another surprise

Here is the finale of my apartment hunting. I
had complained about delay of the contract to
a real estate agent and she had advanced the
date for it.
Two days before signing, she called me
and gave me yet another surprise. She went in
the room to make sure everything was okay
and found out that the owner had taken away
all of the furniture and appliances although the
room was supposed to be furnished. According
to her, everything was gone except for a
kitchen table. She sounded more shocked than
I actually was. Because each piece of furniture
and appliances had looked pretty old and
worn-out when I saw the room, and even if
unfurnished, the price was still a lot lower than
the area’s average, I asked her not to retrieve
them as she offered. I accepted the present
condition, and signed a contract at last.
My six-month long apartment hunting is
officially over. Starting now is my moving saga.
It’s decided for me to move 160 miles far from
where I live now to the countryside surrounded
by mountains. Is it really possible for me to live
in the mountains secluded from people? More
than anything else, please no more bad
surprises for me…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

unbelievable twist

About my apartment hunting, I’ve written up
to the point that the owner of the room wanted
to consider his or her price, which had been
offered as 20 percent off by himself or herself
in the first place. Two more weeks have passed
and the owner offered 10 percent off. Since I
was going to pay the full price to begin with,
10 percent off was still a good deal to me. I
answered to take it.
Then, the situation took an unbelievable
twist, again. The real estate agent asked me to
pick my convenient days for a contract among
several days in the end of October. That means
it would take two months to close the deal
since I decided on the room. At first, I thought
it would be done in a week because the
process was simple – look at the room, make a
decision, sign a contract and pay. How could it
be possible to spend two months for this easy
process? At this stage, it should be done only
by signing a contract, and yet, they need three
more weeks just to do that.
Meanwhile, I noticed the owner had placed
an ad for the very room I applied for on a
different real estate company’s website. The
room remains available there. Now, a suspicion
crept into my mind. Is the owner waiting for
someone who wants the room at the full price
and prolonging the deal on purpose? But that
someone was me because it was the owner
who offered the discount while I didn’t ask for
anything. Whatever the plot is, it’s beyond my
comprehension. I wonder when and how the
whole thing is settled…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

What kind of game are we playing?

Here’s an update on my ongoing apartment hunting. After I saw the room and deliberated, I decided on the place which price was 20 percent off. A week after I submitted the application form to the real estate company, its agent told me that she hadn’t been able to reach the owner. A few days later, she called me again and said that she finally contacted the owner. But she asked me to wait a little more as the owner wanted to consider the price. From then on, both the agent and I have been just waiting. Now I noticed absurdity.

The 20 percent off price was offered by the owner in the first place, not by me. Is he or she considering his or her own price? And is he or she going to decline the price by himself or herself? What kind of game are we playing? Two weeks have already passed since I applied for the room. I have no idea how it unfolds hereafter…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

decision making spoiled my appetite

After I saw the outside of the buildings, I met a real estate agent who showed me the available room in each apartment.

For a room in the apartment which was under refurbishment, she offered a 20 percent discount because the carpet and the wallpaper in the room was damaged. As the room had been my first choice anyway before I came here and I have a weakness for a discount, my mind was almost set on that place. The thing was, as I wrote here once, the available rooms of that building were concentrated on the fourth floor in the east side and this room was among them. Even after I saw the building and the room with my own eyes, I couldn’t find out what was wrong with the fourth floor.

I checked in a hotel and went to have dinner at a restaurant in the hotel as the stay included dinner. Since it was a budget travel package, I didn’t expect the food at all. But the dinner was probably the most gorgeous feast I had ever had. It included all-you-can-eat crabs, tempura, steak and shrimps. Ironically, fatigue and tension for decision making spoiled my appetite and I was able to eat only little.

At night, I couldn’t sleep either from a sense of claustrophobia because the mountains and the woods closed down the area. I asked myself if I could really move in this area, let alone on the enigmatic fourth floor…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

photograph showed things much better

I transferred the bullet train to the local train to the area where all three apartments of my choice were located. There were no passengers but me on the train although it was a weekday morning. The station was an unmanned small shack. I walked along shabby houses, used-to-be shops and rice fields and found one of the apartments among them.

My first impression was that a photograph showed things much better than they actually were. The building had looked a lot more gorgeous in the photos on a website. I walked on and soon found the other two apartments. One was under refurbishment and I couldn’t see it from the outside. The other stood nearby and I saw a half-naked old man sitting idly on a balcony, who was a kind of person I didn’t like to have as one of my neighbors.

I took a rest on a bench, wondering if this trip had already become a fool’s errand…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

budget travel package

My apartment hunting has come to a climax. Last weekend, I went to see the places of my choice in the countryside where I had never visited before. I had found a budget travel package online that paying only for train tickets made a hotel stay, dinner and breakfast all free.

It was a 90-minute bullet train ride and to take the bullet train, I got to the downtown train terminal. I hadn’t been downtown for years and was shocked by its filthiness. Years ago, my English friend once said that she was amazed at how clean it was when she first came to Japan. Now, time has changed that and litter was everywhere on the streets.

But once the train left the terminal, I was supposed to enjoy a beautiful countryside view from the train window after a while. Since it was a super discount travel package, the trains and the seats were specified beforehand. The bullet train was a double-decker. My seat was on the first floor from which I could only see people’s feet on the platform from the train window. Although I expected the countryside would come into view after departure, low soundproof walls standing along the railroad track blocked scenery all the way…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

the secret of the fourth floor

Since I decided to move out, I’ve realized the power of the Internet again. Without going anywhere physically, I’ve been able to look for a place to live at home, gathering a lot of information on prices, floor plans and the neighborhood. People’s blogs are useful, too.

For the past eight months, I’ve been looking around the Internet, collecting and comparing the details, and have narrowed down the choice to three apartments. They are all located in the same area, which is surrounded by mountains, cold and snowy in winter. The area has a small population with a constant decline. That has led to a remarkably low price for an apartment there. I chose the area because the prices were low enough to fit my tight budget. But its small population was the main appeal to me, who feel uncomfortable to be with people.

All three places I’ve picked for my new home are more than 20 years old and one of them is on the fourth floor. So far, that one is my first choice. There seem no particular flaws in the room, but the building’s available rooms are mostly on the fourth floor. Is it just a coincidence, or is there anything wrong? Even the mighty Internet doesn’t tell about it. I wonder what’s the secret of the fourth floor…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

After a few days of depression

Apartment hunting that I’ve been doing for a few months now leads me to think a lot about my future. Since the choice has to do with how much I can afford and how long I intend to live there, it’s inevitable to make a long-term plan.

For a person like me who doesn’t have a steady income, that’s extremely difficult. As the basics, I started with the worst-case scenario. It reasonably excluded some fancy apartment from my picks, and boosted fear for my future. I realized once again how uncertain my future was. Of course, there is still a possibility the best-case scenario will come into play, but if not? I might end up being a lonely old woman with no place to live. That depressed me so bitterly. After a few days of depression, I decided not to think about the future for a change, and began to live a day at a time. It worked for me. I’ve felt easy and full since then…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

there’s nothing I can do about it

I spent the whole day giving much thought to the apartment that I’d found. There are numerous cons about the place, but moving in a better place with my low price range seems impossible. I looked for solutions for the cons – the soon-out-of-order water pipes and the broken boiler, except for the neighbor who is wanted for murder, as there’s nothing I can do about it. Thanks to the Internet and my partner’s unconventional ideas, I reached the solutions at the end of the day. I was so excited and happy that moving in that gorgeous apartment was getting feasible.

  I got up this morning only to find out that the place had been just taken. I hope you can imagine how disappointed I am…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

residents is wanted for murder

As I’ve been constantly looking for an apartment online, I found a pretty good one again. It’s located by a lake near Mt. Fuji and it’s spacious, furnished and Western-style. Usually, this kind of property is far above my price range, but this one is discounted considerably so that it dove into my range.

The catch is that the building is very old by Japanese standards. It’s 36 years old. Still, it’s the most gorgeous place I could possibly afford. I gathered information about the area, such as the climate, restaurants, shops and most importantly, the train and bus schedules because I don’t have a car. I decided to go to look at the room and sent an e-mail to the real estate company for an appointment. Meanwhile, I bought a train schedule book and made a precise plan to go there as a weekend trip.

A reply from the real estate company included the more detailed information about the apartment. Because it’s old, the water pipes may give out at any moment. The boiler is broken, too. To finish up, one of the residents is wanted for murder. It’s not the one again…or, is it…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods