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: