How I Dealt With my Noisy Neighbors in Japan (Kind of)

The Olympics are coming up next year and if there was a category for being the noisiest neighbors, I think mine would be in the running for the gold.

I forget exactly when they moved in, but it was sometime during the ongoing remote work era. This group of people (I honestly am not sure how many there are) took the two rooms to the left of me, and apparently appear to be close friends and often spend time in one another’s rooms. Usually there’s a lot of screaming and laughing, often as late as 2 AM. Hopefully you won’t encounter something like this, but here’s how I’ve dealt with the issue. 

First, give it some time

If you’re having noise problems for just one night, it might be a fluke. Everyone has days where they’re being a bit loud. Sometimes just banging on the wall once will be enough for the other person to get the idea. If it’s two or three days, maybe a friend is visiting or something. Quite annoying, but hopefully they’ll go away.

After that though, if it keeps going on, you’re probably going to want to contact your property management company.

Hopefully you have a property management company you can contact by email or something similar. If you’re living in a Housing Service property you can contact us via email and we’ll contact the property management company on your behalf! In my case, I was able to submit an inquiry online and they got back to me shortly afterwards saying they would contact the tenant. They asked me to give it some time and reach out again if things continued.

Well, over the course of a month, things did not get any better, and I sent many more emails. They apparently did manage to get into contact with the other tenants and things did get slightly better in that they would no longer play music late at night. Probably because during one of my late night emails I was so desperate that I essentially pleaded, “Please make them stop just the music at least, just the music…” 

If the property management company manages to contact the other tenant and they actually start being quieter, hurrah! You would honestly be in the minority for these cases. What I’ve found out from dealing with many noise complaints for our own tenants is that EVERYONE thinks they’re being quiet. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But except in very rare cases, no one is willing to admit they are loud, and no one wants to change their ways. 

Dealing with it on your own

I have no idea if my plea was what helped with the music, but with the main target of my ire gone I began to calm down a bit more. I’ve used earplugs for a long time even before these neighbors moved in, though I had stopped for a time since it had been relatively quiet. With the music gone and earplugs in, I’ve mostly been able to deal with it. 

There have been a few times where I’ve banged on the wall and there was one close call where I was really angry and went over to their room and rang the doorbell, but no one answered. Not wanting to push the issue further, I went back to my room. I actually don’t remember if things quieted down after that. 

Confronting your neighbors directly is certainly one way to go about it if things with the property management company don’t work out, but other than my failed outburst, I largely want to avoid this. Other than being noisy, I have no idea what kind of people they are and there’s an unknown number of them. That combined with my irrational fear of random people being murderers leads to me not wanting to get too confrontational about it. 

To deal with it on my own, in addition to earplugs, I’ve taken to not really trying to mask my own noise either. It’s not full on “fight fire with fire” as I’m not trying to make noise on purpose, but if I’m watching TV or playing video games with my friends, I’ll be as noisy as I want. Clearly these people don’t have respect for my time or schedule, so… at least now it’s kind of fair. Though I guarantee they’re still at least ten times louder than me. Let me be very clear though, I don’t advise you to do this, but it’s at least helped me accept reality. That being said, if they ever submit a noise complaint towards me, all out warfare would begin.

Honestly other than that, I’ve mostly just tried to go zen mode about the whole thing. I figure “well, they’re having fun and that’s a good thing at least.” I suppose it’s preferable that they’re at least loudly being happy as opposed to loudly screaming at each other. At this point I figure I’m out of options other than meaninglessly complaining to the property management company again and risking the dreaded “reverse noise complaint,” or slamming on their doorbell again and going for a confrontation. Basically, I got tired of trying, so I’ve kind of just learned to live with it.

The best medicine is preventative 

Before moving in, there’s no way to predict if you’re going to have noisy neighbors. Sure you can ask the person showing you the room, but chances are they haven’t been there either. Then even if things are quiet when you move in, there’s no guarantee that someone noisy won’t move in randomly, like what happened to me. Looking back, what I realize now is that there are at least a few things I could’ve done to minimize the risk of having a noisy neighbor.

If noise is concerning to you, you’ll want to be very cognizant of what your building is made of.

Generally reinforced concrete is going to be good, whereas wood and steel frames are much worse at sheltering you from sounds. Reinforced concrete is just a strong building material in general, although it generally costs more for these rooms. 

Second, you can try to choose a room with as few shared walls as possible. The best possible option would be on the top floor at the corner, since you’ll only have a room below and one room to the side. That being said, top corner units are usually the most expensive units in a building… Meaning, to make use of this preventative medicine, you’ll need the money for it. Though I suppose that is the case with most medicine. 

It’s really worth considering how much noise affects you prior to searching for an apartment, because I think for a lot of people, they would potentially have more peace of mind going for a slightly less convenient option were it quieter. On the other hand, if you’re the type that can sleep through anything, you can find some pretty good deals on apartments near roads or train tracks. 

A shaky peace

Other than little to no music, not much has really changed with how much noise my neighbors are making. In fact, just last night I could hear them hooting and hollering as usual. What has changed is how I’ve been able to mentally deal with the noise and the fact that I’ve mostly accepted my fate. That being said, I do long for the day when they move out… 

If you’re in a similar situation, I hope that your property management company will have better luck with getting through to the tenants. Please if they fail though, do try to give them the benefit of the doubt. The property management company staff trying to contact these people to tell them to quiet down is a person too, and if the other tenant doesn’t listen, there’s very little they can do unless the whole building starts complaining or the police get called. 

Ideally, aim for some preventative action! If not, make peace with earplugs and meditation. 

By Nathan

Nathan works for the GaijinPot Housing Service, helping foreigners find their home in Japan. He’s American and has lived in Japan for about three years. Read Nathan’s self-intro to find out what brought him here!

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