View from my new place

Last night was the first clear sky sunset I could catch since we moved in the new apartment in Ikebukuro. 梅雨 (the rainy season – literally rain like plums) is not over yet so it was a lucky day.

I can’t wait until the typhoon season – after a typhoon, the skies are like washed from any cloud or fog – when I should be able to see the Fujisan clearly from my window.

More photos in the flickr photoset…

Moving to the city

After a bit more than 1.5 years since moving to my current place in 志木, it’s time to move again. I’ve set my mind on a tower mansion 2 minutes from Ikebukuro station in Tokyo and should get the keys by the end of June.

floorplan of the new apartment

The view from the living room should be like the picture below on clear days (albeit from a lower vantage point but I should still be able to glimpse the Fujisan). Can’t wait to be doing cool Tokyo timelapses from my own window.

fujisan view - the weird white triangular building is Nakano

This time, my company does not wish to rent it for me and take it out of my salary as I am a local contract employee. So this is my first foray into actually signing a rental contract and paying all the fees myself upfront. So lets break it down:

  • 1st month of rent (you pay your rent in advance in Japan) = ¥220.000
  • Moving in on 26th of June so 5 days worth of rent until 30th = ¥36.700
  • 敷金 – deposit, 2 months of rent = ¥440.000
  • 火災保険 – fire insurance = ¥25.000
  • 鍵交換代 – lock change fee = ¥35.000 (that’s a hell of a lot for a lock!)
  • 町内会費 – neighborhood association membership fee for 2 months = ¥500

For a grand total of ¥757.200 or three quarters of a million yen… upfront… it hurts…

And actually, I should count myself lucky, this is rather cheap and most of it is the deposit which I’ll mostly get back. Apartments here, especially new ones, often have a 礼金 which is also called key money and is a nice gift of 2 months of rent to the owner.

Thinking of all that money makes me a bit more partial to the idea of buying a place for myself…

Otaku rush on the new Fukutoshin

Last Saturday morning I was leaving a party at 5 A.M. in Shibuya and decided it would be nice to come back home to Shiki with the new Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line which was opening the very day and interfaces with my usual Tobu Tojo line for an almost direct trip to and from Shibuya (I just have to hop from one side of the platform to another at Wakoushi) in a breeze.

fukutoshin line - map

So my girlfriend and I arrived at 5:30 after being guided by cops that were all over the station for the opening and got there to climb in the first train to arrive at Shibuya station and reversing for the journey back to Saitama.

Ruiko said:
Do not under-estimate the Japanese Otaku…

Remembering this saying by a good friend of mine, I wasn’t surprised when that first train came in Shibuya station packed full of weirdos with backpacks and cameras (the classic Otaku costume). They came out of the train clapping and cheering, taking photos of each other in front of the driving cabin and macroing on every little details of the new train and station.

After the flow ebbed, we climbed on the train and were followed by a dozen of guys who must’ve missed the very first train. Losers… One of them was recording the trip and announcements with a microphone, bobbing his head to each of the stations’ distinctive music as if to music from heaven… One of them had long pommeled hair and wore a flowery dress…

I didn’t take any photos of them as my girlfriend was afraid I would get shanked by one of the weirdos like what happened in Akihabara 2 weeks ago, but I do have some photos of the brand new piece of station in Shibuya.

Shiodome Park Hotel – 33rd floor

Since my girlfriend is in town and I have tons of vacations to take before the end of my contract, I organized a special night out in Tokyo with her last week. I’m such a romantic guy…

First we went for drinks and dinner at her favorite restaurant: T.Y. Harbor Brewery in 天王洲アイル. It’s a Californian cuisine restaurant in a sort of hangar (not the old crummy ones, the cool ones that they transform in loft apartments and hype designer offices) right on the canals of Shinagawa. The place also brews it’s own beer in big vats behind the bar. Dinner is a bit expensive at 5-8,000¥ per person but the food is really delicious and the portions are big.

33rd floor view of Tokyo Tower from Shiodome

Then we headed to our hotel: the Park Hotel Tokyo in 汐留メディアタワー. I had booked a room with a special plan guaranteeing a window facing straight on the Tokyo Tower. We had a little scare as we came in the room at 12:05am and as I opened the curtains I couldn’t find the tower: they had turned off the lights! I was really pissed… As my girlfriend had forgotten some cosmectics at home, we headed down to the combini at B2 level and as we came back we had the good surprise to see the Tokyo Tower had been lit back on. I took some cool shots of the view, check them out on my flickr page.

Preparing for snowboard season

Last week I took a day off work to go apply for my visa renewal in Shinagawa (hoping for 3 years this time). I love spending, every year, 2 1/2 hours listening to kids shout and cry, waiting for my number to come up, and 5 minutes of effective work with the immigration officer.

After that was done, I headed out to Jimbocho / Ochanomizu to meet my friend Germain who was going to help me out buying my first snowboard and related accessories. There is a street there that is lined with snowboard, ski and surf shops. I love this place…

View Larger Map

Here’s what I ended up buying:

my new gear for this season

  • Snowboard from K2
  • Flow bindings
  • Boots from Burton
  • Big snowboard bag with wheels for taking the plane to Hokkaido

All of that from last year’s collection and between 50% and 65% off. ¥75.000 well spent, now I’ll probably be on the slopes every weekend this season to make it worth my while…

You broke my watch!

Yesterday I went to Tokyo to buy back the sunglasses I had lost on a snowboarding trip some time back. On the way to Omotesando, I dropped by the Swatch store in Shibuya to get my watch bracelet widened – something about drinking too much beer and putting on weight…

So I show my watch to the chick at the counter, tell her it’s too small and pull out the extra pieces I had brought with me. She takes the watch and starts disassembling the battery and checking the charge, showing me it’s good. I think “ok, this must be standard practice” and watch her as she struggles to put back the battery, scraping the shit out of it with a mini-screwdriver. Once it’s back together, she shows me the ticker that is not ticking any more and tells me proudly that it’s broken and she can’t repair it so I should buy a new one…

my new watch

WTF? I start telling her that she fucked up, it was moving before, she broke it. After making a big ruckus, the store manager comes out and I have to explain again with my broken japanese. The girl is almost crying, the guy finally understand what happened and start apologizing profusely. Apparently, the chick didn’t unserstand what I had asked her and thought I came because something was already wrong with the watch.

He ended up calling all the Swatch stores in Tokyo to find me the same watch, but since it would take at least a week to get there, I finally chose a new one on the spot and left with it for free with all the staff bowing and seeing me out with a few dozen 申し訳ございません.

Sumo beer cup

I went to see Sumo 2 weeks ago for the second time since I’m in Japan. This time around, I was sitting in the boxes on 1st floor (really just a tatami with 4 thin cushions) instead of far out in the poor people’s late gaijins’ cheaper seats on 2nd floor.

sumo beer cup on flickr

Of course, I had to take some stupid photos while I was there. Later we went to eat ちゃんこ鍋 close to the sumo stadium. This is the traditional food of sumo wrestlers, specifically designed to maximize protein intake, i.e. make you fat! I have to say it was quite good but eating this everyday is basically long-term suicide…