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How well do you know your neighbors?


Do you know who your neighbors are? Probably you don’t. Who cares who they are? Modern urban life liberates us from the neighborhood. Our social and professional ties span the city, span the globe. Next door is another planet.

Until something weird happens. Example: a suicide, broadcast live online. Indifference only goes so far. You have to care about that, if the suicide in question is a neighbor. Even if you didn’t know him. Even if you’d never seen him.

Spa! (Nov 1) titles its macabre little anthology of neighbor stories “Psycho Neighbors,” but the characters are not really psychotic – just troubled, or criminal, or, it may be, misunderstood.

“Mr H” was 28 when he hanged himself in September. He lived in a dreary Tokyo suburb, partly residential, partly industrial, and his death would have passed unnoticed among the neighbors if not for a peculiar circumstance – he died on camera. Unfortunately (or maybe not) he didn’t set things up very skillfully. The lighting was no good, and not much could be seen. But when his mother came home an hour or so later and found H’s body dangling from the ceiling, she let out a shriek that penetrated to every corner of the live site to which the action was being streamed.

The episode soon became public knowledge in the neighborhood. “I didn’t know the guy, but... well, it’s not a good feeling,” a neighbor tells Spa!. A local real estate agent expresses fears of property values going down. He notes a strange fact: A suicide will depress property values in the vicinity if the house in which it occurs is subsequently vacated. Not, however, if the family continues to occupy it.

A middle-aged housewife, comfortably established in an upscale Tokyo condominium, was astonished one day to find the police knocking on her door. Did she know anything about the people next door? “Anything at all, no matter how unimportant it seems.”

Well, she said, she didn’t exactly know anything. There’d been the customary new-neighbor greetings. They seemed a nice enough young couple, evidently well off. After that, the most striking thing about them was that she never saw them. She heard them, though. They seemed to sleep days and be up all night. Whatever they did – including, at times, what sounded like home carpentry – disturbed her and her husband’s sleep. Strange vehicles came and went. Once she rang their bell to complain. She knew, from sounds and lights, that someone was home, but no one came to the door, and she gave up.

That’s what she told the police, and what they told her in return made her glad she hadn’t had a chance to vent her annoyance. The neighbors were wanted alleged international drug smugglers, apparently using their condo as a base of operations.

“Fumiko” is a company employee in her 20s, living in the Tokai area. One day her doorbell rang and a familiar friendly voice hailed her through the door: “Hello!” It was the delivery man who filled her water dispenser. It was strange, though – she hadn’t ordered a refill. She opened the door and there he was – not in his delivery uniform, however, and not on business. He’d just moved in next door, he said, and was paying the customary courtesy call.

Fumiko’s first thought was, “Stalker!” Her second was, “Surely not!” But she kept running into him. When she left for work, when she came back, when she took the garbage out – he was always there, always smiling, always saying hello. When the new delivery man came with her next order, she asked about his predecessor. “Oh, he left,” said the new man. “Went back to his home town.”

His home town? Next door is not his home town!

She decided to move. The news is full of reports of stalkers, some of them homicidal. Better safe than sorry. When he saw her dealing with a moving company, he asked her where she was going. Needless to say, she didn’t tell him.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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All in what you put into it. I have dinner with one set of neighbours at least once a week, see the others who live directly next/in front of me a few times and we always chat. There are folks who keep to themselves and that is fine. I have found that having a dog has made a huge difference in getting to know people. When I lived in an apartment and mansion, I didn't really know anyone but I was younger than and didn't really care to know the neighbours. Now that we have a house, I think it is important to know each other and help when needed. That being said, I don't know I would know people all that well if I hadn't made the first step - we've had bbqs, Xmas parties... Besides the weekly dinner neighbours, I don't think anyone else hosts others over.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

I know one neighbor well because of them letting their dog crap on the front balcony. I am downwind, and the flies were getting bad. Dog is now gone after I complained to the wife. The husband said he was sorry, and the dog is gone.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

I like my neighbours. They are good neighbours. I never see them and, most importantly, never hear them.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

We have a really good bunch of neighbours fortunately. We bbq together out in the street, do Christmas parties etc as all the children enjoy playing together.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I'm not really the neighborly "hey lets bbq together" type but I do think it's in your best interest to know who your neighbors are.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I also think that once you have children and the neighbors have children its more common/easier to meet/communicate

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I've learned that in Japan, you need to be the one to initiate contact. Never had any parties with the neighbors, but my wife frequently bake apple pies for the old couples downstairs, just so they don't nag too much about our children's noise, and cook food from back home and share it with the next door neighbors.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I BBQ with my next door, next next door and a the house across the street from my next next door neighbor whenever I get the chance.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Used to say hello when passing my neighbours. Gave up when there was never a response. Used to have great neighbours (still keep in touch with some) - however, this was back in my home country.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

One of my neighbours used to take the same train as me in the mornings, but we never talked. One day I started a conversation. She told me that the benefits of making friends with people you live near aren't worth the risks. It didn't help that my wife was almost pathologically introverted.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

On one side, I have a room rented by a university, where various grad students sometimes crash for the night. They've never been an issue, but I never talk to them, nor them to me. Their balcony is full of cardboard trash, but so long as it doesn't stink, I don't have an issue. The other side, a middle-aged, single OL, who sings karaoke at all hours of the night and morning, loudly... and poorly. Mostly 粉雪. I only know her to yell at her to shut up through the wall when she wakes me up before 5:00 in the morning (when I'm up anyway). This happens at least a few times a month. Oddly enough, she's friendly and always says hello to me in the parking lot.

I once lived in a place next to some sort of factory worker. He yelled at me to be quiet while I was Skyping a friend around 10:00 (I was somewhat loud for a LeoPalace wall), and the next morning, I had a hand-written scrap of paper with a note from "the management" telling me if I didn't shut up, they'd evict me. I called LeoPalace and eventually turned the note over to them (obviously not their handiwork if anyone has ever lived in a LeoPalace), and every time I saw him out smoking afterwords I was told "Gaijin go home!" like some sort of bad Tokyo Drift scene.

I have had much better luck with shopkeepers and business owners. The owner of a darts bar, convenience store, and karaage joint I frequent became good friends, to the point where I've spent time at their homes and with their families, gone on road trips, and one even came running to my defense when she saw the police talking to me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Bought a house 18 months ago. Some of the neighbors are nice, others are indifferent, but someone obviously doesnt like foreigners. They have thrown eggs at my house twice and were regularly dumping trash in my bicycle basket until I put a cover on it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Those good old days when life was simpler, without any mobile, TV, etc. When people used to chat with each other in the evening.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My neighbours are cool. They have kids that go to the same school as my son. Do not know then that well but are all a bit eccentric. Which is cool.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I guess I've been lucky. I've had great neighbors. We never really socialized but I did give an English book of Alice in Wonderland (for kids less than 7) to one of my neighbor's daughters. They were so sweet! Generally I like the Japanese and that is usually reciprocated (spelling).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, my beloved cat recently passed away of honorable old age. The expressions of sympathy from my next door neighbor (I live in a typical 7-story apartment building), the other floor neighbors, and the family who own the building and live on the 2nd floor, and the local barber shop family next to the building were enough to convince me to stay for a few more years. I will build on this bridge to expand my communication with these folks. Having a social network is really a valuable thing here in Tokyo for this ex-pat.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Those good old days when life was simpler, without any mobile, TV, etc. When people used to chat with each other in the evening." How old are you Inara, 87?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Patricia - you have great neighbors!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am in a good relationship with my neighbours. Every month we make a bbq party. The only problem that I often mess up numbers of my postcode and the parcel usually got one of my neighbours. But they always return it to me. Now I check my postcode on http://worldpostalcode.com/japan/ twice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Eh what can I say about my neighbours they think I am the wacky european who moved into his company's housing project well atleast my kids get along with the neighbour children but we are on good speaking term.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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