Home Page Forums General Discussion Moving to Japan – barrier free apartments

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  • #11174


    I’ve posted here a couple of times as my medium to long term goal is to move to and live in Japan. My degree is in Computer Science (minor in Japanese) and I hope to get some experience in my home country (Australia) and saving some money before trying to move to Japan.

    I have read about Josh’s story ( https://www.bbc.com/news/disability-58256722 ) and that gave me some hope that it is possible to move to Japan with a disability. I’ve also seen his apartment in a Youtube video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKrLQDNuMpI ) but that left me with a few questions.

    I am a paraplegic and use a slide board to transfer between my wheelchair and bed. I get very little assistance from others with the exception of changing my bedding. I can’t get myself off the floor (if I fall out of my wheelchair) but this has not occurred in over three years.

    I’ve been looking at “barrier free apartments” in Tokyo ( バリアフリーアパート ) but I am not sure if this is what I should really be looking for. Looking at the blueprints for these apartments I feel I would not be able to live in them the way I currently live with my disability. This leads me to two different conclusions. 1. That I am searching for the wrong thing. or 2. That people with similar disabilities to mine live with them differently in Japan.

    I could talk to my OT about this but I feel it would be outside of their knowledge base.

    My major concerns with these apartments is how I would use the toilet and shower facilities. Currently, I have a shower chair with one side being open. I wheel this bulky shower chair over the toilet and bend over to the open side to use manual stimulation. When I shower, I simply wheel into the shower and use a hand held shower head to bath. After my shower I dry using a towel before wheeling back to my bed and transfer to it in order to get back into my wheelchair.

    Looking at apartments like the two linked below, I very much doubt I would be able to wheel over the toilet due to how it is located and the turning circle of the shower chair.

    My second question is a minor question. Shops like Don Q which are very tight on space. Do you just avoid these as they are just too difficult to enter?

    My last question is also a minor question. From watching Josh’s video I understand that as a tax paying resident you are entitled to the same supports as a citizen. I also understand that supports are normally provided by the city/ward rather than nationally. In Australia I get some federal funding to cover consumables for incontinence aids. Does Japan have anything like this in place or are people expected to pay out of pocket?

    Many thanks in advance.

  • Author
  • #11175


    Hello Senpai,

    I can answer some of the questions about stores, though it may not be as specific as you would like. First, If you visit the bigger or more modern department stores you shouldn’t have any issues getting around and seeing what there is to offer (for me the most accessible shops were in Ginza, just like US department stores, though Ginza is very expensive). While visiting many cramped shops in Tokyo and a few other big cities, I found it was very hit or miss for access. While it’s getting better, often many shops have a single step up (sometimes more) to enter the more accessible stores. For me, when I was visiting in a manual wheelchair with my strong brother a single step wasn’t a big issue so this could be a concern for you, inside on the other hand is often accessible in limited areas for really cramped stores or just big enough to go down isles and then you have to go out backwards because there’s no room to turn around (many Akiba shops have isles like this, but at least I could see most of the stores products). Don Quijote in Akihabara fits around the accessible side, but the elevator is in the staff area so you have to request help to change floors, not all floors may be accessible but they do have unique goods on top of their standard products so it can be worth a visit (here’s a link to Accessible Japan’s Akihabara review: https://www.accessible-japan.com/akihabara-accessibility-review/)

    However, that’s the more accessible stores, many non-accessible stores can be located in basements or other levels requiring stair-only access. If you’re looking to visit a specific store, I wouldn’t count on it being accessible without first researching it. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t omit shopping in any specific area as I’ve always found some interesting shops with at least minimal access, and I have even had some store owner bring items to me to look at (saw an awesome Noh mask through the window, they brought it to me without hesitation, I bought it happily).

    I know it isn’t your primary concern, but I hope I helped answer some of your questions.


  • #11176



    Glad to hear you are planning to come to Japan! Have you been before?

    @schroth-sensei did a great job covering the shopping aspect, thanks!

    First of all, consumables for incontinence aids can be provided and or discounted I believe, but the amount etc is really on a city-level basis, so it would be dependent on where you end up.

    As for a place to live… yeah, that is difficult! I was very fortunate to find the place I am now living. At the time I moved here, there really wasn’t much – and while you found バリアフリー apartment listings, they are still few in number and the “accessibility” often just means no step. Though, with the aging population, they are increasing.

    The toilet/bath layout is fairly standard and finding something different might be a bit of an extra challenge…

    I think most people with disabilities buy and renovate condominiums.

    When you get a visa, your sponsor may help you with finding an a place to stay.

    Also, places like the ones you listed are from big companies, you may be better off trying to find a small real estate agent specializing in accessible housing (not sure they exist, but might!)

    Hope this helps.

  • #11190


    Hi Josh.

    I’ve been to Japan 4 times off the top of my head. Once in high school with family, once in high school with my high school Japanese class, once with my sister as an adult and once by myself for half and the other half with my university Japanese club (home stay at high school student house). The last trip I was in Japan for 4-5 weeks.

    Out of interest you mention you were lucky finding your apartment. How exactly did you do that? Did you go through one of the agencies or did you have someone else assisting you?

  • #11193


    Great to hear you are so experienced, that will definitely help!

    The company I was with when I first came helped find the place. A lot of big companies and schools can help new comers as well.

  • #11260



    This is just to let you know that we have moved our community to TabiFolk. If you have any questions or information about visiting/living/studying in Japan, please ask in the Japan group!


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