So, after four and a half years, I’ve moved from Saitama to Shinjuku. When you live in Saitama, the standard response is, “Saitama? That’s far!” It also carries the moniker “dasaitama,” which is a combination of the words “lame” (dasai) and “Saitama.” I lived there for a variety of reasons, one of which was that it was not as far as you would think, and that you can get a nice place without paying an arm and a leg.
I am still in a nice place, but it is the smallest I have inhabited since coming to Japan, and by far the most expensive (almost triple what I used to pay back in Shizuoka). But here is the reversal: The first time I told people I lived 7 minutes’ walk from Shinjuku station, they did a double-take and said, “What… are you a celebrity?”
While I slept in Saitama, for four years everything I did to actually live was based around Shinjuku. All my friends are in this area, and I knew almost nobody in my area, and I all but once hung out with people nearby. For the first time in my life, I am going to attempt to have connections to people. When I have a minute to breath. Though I still consider it amusing that, after defining this area as an “intoxicating shithole” when I first visited a decade ago, I now live here.
Moving was a strange ordeal. I’ve done it four times since I came to Japan, and I thought I knew the ropes. I’m living in a “mansion” apartment, which is the Japanese word for a condominium. I’m still renting, though there was a brief moment of hope when I tried to buy a place in Yoyogi only to have my loan refused because I don’t have permanent residence (still waiting—with the change in the immigration system this year, it’s taking 12 months or more compared to the usual 6). The bank did kindly offer to consider my loan if I put down 40% of the full value as a deposit—and I ask you, if you have 40% of the value of a house just lying around in cash, why would you need a loan in the first place?
There is a very anal management company looking after the building I’m in. It’s brand new, and they wouldn’t let me and the realtor look around without putting on gloves and slippers. When I applied to live here, I entered the documentation saga. My realtor advised me to cancel my apartment while I waited for my “inspection” by the management group to end, but I was leery. I waited two weeks, then canceled my apartment anyway. This was followed by silence. When I asked my realtor a week later if any documentation was missing, he asked for my proof of employment form. I sent it in, to be greeted by more silence. Four days later, my realtor asked for the back of my Residence Card, which is blank. I took a picture and sent it. Four hours later, I got my first call from the management company. They talked to various contacts in my office, and yet another week later they said I could move in.
I still didn’t know the apartment number, and I was two weeks away from my last day in my Saitama apartment. My realtor had advised me to set up a moving company the day I applied for the apartment, but I’d held out for the confirmation; now I ran out to get it set up. The next day, my realtor mailed to say that I could only use a company approved by the management group. Cancel, reset. By the time I got the room number, at least it was easy to set up power, gas and Internet.
Then the movers showed up. I was expecting some hyper-high class treatment given how anal the management group was, but they turned out to be less impressive than the guys who’d moved me from Shizuoka. The “talker” seemed to know what he was doing, but the two guys helping him seemed to need directions even in how to lift things. I ended up showing them all how to get my couch out the door—vindicating years of load-in and strike at theatre productions.
Now I’m here, my boxes are unpacked, and I’m enjoying the ability to just “pop out” and turn up to events. All I need is a little time to get the rest of my junk done…
I’m rehearsing for Sartre’s No Exit in February. The process is more than a little grueling, but I’ll hopefully get through it intact.
I managed to line up another photo shoot with a friend-of-a-friend. I got a little cocky with the perfect weather and my Kimutaku-like model, leading me to make a few beginner mistakes, but Oscar seemed happy with the results. A middle-aged lady started chasing us down to get pictures taken with the “model”, which Oscar took in stride. He is actually a Peruvian forklift operator, but hopefully we can get him some nice modeling work on the side.
The only problem now is that it takes me about 2 hours to process the photos and another hour to burn the disks. I’ll have to streamline that aspect of my little photographic operation. The hardest part was getting Oscar his actual data.
After putting them on hold for about 8 months, I am finally back to illustrating flashcards for my friend Lou’s former kindergarten in Shimokitazawa—and not a moment too soon, as her boss just asked me for the proofs (presently taking the briefest of breathers).
I have done 70 flashcards so far, plus 9 superfluous cards that have since been cut from the set, and have 42 left to go. Then I’ll have 84 to color, all to be done by mid-February. Gah.
The other day a friend helped me just with the scanning—and finally understood why have been beating everybody away with a stick when they say, “Oh, you have time for a break, don’t you?” It took us three hours just to scan the images from a set into my computer and do basic clean-up. The process is death. But I am hoping to take some of these to Design Festa in May, so they could add up to something, and my family will forgive me for not being able to come back for our Christmas gathering…