Saturday, June 06, 2009

Apartment shopping

Well week 1 in Tokyo has certainly been an adventure. I want to try to capture my first impressions before I start knowing what things actually are.

The first night I was treated to what I'm told is typical bar food. All sorts of chicken parts were put on sticks and grilled. I had hearts, livers, skins, ground chicken meatballs and soft bone, which has a texture like nothing I've ever had. All were delicious. We also had little cubes of pork belly (yum) and eel over rice. After dinner, I nestled into my on-campus hotel room (a tiny room not much larger than a twin bed), took a bath (I LOVE the baths here: the water can come up to your shoulders!), donned the complimentary pajama/kimono thing and tried to figure out (unsuccessfully) how to make the BBC play in English.

The next day I went to the lab to get keys to my huge new office, which I'll be sharing with one other regular postdoc and two others who come in only on weekends. I was also electronically fingerprinted for entrance into all of the Earthquake Research Institute (ERI) buildings in which I will work.

Then it was off to meet with the real estate agent and look at apartments. My advisor and labmate went along to interpret and vouch for me. Apparently ~80% of apartment owners will not rent to non-japanese, so even their backing did not ensure that I would find a place.
Apartment shopping is already beginning to be a blur. Nakada-san, the realtor, wisely showed the nastiest, smallest one first, so from then on, everything seemed spacious and clean. We went back and forth on the subway, one stop in this direction 2 back in the other, so that I had no idea where the heck we were. We saw only 4 apartments that day but it felt like 40. The next day, Nakada-san and I alone saw 5 more. He used a computer translator in his office to communicate with me, but once we were out on the street we were on our own. At one point he called his sister (who is married to a European and speaks perfect English) to translate so that she could convey an important point to me. At each apartment I took notes and pictures to share with Ryan over Skype. Finally we decided on one and I pick up the keys before I return to the states.

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