After a long ordeal of dashed hopes in the quest to find a new house, we finally signed a contract for a lovely apartment adequately sized for a family of three in a charming neighborhood.
I felt bad because my wife had to organize the more complex aspects of our house-hunting project after the English-speaking realtors I contacted failed to meet my expectations. Most of the properties they offered we had already identified — and excluded — on our own. It wasn’t until we had a Japanese realtor that we made significant progress. And while my Japanese is sufficient for the essential things in life, like expressing opinions on food or praising the beauty of the seasons, I unfortunately have to let others do the talking when it comes to matters involving doctors, lawyers or realtors.
But people move all the time in Tokyo — with or without sufficient language skills — so I knew there must at least be some moving companies that could cater to the linguistically challenged like myself.
There are, but in our case the Japanese-language-only companies that my wife ended up contacting behind my back simply provided more efficient service. One of the English-capable firms I was in touch with asked me to mail in photos of everything we owned to assess the scope of the task. Since we weren’t living out of a suitcase, I found that photo project a bit daunting. Maybe I expect too much, but I believe moving companies exist to take work off your shoulders — not create more.
While I was still fumbling with my camera phone, a specialist my wife was negotiating with had already visited our place, assessed our belongings and made an offer. He revised that offer when my wife told him we had a better one — and so we had a deal.
I’ve always believed that I hated moving, but it’s actually pretty easy when you pay other people to do it for you. Turns out, what I actually hate comes before the big day: Packing, taking out a lot of extra trash, being aggressively scolded by the building maintenance chief for not separating said trash correctly and repeating that process over and over. In almost five years, our maintenance guy has been nothing but smiles and friendly greetings, secretly correcting my occasional mistakes by separating the trash for me — how was I supposed to learn under those circumstances? Only when he realized he would soon be rid of us did he decide to reveal his true face.
At least I got very familiar with the Japanese system for sodai gomi (bulky waste). Just make sure you schedule pickup several weeks early as spots tend to book up.
The moving company provided boxes, although it slightly miscalculated the number. Realizing that we were running short on our final night before moving, the best I could do was to buy the entire stash of cardboard boxes at our local Daiso. They were small, but we made up for it in number.
The day we actually moved was the least stressful day we’d had in weeks, thanks to the big truck with the friendly panda on the side, and the strong men driving it. We stayed within the ward we were already registered in, so bureaucratic hassle was kept to a minimum. We managed to rush to the ward office and back on the movers’ lunch break, with everyone’s address changed for tax and insurance matters.
Moving into our new place went smoothly; getting organized took longer. Thankfully, there’s a subscription for everything these days. The cooking kits from Oisix, for example, have saved our family dinners repeatedly when culinary creativity failed us. My wife decided she wanted a doormat because it reminded her of Germany (I don’t feel as sentimental about them), so we got a doormat subscription from Duskin that guarantees a fresh model every month.
Our new place’s strong water pressure is heaven-sent in the shower — not so much in the kitchen. Turning on the tap meant soaking the place and ourselves, and the obligation to lift the handle carefully became quite irritating. A few mouse clicks later and we had signed up for a subscription service, also from Duskin, that exchanges our faucet’s water filter attachment. It has three settings: shower (to gently wash your most delicate veggies), delicious (for a quick drink and extra-tasty pasta) and regular (like before, just not as strong).
With things in place there was nothing left to do but meet the neighbors.
This is the second in a three-part series about moving house. Andreas Neuenkirchen is a German novelist and essayist based in Tokyo.
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