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再び参上

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I’m back online. My new apartment was supposed to be wired for the B-Flet’s fiber internet, but there were too many people using it, so NTT had to install a second fiber pipe into the building. That was finished actually about 2 weeks ago, but then it took another 2 weeks for them to send a guy to my apartment to do the “construction” and installation. It was pretty disappointing having to wait that extra time considering the “installation” involved the guy taking a VDSL modem out of its box, plugging in 3 cables, and giving me a receipt. Ah, Japan.

So a lot has happened over the past few weeks. There’s too much for me to write everything in this blog post, and also it’s about 3AM and I want to go to bed. Expect me to blog a lot over the next few days to cover it all. This really isn’t for you, but mainly for me. I’ll try to keep it mildly entertaining so feel free to read when you’re bored, at work, or bored at work. Quick summary though: I finished my job at AEON, am considering a trip to the US in mid October, love my sweet new apartment, had a mini-reunion here in Chiba, and am already getting kind of bored with being unemployed. It’s almost too easy having this much freedom. I’ll have to start seriously looking for a real job, real soon. In the meantime the part-time work will keep me somewhat busy and not completely income-less.

Note: Originally I was thinking of titling this post Slim Shady but then I came to my senses and remembered how much I hate Eminem.

Deja Boooo

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I’m moving this Sunday into the new place. Unfortunately, after that I’ll be without an internet connection for a bit – maybe even for a month or so.

Right now I’m using NTT’s 光フレッツ (Hikari Flets) fiber optic service, which has been great. My new apartment building is actually hard-wired for fiber internet through B Flets. I thought that I would be able to just maybe change my account and plug in once I moved, but I was wrong. Turns out first NTT is going to have to come to my old apartment to uninstall my fiber modem next Thursday, then there’s some kind of “construction” they have to do at my new Chiba apartment. They told me the earliest they can come is in about a month. I don’t exactly know what kind of construction or installation is necessary since there is a fiber/ethernet jack in the new room already. The lady on the phone also used the word 説明 a few times, which means explanation, so I hope this isn’t some kind of formality where the guy has to explain to me how to plug my computer in correctly. I’m going to call them back again tomorrow and see what’s up and if there’s any way I can get this done quicker. I don’t understand how internet installation appointments here can take a month or so to set up. Remember my fiasco getting this fiber line in the first place last Fall?

I started my apartment search on August 20, found a place, and will be moving in on September 9. It took less than 3 weeks for this whole process to happen, yet somehow the national phone and telecommunications company can’t send a guy out for a month. Even stranger is that they can have a guy come to uninstall in less than a week, but the installation guy can’t be scheduled in that same amount of time. Some things don’t make sense to me in this country.

Thai Food and Movin’ on Up

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I’m sitting at home in the middle of what is the beginnings of a typhoon. We’ve already got pretty strong wind and horizontal rain so I think this might be less of a false alarm than what we had a few months ago. Either way, I got to go home from work an hour early so it’s all good. Supposedly the typhoon is going to directly hit us here in the Kanto area sometime early in the morning. I’m not holding my breath, although the way the storm is going it wouldn’t be totally surprising.

It’s been a pretty busy week. Last weekend especially I was running around a lot, mainly in preparation to move to a new apartment. I have a new place lined up in Chiba city, about 18 minutes by train north of where I’m at now. I’ll be closer to Tokyo as well. It’s a really nice, brand new apartment building that was just completed in April. Of course, it’s a Japanese apartment so it’s pretty tiny to American standards, but it’s a nice studio-type apartment that is at least a lot better than what I have now. The bathroom has a nice wide sink and a super toilet, and the shower is separate. What I have now is a “unit bath” where everything is in one tiny little room, so it will be nicer to have more space. The main room itself has hardwood flooring as opposed to carpet, a long balcony, and a much better closet than what I have now. I’m looking forward to moving in, although not looking forward to having to pack up all my stuff within the next few days.

While I was looking for an apartment, I started by using an Apaman Shop (アパマンショップ), which is like a major chain of realtors here in Japan. The guy there was nice and they have a handy search system where I could find apartments that fit my requirements. I actually checked out about 4 rooms with this place first, 2 of which were cheap but dirty and gross, and the other 2 which were nicer and of course more expensive. This last place actually came up on my second visit, and while it’s expensive, it’s brand new and has a decent location. Renting apartments in Japan is a pain because they have this BS system in place called “key money,” where you pretty much have to pay a month’s rent to the landlord as a gift for letting you live there. Then you have deposits, cleaning fees, and usually a month’s worth of realtor’s’ fees, meaning that it’s not out of question to have to pay 5 months of rent before you even move in. Most of this you won’t get back. This is even worse when, like me, you may very well only be living there for a few months. Luckily not only was this building I found brand new, but they had only 1 month’s deposit, no key money, and no cleaning fees. The place even included 1 month of free rent! There was, however, a 1-month’s realtor fee. Overall it was a good deal. However, I was trying to figure a way to make it even cheaper, so I just called the landlord’s company directly. I was able to get the same deal, but without any realtors fee, just by going direct to the source. As nice and helpful as they were, I have no allegiance to the Apaman Shop, especially when they want to charge me a full month’s rent just for them to fax my application form in for me. Yes, I’m very proud of this.

Last week finally did the lease and contract stuff, which required a lot of explanations in Japanese to me, as well as me writing my name in katakana and using my hanko stamp about a million times. Good thing I bought my handy-dandy automatic hanko stamper a few months ago.

I also decided to hire a moving company to haul all my belongings from Ichihara to Chiba. While I don’t really have that much stuff, especially furniture, I have enough that it wouldn’t be feasible to take it all on the train or anything, plus I don’t have any friends with moving vans or whatever to haul the big stuff like my bike. It’s just easier to pay some company to take all my stuff to the new place. I had a few online estimates, which weren’t so great because I didn’t know the correct names for all my furniture in Japanese. For example, I’ve got these 4-foot tall bookshelves. You would think that one of these would be called 本棚 (book shelf) when filling out the online estimate form. You would be wrong. It’s called a カラーボックス (color box). I have no idea at all where that comes from, but oh well. I had 2 companies just come to my apartment to give me an estimate. The first place gave me a 26,000 yen estimate, which was a bit pricey. The second place quoted me 37,000, which was even worse, but after some hardcore negotiations, I was able to haggle him down to 21,500. I think haggling is expected in this situation, but I was happy with the outcome nonetheless. I have to pack my small stuff by myself, but they provided all the boxes and tape and everything for me to do it. Then on Sunday they’ll come and pack up my closet and furniture, then move everything into a truck, take it to Chiba, and unload everything in my new apartment. I think it’s worth the money.

I’ll write more about the whole apartment renting/moving process later, but probably in a few weeks once things calm down. I’m moving this Sunday (provided the typhoon is gone, which it will be), then have to unpack and get settled in. I have a week of work, then on Saturday a school-wide Goodbye Party for me, and on Sunday a big barbecue party, then 2 days of work at my AEON school, training my replacement Andrew. Then I should have tons more free time.

Oh, if you think that everything in Japan has a cartoon mascot, you’re probably right. Check out my moving boxes, with the Sakai Moving mascot panda:

サカイ引越センター

Last Friday I got off work fairly early, and with so much extra time on my hands I decided I’d go to Ito Yokado, pick up some groceries, and make dinner. Everything was going fine until I got home, and went to turn the washing machine on. Something was weird…no water was coming out! I go and check my bathroom sink. Nope. No water. Kitchen also gave a negative. Water was out. Did I mess up somehow? Not pay a bill? It was the 3rd, and indeed I had a bill that was due on the 1st. Being Japan though, I’ve been late on bills a LOT. Mainly because there isn’t any penalty for being late on your bills. Panicked, I walked to the 7-11 and paid my water bill. As I rode the elevator back up to my room, I hoped that the system was advanced enough that if my water was shut off for non-payment, it would immediately be re-activated upon payment. Still, no water.

What in the world was I going to do at 8AM the next morning when I have to shower and go to work? Next step was to call the water company and see what the deal was. Again, being Japan, there isn’t really any such thing as 24 hour customer service lines. Every line I called had a recording that said they were only open until like 6 or maybe even 8PM. Finally, I was able to find a local service station that actually had someone working. I found out that 4 other people in my building had reported the problem, and it wasn’t my bill or even the water company’s problem. The building’s water pump was broken, so the most I could do was call my landlord. I e-mailed my new co-worker who lives in the same building as me, on the off chance that his water used a different pump than mine. Perhaps I’d have to borrow a shower. Unfortunately, his water was off as well. I got my landlord’s number from my manager at AEON, and of course that place was closed too. I was totally boned.

I went to grab some dinner at Matsuya, since I couldn’t make dinner without water. Also I had to take a leak really bad and my toilet didn’t work either. Cell e-mailing with my manager, who was probably in more a panic than I was, I found out that there is a public bath (銭湯) a taxi ride away from my place. That wouldn’t really do anything for me the next morning, since I have to be at work by 9:45 and that place doesn’t even open until 9. Kind of cutting it close. I knew there was a 24-hour public bath at the next station, Yawatajuku, so I thought I might give that a try if I wake up early. Last resort could be an internet cafe like Popeye in Chiba where they have shower facilities.

Went to sleep around 2, woke up at 7. It was a very rough sleep since I kept waking up in the middle of the night to walk to the kitchen sink to check if the water happened to come back. No deal. When I finally got up to my alarm, still no water. Headed to the station with hopes of checking out the place in Yawatajuku, which was also like a sauna or something. 24-hours is written in neon on the building, yet when I got there, the guy said the baths were closed for cleaning or something, and wouldn’t be open until 9. Great. I was pissed. Headed up to Chiba to shower in the internet cafe, which was actually really nice and huge. But anyway, got back home and got dressed properly and headed to work just barely making it in time. With the walking and the heat outside it didn’t feel super pleasant, but at least I had showered. I think my co-worker had used bottled water to shampoo his hair.

At work they called the landlord and they said it would be done that day. Indeed, it was taken care of when I went home during my break to check. Thank goodness the water was back. Life is hard without running water.

Next stop: Tokyo

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I’m back in St. Louis now, after an exciting 2 days of a process I’d like to call “Tetris with Anthony’s stuff,” where I had to manipulate the placement of my furniture and personal belongings first into my parents van and then into my car, so that everything will fit without having to throw it away. I did fairly well, in the end only having to throw away my kitchen trashcan, giving away some toys and stuff, and selling my bed, a magazine rack, and a table that you can hide secrets in. The process overall was not too bad, although I just slept about 12 hours to try and compensate for the lack of sleep and rest that I had over the moving process. I drove back to St. Louis yesterday, leaving Bloomington forever (kind of), and had a fine drive until just before the Illinois-Missouri border, when I drove directly into a HUGE storm system, complete with lightning strikes every few seconds, torrential rains, and wind so strong I could feel my loaded car swaying to the right. But I lived.

I’ll write some more over the next few days, perhaps as I’m waiting in airports or sitting on an airplane next to an old man or fat woman. It’s always one of those, and they always want to talk to you. I’m sorry, but unless you happen to be a movie star or a really hot chick, I probably don’t want to talk to a complete stranger. Especially if this is for a 12 hour flight to Tokyo. I’ve remedied this over the years, mainly by sleeping for the entire flight, which I seem to be able to do when no one else can. My other trick, if I don’t fall asleep immediately upon sitting in my airplane seat near the window, is to make myself look as angry, big, and dirty as possible. How do I do this, exactly? It’s hard to describe, but you wear a big jacket, puff our your chest and shoulders, have your bag open and looking like you’re a pain in the butt, and you have an angry look on your face. Hopefully, if there is enough free seating on the plane, this will cause people to not want to sit next to you, because who wants to sit next to a disgruntled guy who looks like he’ll be a pain in the butt to sit next to? But I digress.

After wasting pretty much my entire morning sleeping, eating lunch, and watching News Radio with my brother, I figure I’m going to go to the store and get supplies for the trip. I need to buy a few more dress shirts, and some random stuff at Target, then I should be ready to go for tomorrow. That is, of course, except for packing, which I will most likely not start until around 3AM, since I have to leave my house around 4:30 or 5AM to make it to the airport and leave on my 7:40AM flight. Believe it or not, I’ll be happy once I get to the airplane, because I’ll be able to rest and relax for a good few hours, before landing in Tokyo, partying with the JET kids who are there for 1 night overlap with me, then having to knuckle down and figure out this whole baby bottle thing. I have a feeling this 2 week trip to Tokyo will be busier than I thought.

I fixed it

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The electrical wiring in my living room was really messed up. Ever since I moved it, there was something goofy with the power outlet on the right side of the room, where I plugged in a lamp. After a few weeks, if I unplugged the lamp, the other 2 outlets in the room would go out (one had all my computer setup, the other my TV setup). Needless to say this was a pain in the butt. This morning, I was sitting on the computer taking a break from a morning full of studying really hard (haha, actually I was studying, since I had a test and fell asleep the night before), and the power goes out. Just in the living room, since the kitchen light stayed on the whole time. Only this time, I couldn’t just jiggle the lamp plug; something was even more messed up. I got it working for a while, but then just as I was leaving, the power went out again.

I came home to the power being out, but didn’t really have enough time to fix it. I called my dad when I was finishing stuff up at the office, explained the problem, and just as I figured, he knew exactly what was wrong. I think my dad knows pretty much everything, especially electrical and other fix-it type of stuff. So apparently the living room was all on a parallel circuit, and something was loose in the lamp outlet plug. Either a broken wire or a loose wire, hopefully. While Dad was telling me this, I scribbled a diagram on a scrap of paper. I got home, killed the power for the living room, and took apart the outlet. Yup, one of the 4 wires in there was a little loose. Took it all apart to make sure (and cause I was curious), put it back together, and VOILA. The outlet works fine now, I don’t need to worry about jiggling the lamp plug, and I can use my comp and TV tonight. I have to say, I feel accomplished.

Elecman!

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