For those of you who don’t know (I can’t remember if I put on the blog or not), about a month ago, I got an offer to stay in Tokyo. When I headed over on this six month assignment, that was my goal, but actually having the offer in hand drove home the reality of what I was about to do. But, after a lot of thought and prayer, I decided to go for it for many many reasons.
And, just like that, my life became chaos. I signed the offer on January 8th and went right into high gear transition and moving mode. It’s a new job (same company, same function, supporting a different business) and I needed to find permanent housing. I’ve been in a “serviced apartment” for the past six months, and as nice as it has been to have people changing my sheets and washing my dishes, six months is long enough. I’m ready to have my stuff!
Because the transition needed to happen rather quickly (the last day for the woman I’m replacing is Feb. 15th), I set out to find a new apartment right away. Thankfully, I was provided with a realtor as part of my relocation package. Having been in Tokyo for almost six months, and spoken to a number of people about and helped a number of people with their own relocations, I had a little bit of an idea about how this apartment hunting might be a little different from the experience in the U.S.
For starters, I needed to be prepared to take my shoes off at every place, which meant being thoughtful about what I was wearing. Then there was mentally preparing myself for the tradeoffs. More space means farther out (that’s the same in NYC). Ovens basically don’t exist. Convenience over amenities. And so on and so forth.
What I didn’t expect was how snobby I would start to feel. As I started touring apartments that were quite nice and my list of wants slowly became needs, I realized that I was becoming “that” girl. The one who “needs” a gym with a pool, a view, a big kitchen, a big closet, a Japanese style bathroom, a high floor, a view, AND a great location. And, unlike New York, there aren’t really buildings with pre-war charm, so it’s all post-war, and anything post-war that was built before 1995 is pretty dark. Why didn’t we like windows in the last half of last century?Anyway, that first day I looked at about 10 apartments I think and they were all over the city. It was a LONG day. Then, on Sunday afternoon, we went and looked at a few more. It was so interesting to see different parts of the city and to get a sense for what is totally “Japanese” when it comes to housing. Shoe closets by the front door: brilliant. Washer/dryer in every apartment: amazing. No ovens: clearly they are not big bakers. No light fixtures…not sure what that one is about. Oh, and no window coverings. Also weird. And finally, no refrigerator. You really can learn so much about a culture going apartment hunting. I still need to ask about the light fixture, fridge, and curtains…
And the realization that three-pronged outlets (American style as opposed to Japanese style) were actually available? Not going to lie, this was a big deal. And from a cultural perspective, something as little as this might be indicative of the amount of influence foreigners can have on a culture over time.
Oh, and then there were the “seismic resistance models”…nothing like that to remind a girl where she’s living.
So, at the end of the weekend, there were two front runners. Neither one was exactly perfect, but both were way better than my previous apartment in NY. It was such an interesting experience to be fully aware that I was being kind of ridiculous, and yet not being able to kick the feeling that I was somehow getting “cheated” because neither one was perfect. Yes, totally ridiculous. But it’s like the kid who gets a candy bar and he’s so excited to get a candy bar, especially since he didn’t do anything to earn it. But then he sees his brother get two and suddenly the world is unfair! The point is…I maybe got a little bit crazy in the whole process.
And then, later that week, my darling friend Jennifer made the comment that whatever apartment I choose, it will become home and I knew she was right. So, as I thought about it more and more, I thought about which place I liked the most in terms of where I think I would feel the best hanging out in the apartment and there was a clear winner. But, the other one had this amazing pool (and I love swimming) with an amazing view and an amazing gym. Basically, the amenities were amazing! (Can you tell I loved it?) But the apartment, not as amazing. (Are you totally bored yet?)
The next Saturday, I went out with the realtor again to see a few more apartments and visit my top three (there was one more…most because it had this great deck–like awesome party deck–and was close to my church). It was totally clear which one was my favorite. Plus, that one is close to my friend CoyLou and it’s nice to have a friend close by. But most importantly, upon second visit, it just “felt” like my apartment. I was still nervous I was making the wrong decision, but when I told the realtor on Monday that I wanted it, I knew I was making a good decision. Oh, and it’s close to my favorite gyoza place. That really should have been enough, right?
And now, I’m back in the states and my things are going to be packed up tomorrow (including a massive stack of IKEA boxes from my little shopping spree yesterday–I bought a sectional!). I head back to Japan in five days and move into that new apartment the next weekend (I’ll have rental furniture for a while) and I am SO excited!
Rachel, they actually negotiated a fridge in for me. 🙂 And lights I was planning on IKEA. I think I might need one more rug and a vacuum, but I’m hoping that’s it.
PS – just realized that I commented from my second blog (the one I keep for my friends and family) – not the one I have comment from previously (the misadventures of k).
So exciting! Having just moved into a new apartment here in Norway, I went through the same experience in deciding on an apartment. I actually looked at far fewer (the housing market is really tough here!) but once I found the one, I knew it. It isn’t perfect, but I think it is perfect for me! I have made several trips to ikea too 🙂 I’ll be curious to hear how long it will take your stuff to get to Japan. I had my stuff packed up in Seattle on December 14, but it didn’t make it to a boat (in LA) until Sunday (Feb 3) and it won’t arrive in England until March 8 (and then needs to go through customs and make it to Trondheim!). They originally quoted me 6 to 8 week. Ha ha! Anyway – congrats on your move!!
We bought our fridge off of Craiglist. Amazing huge like-new fridge. Curtains we bought in Nitori (closed one to us was in Odaiba – Venus Fort)…they have other great house stuff too. Lights we bought at Ikea. Hope that helps!