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This Determined OFW Built a Cozy and Minimalist Home in Japan

Homeowner Rhia Cruz shows us the product of her "sipag" at "tiyaga" in the Land of the Rising Sun.



For most Filipinos, their dream is to have their very own home. All the more if you’re living overseas. 36-year-old Overseas Filipino Worker Rhia Cruz, for instance, was able to buy her very own house while working in Japan, a major investment as many commonly rent apartments or homes. 



A product of blood, sweat, and tears

Of course, it was not an easy process. In fact, Rhia has had to work two to three jobs to be able to afford her home. “My life in Japan, it’s hard,” tells the OG team. “Sa ibang bansa naman talaga mahirap yung buhay, akala lang nila madali. Ang work ko dito dalawa, umaga tsaka gabi. Minsan nga tatlo, nagtu-tutor pa ‘ko ng English ‘pag weekend.” Before becoming an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), Rhia worked evenings part-time at a Philippine club, and then she would work mornings at a factory, sewing car seats. She also worked peeling vegetables and crops such as potatoes and handling garbage.

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Today, Rhia’s home as proof of her sipag at tiyaga. Outside, the parking area can fit five vehicles, while a lawn with artificial grass serves as a play area for her daughter. Stepping inside—after removing one’s slippers or shoes, Japanese style—one is greeted by neutral-colored interiors and an accent wall decorated with brick-design wallpaper. The house made use of colors gray, beige, with pops of orange and blue. “My idea of a home is a place where you can relax, yung bahay na very inviting, welcoming, kaya ang gusto ko sa bahay ko, neutral colors lang,” Rhia says. 



The realities of buying a home in Japan

Rhia describes her home as an open-concept house, with an adjoining living and kitchen area. To make her small kitchen feel extra spacious, Rhia did away with kitchen cabinets and instead installed counter cabinets. Veering away from the typical Japanese home setup, she chose to use a tatami room as the dining area.




Just like any foreigner living in Japan, it’s extra difficult to purchase a home if you’re not married to a Japanese citizen.  “Kunwari contract signing, do’n pa lang challenge na kasi ‘di ba wala kang alam dahil nga medyo mabibigat na Japanese na yung gamit at ‘di naman ako nakakabasa ng Japanese din,” Rhia notes. She also stresses that maintaining the house is hard especially as there’s no man in the house to look after errands such as replacing the gas and changing lightbulbs.


A few steps away is the toilet and bath and laundry area. Although small, Rhia can rely on a high-tech Japanese washlet with convenient features such as heated seats.

A well-deserved investment

The second floor, meanwhile, houses the bedrooms and Rhia’s study area, where she prepares lesson plans and does her research. A key piece in Rhia’s room—the master bedroom—is a bed which she made sure to invest in.




“Nag-invest talaga ‘ko sa malambot atsaka magandang klaseng bed kasi ito yung time na maipapahinga ko yung katawang lupa ko so hindi ko talaga tinipid yung kama ko,” she says. All in all, Rhia’s house cost P20 million yen—a hefty price by Philippine standards, but just average in Japan.




The lot size measures 200 square meters while the floor area is around 113 square meters. “Actually, mura pa nga ‘to. Mas mahal pa kung talagang mas bobonggahan mo, yung mas malaki yung space.”  

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