Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finding an apartment in Japan isn't that difficult...

Especially if your fiancee is Japanese.  I'm going through the process of getting married here in Japan and part of that involves setting up housekeeping together.  My current place is one of those living room/kitchen in the entrance/shower room studio apartments.  Nice for one, not so pleasant for two.  Not so pleasant for the neighbors, that is.  One person can think, but two people have to talk.  Unless they're highly evolved telepathic super-humans who no longer need to communicate through the clumsy device of spoken language.

My first apartments here in Japan came courtesy my employers.  Nova shares in Toyohashi and Hamamatsu, my own private Idaho out in Sanarudai then another in Motohama-cho, a small place in Asahi, Chiba.  Friends helped me find my current place.  It took some doing.  I had to sign all kinds of forms, visit banks and city halls, but the friend who handled the Japanese side did the heavy lifting.  And on top of that, I had to have a third party sign on as my guarantor.  It took a month and there were some dead ends and disappointments along the way.

This time out my fiancee took over.  She started looking Monday, we discussed a place Wednesday, she looked at it Friday and we closed on it Sunday.  Yes, there's some discrimination involved.  She knows it, I know it, the realtor who handled our transaction admitted as much.  I make no excuses for my adopted country in that.  A more activist type might make an issue of it, and justifiably so.  I'm just trying to smooth the way for a spring ceremony.

Here's how it went down--  The realtor picked us up in a tiny company car just outside Hamamatsu Station, drove us a circuitous route to his office where a co-worker served us green tea.  The temperature inside was positively Hawaiian, perhaps to elicit faster agreements from the prospective renters.  My fiancee and the realtor talked for a while, he presented her with some forms which she read and carefully filled in in a matter of minutes, then another realtor presented us her credentials and read the leasing agreement to my fiancee point-by-point while my fiancee made notes in pencil and asked carefully considered questions.

The realtor informed us in her business-like tone the apartment doesn't permit pianos.  Knowing my rock star past, my fiancee asked about guitars (the day before I had floated the idea of the two of us teaming up John-and-Yoko-like with a private studio at some point in the future and true to her nature, she did not forget).

I sipped tea and observed.  My role in the ceremony involved peeling off a number of 10,000 yen notes and laying them carefully inside a plastic tray.  I counted them twice, my fiancee counted them once, the first realtor counted them again.  He presented us with a receipt that looked more like a university diploma (with a postage stamp for that extra officially legal touch) and they discussed moving companies.

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Everything complete, the realtor drove us back to the station, entertaining my fiancee with stories of his own mysterious, creative wife and unconventional, heavy-smoking parents.  I laughed along whenever I understood what they were saying.  I think it was a huge relief for my fiancee to have a pleasantly pointless conversation in her native language after discussing heavy financial matters with me in English all weekend.  She's shy, but a charming chatter in her own right, and he seemed like a cheerful fellow.  It relaxed me and I enjoyed looking at the late afternoon clouds in the thinning light.

Wintery afternoons in Japan can be very lovely.


Richard Bensam said...

Hang on, I think I missed a turn somewhere. You want to back up and run that by us again?

Or, to phrase it slightly less idiomatically: I believe congratulations are in order, no?

Joel Bryan said...

Thanks! It's true-- love has struck. We were friends for about 7 years and moved on to more just last year and go engaged over the summer. Big plans are afoot!