After running some numbers for staying at the lovely Nagai Stadium Youth Hostel, vs. getting an apartment – even a 2-bedroom one, we discovered that we could afford to rent as large a place as possible IF the rent and utilities were less than Y180,000 / month (about $1807.23 + $361.45 for the deposit).
Figuring utilities at about 10% of the rent, that would mean Y180,000 – Y18,000 = Y162,000 / month rent only (~$2,000). We met Alex Barnhoorn on craigslist of Japan, Osaka region! He showed us a 47 square meter 3-bedroom DK (dining / kitchen), where the L for livingroom was converted to a bedroom (though by California standards, it doesn’t have a closet, ergo, not a bedroom!) for Y150,000. It is located in Osakako, by the CosmoSquare center, and next to the Giant Weather Forecasting Ferris Wheel at Tempozan Plaza!
Well, after deliberating at the MacDonalds a block away and testing their Wifi access, where it is reported to be free (it does, but abyssmally slow), we quickly cranked the numbers to include the “commute” between the glass blowing studio from each of the locations (Nagai Youth Hostel and Osakako). There was whopping $8 difference for the entire time (15 days) we were going to stay in Japan! So, giving up the sumo size ofuro at the youth hostel, we opted for the apartment. The line between moving or not was very fine indeed – and it’d only work if we were four all together.
Before calling the rental agent, Alex, we went to ride the giant ferris wheel – Y700 for a 15-minute ride on one of the two clear-floored carriages. Well, I didn’t go as I’m not thrilled to be in a small space and then having it hang a skyscraper height, no matter HOW great the view. I sent the kids and Manigeh off with a promise to videotape them. They promised Manigeh they wouldn’t rock the carriage – too much. Oddly enough, some of the carriages had a giant Winnie the Pooh bear inside – maybe to reassure those who were reluctant to go in the first place?
While the “kids” were in the ferris wheel, I went to another part of the plaza, and discovered a performer juggling and doing some magic tricks. He was a gaijin who spoke Japanese pretty well, enough to crack jokes! I videotaped him, and then realized that I had to get back to film the kids “not” rocking the carriage! After the ride, we returned to watch the remainder of the performance, and met Butch Reade (aka Gareth MacReady in UK, aka Gary Read), from Australia! He has been in Japan (Osaka specifically) for 18 years, after he married his wife, who was from Osaka. They have two sons, one in university in London, and the other soon to head out, too. Butch gave Chris some juggling tips as Chris practiced. A Japanese juggler joined us, and then invited Chris to juggle with them as they were tossing about some unlit clubs. Butch gave us his contact info, and invited us to join him and his family to dinner sometime since we will be around for a couple of weeks! It was a wonderfully warm and friendly evening! Not even a jacket needed.
Chris and Manigeh then took off to retrieve the four rolling luggages, and the corresponding backpacks, while Amy and I contacted Alex, the agent, to sign the lease. We met Alex at 7:40 pm, about 20 minutes after Chris and Manigeh left. The lease is really pretty basic, in both Japanese and English. I LOVE contracts that have , “Use common sense” as a requirement to lease! Since we had to pay in cash, and the only cash I had was Y30,000 I gave it all to Alex, he made a copy of my passport, and we arranged for him to pickup the rest of the rent in the next two days. I asked him about renting bicycles, as that was a glorious mode of transportation we enjoyed at the youth hostel, and he said that he had some bicycles he would bring for us to use, no charge! People here, even the non-Japanese, are super amazing!
So, with the paperwork all done, I went to find a phone to call the youth hostel to see where Chris and Manigeh were. They just got to the hostel, and were about to head out to the train station. It was about 9 o’clock. Amy and I figured we’d catch dinner at a place that would take VISA credit as I had very little yen at that point. The Korean restaurant didn’t take VISA, so we hopped over to a sort of continental-Japanese place, and got French Fries, ramen, salad, and small appetizer of Japanese beef stew (oden). We took about an hour, and walked over to the train station figuring that Chris and Manigeh needed help. It was 10:20 pm and the next three trains did not yield them. But, we sure saw a lot of gaijin getting off! Osakako seems to be a place for foreigners to live! Alex, in fact, said he specialized in working with foreign renters, as well as Japanese ones. By 10:48 pm, we saw Chris and Manigeh rolling the luggage and backpacks and bags…. and they looked exhuasted. 1) Chris is NOT a night owl, 2) Manigeh is NOT a walker, and 3) there were WAY too much baggage for them to carry with only two of them. Well, that night was NOT a happy night for them, and they hadn’t even had dinner.
It was good that Amy and I had gotten their beds / futons ready beforehand! But, because we didn’t have yen nor any food, we couldn’t offer them anything to eat. Luckily, they had remembered all the food I had left at the youth hostel, and brought it with them, so food was available. But, they were too grumpy and tired to eat. They showered and Chris went to bed, but Manigeh stayed up most of the night.
The apartment has several amenities – a ferris wheel for a landmark and predicts the next day’s weather, is near the train station but without the crazy noise of blowing train horns as it’s raised platforms, an elevator to reach our fifth floor suite, restaurants and small shops around us, and within the apartment, a tatami room (the requisite six tatamis), gas stove, wash machine (!), and air conditioning. The air conditioning, however, may be used less and less as the days go on, as Fall is definitely making its presence felt. The humidity factor has gone down noticeably, and long sleeves may be easier to wear soon. There is such a lovely breeze through our screens since we’re so high up – just too bad there are so many smokers below or above us!
Utilities will cost us about Y15,000 (about $180) for the two weeks we are here, and the water is expected to be 10 cubic meters or less (about Y500). There was no wifi service for such a temporary period, but we were able to latch onto an open wifi router from someone in the building! Gee, that was lucky, as most wifi routers have firewalls and security.
Another benefit is the proximity of the post office – not to mail letters but for the ATM located there! AND, this ATM allowed me to take out Y60,000 instead of limiting it to Y50,000.
After frustrating hours of trying to locate a nearby 7-11 store, I happened to see online another source of getting cash was the post office! Did you know that 7-11 originated in Koto part of Tokyo, Japan? Yep, in 1974! Before being called 7-11, it was called by another name that meant, “to pickup and carry” in Japanese. 7-11 was originally the time the store opened to when it closed for business everyday, 7 am to 11 pm.
To think, all this time, I thought it was from the ingenuity of Americans!
So, our VERY modest 47 square meter apartment (equivalent to 47*9 = ~423 sf!) has been comfortable so far. Amy and I sleep in the tatami room, Chris claimed the small side bedroom by the door, and Manigeh is in the livingroom sofa, about the same size as the tatami room. The balcony overlooks the street, and has two laundry poles. We all use futons. The place was left rather clean, and we hope to leave it the same if not better. Amy and I purchased misc household items (kitchen towels, bathmat, soap, toilet slippers, etc.) at a Hyaku-en store (dollar store equivalent, but it’s really $1.25 nowadays!).
Alex gave me a lesson on how to take out the garbage – it requires a matrix to figure out what goes out when. Where is easy – right in front of the building, clear plastic bags of garbage are left out the night before. The stray cats conglomerate there also. We startled a little Siamese one when we were coming to lobby with our luggage that it slammed itself into the front glass door, then bounced off and ran toward us, veered to the left before reaching us, dashed into the bicycle parking, ran between the pedals, and darted straight toward the one most allergic to cats – me. I yelped, and it richocheted off a bicycle tire, and ran to the safety of the street. The next day, no cats in sight.
So, Mondays are Plastic pickup, bottle caps, film wrappers, trays, styrofoam, but not bottles. Tuesdays and Fridays are Waste pickup, burnables, and stuff that didn’t qualify for the other days. Thursdays are for Cans, and Bottles PET coded. Wednesdays are a day off from garbage!
Total for basic stuff to live in Japan – Y2,800 (~$36).
Rent in Osakako, Y150,000 (~$1800).
Living next to a ferris wheel, and learning how to sort garbage for Japanese garbage men – Priceless.
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