staying in tokyo

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.IMG_2188

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.

19110_10152428753635389_115210120_nWhat 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?397495_10152428761245389_21014628_nAnyway, 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.554533_10152435553680389_1508194277_n

Oh, and then there were the “seismic resistance models”…nothing like that to remind a girl where she’s living. IMG_2231

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.

208273_10152441239740389_1917678493_nAnd 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?)

528876_10152434612215389_43486645_nThe 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!

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happy monthiversary to me!

Side note: it’s always bothered me when people say “one month anniversary” or whatever other than year because anniversary implies “year”. So instead, I made up a word. Yeah…I make no sense I know.

Moving on. As of today, I have been in Tokyo for an entire month. Yes. An entire month! How did that happen? Seriously.

Anyway, I felt like I needed to post something in celebration, so I’m going to post photos and a little video from Saturday. No food (gross or otherwise). Just some photos from my visit to Meiji Jingu Shrine and park on Saturday. Since I already posted about the things that have surprised me, there’s not a lot to add as a “wow, it’s been a month” post…so, just enjoy the photos and very short video.

Random dance festival we came across

Couldn’t resist capturing these dancers posing

Meiji Jingu Shrine gate

This is where you wash your hands before entering the actual shrine. 

You scoop the water out with the wooden ladles. Such a beautiful ritual.

I was loving the sunlight.

My Tokyo version of Poets’ Walk in Central Park.
And just in case you’re curious about where I work, this is the lobby. I kind of love it!

room with a view

My office is in a relatively new building in downtown Tokyo just outside the Imperial Palace. Kind of awesome, right? It’s called the Shin Marunouchi Building and that’s how people know it. There aren’t street addresses here (there are no street names), so buildings are a big deal. Anyway, this building is amazing. In fact, when we arrived on the subway, we never even had to go outside to get to it. That’s a really interesting thing about Tokyo. There aren’t just tunnels under the city. There’s an entire city under the city. In fact, there’s so much under my building that I haven’t had to go outside during the day even once…which is awesome considering the heat and humidity.

One of the other great things about my office is the view. I’m on a trading desk (not because I’m trading…it’s just how the offices are set up, so I don’t sit right up against the window, but I have an amazing view to my right.

And here was the view at my desk when I first arrived:

The other side is in English, but how awesome is that?! (I removed my last name and company info…don’t know if one of you is a stalker. And I don’t want to get fired.)

Okay, my eyes are drooping…can’t keep them open. Must sleep, but stay tuned!

urban girl squad

There’s this pretty cool social networking group in NYC that one of my coworkers introduced me to called Urban Girl Squad. She sent out an invite for an event called Cupcakes and Champagne to a few of us at work. So, tonight, five of us headed headed over to this event and it was really fun. This little group does all kinds of other fun things, too…like rifle shooting lessons (yes, I will be signing up for that one next time it’s available)!

Just one more reason to love New York and love my job and my coworkers!

randomness (aka jobs, baking, and spending habits)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first started working as an esthetician I had four jobs. Yes. Four. I only had 25 hours a week at the salon and I was building my clientele, so I had to figure out how to pay the bills. Which meant I was working 25 hours a week at the salon, 10-15 hours a week at Williams-Sonoma, 1 day a week as an esthetician in a chiropractic office in Globe, AZ, and whatever nights I was needed to stock at Bath & Body Works. (Obviously, I don’t have pride issues when it comes to working. A job is a job…especially when you need money.)

It was insane. But I loved it. It was just so fun and chaotic. And the discounts were amazing! I was getting all of my personal care needs met for pennies at the salon. I enjoyed the benefits of the B&BW discounts for all the bridal shower gifts I was purchasing at that point in my life, and oh how I LOVED the Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn discounts.

When I finally had enough hours and enough clients to support myself with my main job at the salon, I quit B&BW and the chiropractic office, but I just couldn’t give up the Williams-Sonoma discount, so I continued to work a total 50-70 hours a week (depending on the season) to keep the discount. And the extra income from Williams-Sonoma was also my spending money for it. It was rare that I ever took home money from that job, but it was totally worth it. Eventually, I transfered to Pottery Barn for a little variety, but the discount remained.

The problem with this is that I got used to being able to purchase whatever I wanted from those two stores. And now I think that I should still be able to do that. But I really can’t. That said, I recently saw this amazing tartlet pan when I was window shopping. For those of you who know me, I kind of love making tarts. I like eating them, too. But I love making them more. So, I bought the pan. And for about a month it just sat in a box. Staring at me. Making me feeling guilty for purchasing something so frivolous. Something I really didn’t need. Something I hadn’t even used yet.

Yeah…the hot pads are from Williams-Sonoma, too…but they were purchased during my discount days. 🙂

And then I finally busted it out and I’ll tell you what…the guilt is gone. This pan is my new favorite. What could be better than bite sized tarts or quiches? I’ve discovered a new favorite recipe for pancetta, leek and goat cheese tartlets. And on Sunday I made my favorite tart in tartlet form. Both have been a total hit.

Such deliciousness.

So, basically what I’m saying is that frivolous, impulse buys are awesome. Or maybe what I’m really saying is that sometimes it’s worth investing in good equipment for the hobbies that you love. In any case, if you ever want to try one of these, just invite me to a potluck and I’ll be happy to bake them for you!