As I haven't been a regular contributor here, I should explain that I'm an Englishman living in Tokyo - after 18 years living in London (the one in England) my wife's country seemed a far better place to bring up our children (and to be honest she was getting sick of the lousy food and hostile service in the UK). So we moved here just in time to catch a global recession.
Without a job, it has proved difficult to get accommodation here, so temporarily I moved into a single room apartment with our son so that he could go to international school in Tokyo, while my wife stayed with our daughter at her parents. Not an arrangement either of us wanted, but it was only supposed to be temporary.
Last month we decided things had drifted on long enough - she has finished her PhD thesis, and I am still without a job, and temporary was getting on for nine months. So we decided to get a proper apartment for the whole family.
The first problem is that some landlords do not welcome foreigners - we are loud, thoughtless, rude people that just don't accept the Japanese way of doing things. So I donned my most serious suit and sober tie, and did my best to look serious and reliable while my wife did the talking. Problem two was the huge cost - deposit, plus an extra two months rent deposit because we have a cat, and two months key money (really a 'gift' required by the landlord) at Tokyo rates is a big slug of cash. Still we have money invested, and whilst not rich we have enough to get by on for a while yet. Which brings on the third problem - despite the huge deposit, they require a financial guarantee. Now there are companies that provide this service, but persuading one of them that we were a) solvent and b) trustworthy proved to be a long and complicated process.
All this despite the fact that the housing market here is in a complete slump. There is no flexibility although I have been told that in better times we would never have even been looked at as potential tenants, no matter how much money we had. Young Japanese often have similar problems in finding a suitable guarantor, if their parents are not judged sufficiently credit worthy.
Once we were accepted as worthy of giving the landlord so much money, the contract signing took place. I dont know how such things are done in the US, but in London there was a document a couple of pages long which, after checking through for about 10 minutes we signed and got our keys. Well here we spent two hours going through a 10 page contract, with another 20 pages of explanatory notes all in dense legalistic Japanese. While I can manage conversations of the weather, baseball or even world news after a few minutes of straining to keep up the explanations were far beyond me I know we are responsible for making good anything we break, and we are not allowed a piano, but beyond that...
Anyway, we have now got our apartment, and will be moving in a few days. I'm not sure how quickly we will get an Internet connection in the new place but hopefully I won't be without the net for too long.
You probably don't care about any of this, and to be honest if you've got this far you've exceeded my expectations of your patience. Things were so different here I thought I'd write about it. And please tell me if I've bored you or you hate what I've written - I don't care, but the comments all get those erep points .