style country, if you want to apply you have to fax or even post your application form to companies instead of emailing your CV. Going to Hello Works is ok but there are still many jobs online to apply for.
    • Providing job offers from other sources – When? I never got this.
  • Bilingual Contact person on site (English and Japanese) for any assistance – Alex was the only bilingual person and didn’t even seem to want to be working for the company. He came and left at certain times until Chris hired a particular staff member who was trying to get things done (but to no avail). The same can be said with the staff as working hours never really applied in order to help the residents living in Shiohama house.
  • Use of PC and printer for researching job offers and creating application documents – Because the CEO was annoyed with people wasting paper, they moved the printer and got a PC to the office so it would only be used during the “working hours.
  • Membership Terms for cheap foods on wholesale – During the local orientation, I got showed some small supermarkets and Ito Yokado in Kiba. But the reality is going to Seiya (near Toyocho station) or AEON is more cheaper. Ito Yokado is too expensive.
  • We are your contact persons during your whole year in Japan! – God no. As I said before, they grew less able to contact and help out once I had settled in and find out I could speak and read Japanese. There are better people to ask for help (e.g. Japanese friends, colleagues etc.)

If you are an N3 level or above, do not even bother going to this company because you will have to search everything yourself without their help. I had a feeling from the third day I was there, I would be alone in finding a job. And from October to January, I never stopped looking until I started working three jobs.

Arrangement of Accommodation (Rooms + Cleanliness):

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World Unite! was dirty 80% of the time until a staff member would clean it up. Most of the time it was because of the bins not being taken down. It is interesting to hear from some of my German friends that the people living there had no excuse to be throwing stuff in the same bin as there is a recycling system in Germany. Although I did have an okay experience and have great roommates, the condition of the sharehouse and company was terrible. Did I mention you live with around 40 people in this sharedhouse with one kitchen, four showers and three toilets?

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Bare in mind most of the people living there are fresh out of school being around the ages of 18-20, they probably have never done house chores and liked living like that. The bathrooms and toilets were also disgusting too. You’d be surprised to find a clean section in this entire place. Room 6 and 9 were the cleanest because of me and my roommates. I rarely stepped into the other rooms as before I left, some rooms were starting to get so dirty more coachroaches were appearing.

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This was one of the neglected rooms – Room 9. Probably the only room where one of the Japanese neighbours was actually quite friendly and nice to us. This room was often forgotten because it was at the end of the room by the fridge and a shower that always smelt.

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Another thing which I found disgusting was that the pillowcase, sheets and blankets are not at all washed except for when you first arrive. Afterwards, you must wash them yourself and not provided with a spare pillowcase, sheet or blanket at all. It is so bad that I have become more of a clean freak but not to OCD level.

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From arriving, the guesthouse had an eerie and dirty feel to it. The sinks were full and bins not emptied. This is probably some of the cleanliest I had seen it and I want to spare people from how dirty it was.

It is amazing how after the New Year, things started getting clean more than twice a week because the bathrooms used to be disgusting. However, they were still (and probably are right now) on the verge of getting dirty again. There is no cleaner so every week, people are assigned randomly to do without being asked or notified. There is just a whiteboard in the kitchen/living room that has your name on it. Some people are never chosen to do it and some people are chosen more than once.

Outside the Shiohama House

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The appearance from the outside in isn’t nice at all. If anyone has a picture of the front of Shiohama House, I hope they will be able to share it here. The two mailboxes are for the Japanese neighbours and the bright red one is for Shiohama House. You have to take your suitcase (or suitcases if you had two like me) up two or three stairs depending on where your room is.

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This was the smoking area. But you shouldn’t be surprised to be honest.

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The shoe rack area has a ridiculous amount of shoes that may or may not belong to everyone. I guarantee when people moved or left the country, they abandoned them here. Usually the shoes are everywhere from the entrance of the door to where the lockers are because people don’t follow which locker to use and put their shoes wherever they feel like it.

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Out of the many people who live there, there is only one washing machine and a one dryer. And what I found out one day was that the Japanese neighbours use them as well! Most days they are used continuously all day with some people forgetting to take their things out. The dryer is not good enough as it takes at least 3-4 hours for your clothes to dry completely. And if it’s a sunny day, where do people dry them? The rooftop is available however from what I remember, the lines were taken down so people started hanging them in their rooms instead with the heater on while I stayed there.

Office

This was the look of the office when I got there.

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The office wasn’t even in the process of being built properly until January/Feburary. Bare in mind, the place had only been open for around a year but the main area of welcoming and help had a cold and gloomy feeling. I always wondered why Chris never thought of investing properly slowly instead of rushing to make money and make the place feel so depressing to its residents.

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How the office was beginning to develop around February. It did look better after but only a little better than before.

Safety

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In terms of safety as well, anyone can walk in your room even if they don’t live in that room. There was a situation where one girl from another room came in at 3 or 4am in the morning and woke up my roommates in order to search for another girl who was in the room. The fact that anyone can walk into your room because there aren’t enough keys per room isn’t a good feeling as well. There were only two keys per room (some rooms had eight people in them) which did not make me feel good.

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The third floor doesn’t give the feel of a secure sharedhouse where everyone can be safe. Before December however, Chris finally decided to put a wall and a door in to block out the cold and make the place look a lot more secured. But until I left, the

It does seem like they have finally made it look better but it took them time.

As I mentioned, you have two Japanese neighbours living opposite the rooms 8 and 9 and who hate you as much as everyone around the surrounding neighbourhood who clearly hate most of the people living there. Usually by saying the name Shiohama house, a majority of Japanese know and have a negative opinion upon the place. It is mostly because there are always complaints from the city hall about the rubbish piling up or the noise level.

Onto additional things…

Language School + Meeting Japanese People

Quite frankly, it was annoying seeing so many people in the house only speak German and not even try to speak more Japanese unless they went to Kudan Language School. In regards to Kudan Language school, two of my roommates went told me it was 1800 euros for 12 weeks. All you really learn is hiragana, katakana and a few conversation sentences. The reason is when the next term starts and you are trying to progress, beginners and lower intermediate level are put together so the ones who want to learn more feel like they are being slowed down. If I was paying that much and knew this, I would have been annoyed. Thankfully, I didn’t choose language school.

The other options apart from Kudan Language School was either to get a tandem partner or go to hall and pay to speak with the elderly. I always told people just to use Japan-guide as it is much easier to send an ad and meet people through there (You still have to mark out your expectations of having friends unlike HelloTalk where there is a growth of creeps). To be honest, there are many other sites to meet and talk to Japanese people and if not, there are always language exchanges going around Tokyo and around Japan.

Shiohama House Staff

ChrisThe CEO of World Unite!. In my opinion he was unorganised and hardly cared until someone complains or calls one of their German agencies to talk to him. At one point, he suddenly started moving everyone’s personal food belongings without telling anyone what was going on and that got me angry. 

Alex –  The only bilingual speaker but as I mentioned before, did not seem to care much. At one point I felt bad for him being put a lot of workload such as translating, picking up new residents from the airport and taking them to the city hall. But his lack of help for me and some of my roommates made that feeling go away. My roommates also noticed favouritism with him treating other girls nicer than other residents.

Julia – Probably the only staff member I could have respect for. She did seem to write down my feedback during a meeting about getting the deposit back. The only person who seemed to be trying to change the place to make it better. But I honestly hope she gets out of there.

Michaela – I felt bad for her because I always saw her just cleaning around the place and never in the office doing any work like Alex or was. She seemed nice but I felt like Chris used her as a free cleaner sometimes.

Others – The ex-staff member who picked me up at the airport was talked about a lot by Alex and Chris for not working hard enough and complaining then eventually left before the New Year.

World Unite! probably has changed since I stayed there but the experience is still fresh in my mind. I can’t get the invoice money back of empty promises but hopefully this post can alert not only Germams but other people who haven’t experienced living in World Unite! and were planning to go with them. I also hope other people who left can comment on their experiences there as there is nothing of a review until now. I hope it helps people know more about staying there.

What World Unite! staff of Japan need to take in mind of my opinion and the others that shared with me is that although you are trying to improve your company, I and others did not feel the support we needed. A lot of people were scraping through savings to stay in Japan and the fact that World Unite! did not help as much as we wanted and with this, we hold a negative experience of the company and being at Shiohama House.

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2 Comments

  1. ok, this is interesting. I was searching for exactly something like this. only problem is, all agencies seem to be a waste of money but going to the offices (residence card, tax, bank account) alone makes you want to depend on them…..

    1. I can’t speak for agencies but if you have Japanese friends or even going to the offices with someone who speaks Japanese might be of better help. The town hall in Koto-ku had English speakers help me with my residence card and tax number. The bank account at the post office is probably doable if you have a N3/N4 level of Japanese.

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