It’s been a month since we last posted, which should be no surprise given that, at the time, we were mostly stuck in a waiting game, and since then we’ve been catching up on getting settled in.
First, we finally moved into an apartment, the process to which was rather ridiculous. You see, in order to rent in Japan, you have to have a Japanese phone number. In particular, only a real, Japanese issue cellphone will work, not even a valid Japanese Skype number will work. So much so, we had to show the physical cell phone while signing our contract. But to get a cell phone, even a prepaid cell phone, you are required to have an address. See where this is going?
Fortunately, we worked with a really amusing agent who helped walk us through the process. It’s really weird having an “agent” when searching for an apartment altogether; in the U.S. it seemed so much more straightforward. Find place, schedule a visit to the property, talk to the renter, demonstrate income and credit, boom. Here, things are more tricky, but probably most especially so because we were foreigners entering the country and did not have a previous Japanese address, cellphone, or other background. This is where the agent really pulled her weight — not only did she get us an address before we could get an address ( a feat of logical absurdity), not only did she stare menancingly at the poor cell phone shop employees to get them to speed up their initial estimate of “like an hour?” for setting up the line to 15 minutes, but she did all of this the day she showed us two separate properties and had us signing the paper work for having the apartment all in the span of a few hours. It was impressive, and she seemed to have fun “being busy”. Running from place to place, maximuming our time efficiency, calling people ahead and convincing them to bend or stretch rules or closing hours for the close.
After securing the place, we had to actually move in. A really good friend of mine helped us move in our luggage and carry a couple of futon matts back to the place so that we could sleep. After that, it was off to Shinmisato station, home of Costco, Ikea, and a bunch of other familiar western shopping centers. 😀 Ikea here is pretty much the same as anywhere — no the furniture isn’t smaller in Japan. Ikea furniture is /already small/ and optimized for living in tight places. It was really a god send when deciding how to lay out our very limited space.
In the end, our place is 26 square meters — not bad, room for a washer, bath, separate bathroom, small closet, tiny kitchen, reasonable living room, and a balcony. We really squeezed the effectiveness of our living room’s space, though. We found the Ikea day bed that we use as a coach in the afternoon, two twin size beds at night, and includes 3 drawers underneath. Combining that with a table whose flaps that fold out or in, we had achieved space efficiency nirvana. YUS.
Did I mention how much I love hooks? I think we’ve bought like 16 of them. If you’re not using your vertical space correctly, you may as well just bring the ceiling down 4 feet.
So yeah, moving furniture and basic supplies without a car is alot of work. It took us several days of hauling from place to place to get it to work, but settling it now, things are cozy.
The town we live in is north of Tokyo, about 45 minutes, but it’s totally cool by me. It’s much cheaper, but there’s still a major center one stop away, and both of me and Libby’s commutes, although long, are manageable (no transfers, cheap). We’ve come to really like our town — there’s a convenient mall with great, cheap sushi boat, theater, an awesome yakitori place (various styles of bbq chicken on a stick), udon shop, and a beautiful, quiet kind of feel. It’s just busy enough to have everything we need, but still more homely and friendly than the busy city.
Aside from that, things have been slow, as there’s still a bit of a wait game involved. I got the first part of my visa process complete, which led me to needing to request permission for work through the big immigration office (a process which took 8 hours of waiting to accomplish), and now I’m awaiting paperwork that should, finally, grant me work status in the country. Libby will likely speak to her own situation, but she’s started work so we’ve both been adjusting to that. I’d like to say that we’re planning an awesome trip, but until we both get our first pay checks and secure some financial clarity, we’re keeping things kind of low profile and local.
But I’ve got plenty of ideas to work on for the summer. We keep seeing outdoor bbq pits in various stores, I think Libby misses running the grill for a graciously hungry group. Maybe we can arrange something. There’s also summer festivals that are pretty notorious, and some great outdoor opportunities around the Sayama hills.
There’s also a very good chance of a visit to Disney Sea resort around my birthday, I think 😉
Long time no write, all. Yes, we are finally living in our own space after living in cramped hotel rooms and hostels! The Japanese paper work was especially no fun though. You sign multiple boxes and it must fit in the box. You write your English name and it must be EXACTLY what it says on your alien card. You wait in line for a couple hours and then you sit down and wait some more in an immigration hell office (Shinjuku City Ward). There was also more waiting, filling out a form, and even more waiting when you try to get a bank account. Same deal with the cell phone. I was really happy with our realtor though and she knew how to get things done. I was grateful and she stayed with us until it was all over at about 7:30 pm when I signed the apartment contract.
For sure moving and buying things is not so easy here since we have to think about whether we can haul it back easily on the train. I wanted to buy everything we could and just go back home all in one go but that’s pretty impossible here. Moving suitcases through the subway again is pretty painful since a lot of times there might not be an elevator or an escalator in particular stations. We were really lucky to have help though!
Our little town is really cute. It has a lot of yakiniku, Chinese, flower shops, a hipster coffee/dinner place, an udon place run by an old couple, and other things. It’s really easy to just stay home here since everything is close by (I wish I could stay home every day heh).
I started work officially last Friday after anxiously waiting for where I would be assigned down to the last minute. Luckily it’s a 20 minute walk to the train station, one stop away, and 20 minutes more walking. It’s not too bad of a commute, compared to some of our neighbors who I can hear leave by 5am in the morning (we’ve only seen 2-3 of them in person). Also the sun is very bright here at 5am! WHY?! While it’s terrible that Zach is still waiting for his visa even though he applied first, I’m grateful that he’s helped a lot in helping to start my day by putting out breakfast, filling my work thermos, and taking care of things when I’m not at home :3.
As for school, I haven’t taught any lessons yet. The first week is mostly a lot of ceremony for the students where they go over the school rules, practice the school song, do their health check, and do some team building games. This means I’ve just been trying to keep busy, since they don’t have much for me to do, which can be quite tedious. I’m actually not sure if what I’m doing is what I’m supposed to be doing, but it’s a thing here to just look busy when you aren’t busy. I ask around and people just tell me to sit down :c. I’ve enjoyed talking to a lot of the lady teachers in the office. They are much more open with trying to converse with me, where they do this interesting mix of English and Japanese, very fun to listen to because I can still easily understand it. I have maybe one teacher on my not-so-great list. I’m definitely trying to observe more how I talk, like I have to watch the speed of my speech, how loud, how enunciated it is. I know many of you have said I’m a mumbler, so maybe things will be different the next time you see me!
The kids seem cool and energetic, and I’m not exactly a kid person. They are really well-behaved, and some will say hi to me or English me and they don’t try to poop on the bathroom floors or make teachers cry like some kids I’ve known (ahem you know who you are). School lunches are really good also and seem healthy. The milk has that je-ne-sais-quoi Asian milk taste, like it’s kind of bland and seems really pasteurized. Today it was spiked with coffee flavor and I really enjoyed that! Being at school again is pretty bizarre. Never would I thought I would be back at middle school. You dream about school even when you are so past those days, that you missed a test, that you forgot your homework, that you got lost going to your class. Except when I wake up, it’s REAL LIFE. Anyways, hopefully I won’t forget my homework and I’ll have something more interesting to write about later.
Let us know if you’d like to write to use sometime and we can email our address! Until next time!