So, where were we?
When you rent an apartment in Japan, you usually pay 3 or 4 months rent in advance. This is called shikikin (??) and it’s supposed to be a bond. It’s a hangover from the end of the war when there wasn’t much accommodation so you bribed the owner into letting you stay (then it was called reikin (??)). Now, the money is used to put up new wall paper, etc. When you move out, the owner makes up all these lies about how much it costs to repair the apartment to put it back into the original condition, and it just so happens to cost the same as your 3 months. So, you get a receipt back and no change from your money.
So many people have taken owners to court and won, the owners decided to change the contacts and the wording. So there’s a new word for it now. It’s called shikibiki (??). There’s no translation for it yet, but I like to think of it as withheld bond. My contract, which has some hideously illegal sections, just says I can’t get the shikibiki back. Just like that. And the owner’s argument is that it’s in the contract, so it’s legal, so shut up. (The contract also says things like I can’t fight to get the money back, etc, etc.)
In Japan, key money as a security deposit can also be accompanied by reikin (literally, “gratitude money”), which is non-refundable and often can be the same amount as the original deposit, as much as six months or more. This practice is commonly despised by foreigners living in Japan and Japanese alike for its resemblance to extortion: The so-called gratitude is mandatory. In recent years, an increasing number of landlords and real estate agencies have begun to offer “reikin”-free rental housing to counter the worsening image of the practice.
So, anyway I’ve got one month back, which I had expected anyway, and am fighting for my three other months. We went to the real estate agent and asked nicely. We were fobbed off by a lower employee, who said the boss wasn’t in, that she couldn’t call him and she didn’t know when he’d be back. The boss was out the back hiding, we know this because people were calling and being put through. So we told her, to tell the boss that he should speak to the owner. If the owner doesn’t pay back my money then we’ll go to court. The owner basically said no.
So, I’m off to court.
Actually, it’s more like arbitration. One meeting in chambers. I don’t know how binding the decision is though. I fear that we’ll win, but the owner won’t pay and so I have to keep fighting for the money. I would like to put this in context. It’s all been in Japanese and my Japanese just isn’t good enough, so I’ve had to rely a lot on my girlfriend, and other friends to help me. It has also helped that some of my Japanese friends are lawyers.
The date for court is the 28th of August. We had planned to be out of Japan by late July. This really makes our timing for things bad. Very bad.
It is worth the fight? Well, yeah. As a matter of principle, and for the money. We’re talking about AUD $1600 here. Give or take a bit. The cost of staying in Japan for the extra month isn’t a problem for me. But we are planning to be in Italy for my brother’s 1st wedding anniversary in September, going via Peru to visit Machu Picchu and possibly Cuba. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to buy tickets, book places to stay and so on and so on.