Nothing unusual about that here.
The earthquake – 地震 / じしん / jishin – is certainly a part of daily life here. I’ve felt three or four since I’ve been here, none of them really big, but the 5.0 centered about 100 miles away did last for quite a bit. Oddly, there was a 5.5 even closer (Ibaraki) last week that I never even noticed. The one today was small, didn’t even make the news – but what struck me was that the teacher put us right back to work before the shaking even stopped. The Japanese are some of the most stoic folks you’ll ever want to meet.
As always in life, there are few major decisions that are easy to make. After struggling to find a taker I now find myself looking at several different apartments, and having to decide which to choose. The options:
- A place in Kagurazaka, my preferred neighborhood. Advantages: where I want to live, has a loft, rent is only 70K. Kagurazaka is like a little bit of Kyoto in Tokyo – cobblestones, lanterns, geisha, plus a strong French influence makes it very gaijin-friendly. Disadvantages: owner is old-school and up-front cost is a month’s rent, month’s security, month’s agency fee and a fee to a guarantor company. What a racket – key money? Why do I have to pay you for the privilege of paying you rent? The only thing I have a chance to see back is the deposit and they’ll likely find a way to keep half of that. Also no furniture or appliances.
- A place in Kichijoji, near where I am now and my second choice for areas. Advantages: near the beautiful Inokashira Park and a great walk through the Kichijoji shopping arcade to get there, and on a quiet cul-de-sac. Huge closet. Disadvantages – again, no furniture or appliances, and a huge up-front outlay – no key money but they want two months rent (which doesn’t bother me that much) and a bunch of miscellaneous “screw you fees” that make the initial outlay almost 400K yen in an apartment that rents for 75K.
- A place in Mejiro, a forgotten stop on the Yamanote line near Ikebukuro. Again only 70K, but with a gaijin-friendly agency who charges no agency fee or key money and no guarantor, only 30K cleaning fee. Comes with washer, fridge and stovetop. Mejiro isn’t my preferred choice and the apartment itself is somewhat older and more plain, but the area is convenient and quiet, and near several shrines and a university.
- A place in Ikejeri-Ohashi. Again a giajin-friendly landlord with no fees or guarantors, just a 30K deposit. One stop away from Shibuya, where I commute to, and on a pretty nice street. Big plus (sue me, I can’t help it): it’s next to a Shrine. Also furnished. But very small, an older building, no bath and 80K per month.
- Lastly, a place in Shinsen, which is close enough to Shibuya that I could literally walk there in 10-12 minutes – no train costs. Area is surprisingly traditional and low-key considering bustling Shibuya is around the corner, and the neighborhood is full of atmospheric izakaya and cafes. Same LL as above, furnished, no stupid fees and just a 30K deposit. But this one is 90K per month, and the building is very old – wooden (more noise and I wonder about quakes, though building codes here are ridiculously tight) and a bit run-down. While I was there the tenant said the downstairs neighbor complained they walked around too much.
So there you have it – what to do, what to do? I guess the way I have to look at it is, whichever one I choose is in Japan and that’s the main thing…