Category Archives: apartment

Spend the moneyz


Shopping in Japan and building a cozy apartment.

What’s harder than shopping for your first apartment? Shopping for your first apartment in a country where you don’t really know the language. My first night in Nanao I had to wait for the gas guy and the delivery dude so I didn’t get out for dinner until almost dark. I think it was close to 7pm. So I made my way as best I could in the direction I thought would have the most civilization. Thankfully, I was right. I got to 159 and found a drug store, a bookstore/tsutaya (rental store), a Nafco (homegoods), and finally a Sunkus (conbini). I got my first real conbini bento style meal and headed home.

Thankfully, I had internet right away and was able to communicate with the other two Interac ALT’s that lived close by in this way. The following days were filled with exploration, adventures (aka getting lost and finding cool stuff accidently), and a lot of shopping. I might have different requirements than most people when it comes to necessities in my apartment so bear with me as I go through the list. Since the bedding I had ordered through Interac was not up to my Princess needs, this was at the top of my list. Nafco is where it’s at, kids. I got a nice foam pad, a cover for said pad, another plush cover on top of that since it was still cold, a bean bag sort of pillow, and a big plush blanket to go under the comforter that I had ordered. I decided not to get a regular futon set, though they were very well priced and looked warm and cozy, because I saw none that caught my fancy. I can say that I am still very happy with my purchases and the extra blankets came in handy when my boyfriend came to visit later on.

Next I was on the prowl for something for my floor. It was naked. I didn’t like the chairs in the apartment (uncomfortable to sit in, no real back to it so no lumbar support). I didn’t want sit-down seating. I wanted floor style seating. So I found a huge area rug that I liked, also washable! And a table with a floor chair that bent into different angles. I felt accomplished once it was set out. Later I found some floor pillows elsewhere that I liked and 2 shelf units with some canvas drawers. Had to put those together Ikea style but I prevailed.


Then I made two purchases that I probably should have waited on… but didn’t. The first was a kotatsu set. I don’t have a kotatsu. Nor do I really want one or have room for one in this little Leo Palace apartment. I also paid way more for it than I thought I was without realizing it until it was too late. I could have returned it but I got the better of myself and decided to keep it as being my one big ‘take home after I’m done’ purchase. The second was a monitor. I have a laptop that has a screen that works for the most part. It’s started to be goofy lately and sputter a lot. It drives me nuts when it does that. It was to the point where the screen had to be tilted back to a 30 degree angle. So I gave in and found a nice 23in monitor at Joshin. Love it. So much. I’ve never had a monitor so big and so clear. It was on sale of course, just like the kotatsu set was, but they were still very large purchases that perhaps could have waited until after the first paycheck. Because of this, I’m down to my last stash of moneys. This is a tale for the wise.

The actual shopping was an adventure on its own. I count myself lucky that Nafco had just about everything I needed in one place. Knowing only basic Japanese, I tried my best to communicate when needed. Thankfully, I usually didn’t need more than thank you, excuse me, and sorry. Sometimes I’d get a curve ball. I suppose it’s good practice. Just like trying to read the signs and prices correctly while still being a good shopper and compare said prices for the best deal.

These little shopping interactions were my first real interactions with Japanese people (in Japan, anyway) and they became little stepping stones of understanding. Doing a lot of shopping alone was helpful, too, because then I didn’t rely on those around me who understood Japanese better than myself. I never know what I can really do until I’m left to fend for myself, I suppose. Anyway, I was learning. I made some mistakes but all in all, I think I came out on top. If there is a top. Oh and if anyone would like a more detailed explanation of how I did with money (like how much did I bring, what was most expensive, things to watch out for and so on) please ask.

Next post: driving and what we found in the first week. Prepare yourself.

With love – M


The Crossing: Nanao


After training concluded and those of us taking the Shinkansen to Nanao were given our train tickets, it became a bit of a blur. I had already been thankful for the bag my Mom had randomly found and bought for me online with the flight over but trekking around Osaka to get to Osaka station made me even more grateful.

Sorry, I tend to bounce around on topics. This bag could probably fit me inside of it and splits into two separately zippered bags. This was extremely helpful in avoiding the 50lb weight limit for the flight over. Thought it’s heavy when all zipped up together, it is very easy to maneuver and the wheels are much tougher than any other large rolling bag I’ve had before. I think the brand name is Athlon and is made in China, like many things. I, of course, had to get the one with graffiti all over it and again this made it very handy when locating my luggage at the baggage claim.

So Osaka Station: A bit of a hike from our hotel but not too bad all things considered. Thank goodness the Japanese color code everything, including subway lines. And fairly clean, too. I don’t know if I’d put it on par with London but it’s still miles better than New York or Philly. I think we had to hop a couple lines to get us to Osaka Station. Once inside, we wandered until we found a gate for Shinkansen. We made it just in time but got on the train way too far from our reserved seats! Trekking down a moving train with all that luggage was not a highlight. By the time we sat down and I popped a couple dramamine pills, I was feeling less than awesome. A fellow ALT sat next to me and though I was genuinely interested in the conversation, I couldn’t look at him while he spoke. I had to keep my eyes on the horizon lest my egg sandwich end up in his lap.

But we survived and enjoyed the scenery along the way. Pockets of towns mixed with lots of rice fields. I was starting to notice some very Studio Ghibli-esque features already. But it was April 1st and very little greenery was even thinking about appearing yet. Many of the mountains still had snow on them. One of the ALT’s was getting stoked about the prospect of snow boarding. I couldn’t stop thinking about not throwing up and how much longer till I could get off the train. Such is life.

After almost 4 hours we arrived in Nanao. I had my first squatty-potty experience at the station and failed. Boys have it too easy. We then went our separate ways. I decided to go ahead and take a taxi since my apartment was the farthest and most obscurely placed. My taxi driver was so small, I refused to let him do anymore than help me lift the luggage. I think my big bag weighed more than him. But he was very nice and used a little English when he could. He seemed a little confused about the location of the apartment but I kept my faith. After a couple turn-arounds, we found it and he didn’t charge me the full price, which was awesome.

My first real impressions of the town were thus: built up city center near the station, houses close together and many of them, did not feel like a small town, mountains to the south and bay to the north, and I love my view from my back door. I walked in to keys for the car on the counter, a fairly clean apartment (especially for a guy to have been there just several days before), and a weird feeling of being at summer camp. Anyone who’s done those week long, sleep away summer camps knows what I mean. It’s difficult to describe but it’s not like a hotel. You feel an attachment to the place but there’s the feeling that many before you have lived there and you have to take some time to make it your own. The biggest difference is I’m not staying for a week. Only furniture was some chairs, a fold down table on the wall, a sort of desk area next to 2 steps leading to an elevated bed with storage underneath, and that was it. There’s a mini kitchen in the hallway along with a egg-beater washer, a bath/shower room, and a toilet room. Small but big enough for me. Bigger than my dorm room in college.

Still playing catch up with these posts. I’m getting there. Thank goodness for these free periods at work and the ability to bring my laptop. No internet, though, don’t get excited. Next post likely to be about shopping and getting my apartment up to snuff. I hope everyone had a good Mother’s Day! I didn’t even get to skype with mine…boo.

With love – M

Pics and snip-its


Slowly but surely, I’m collecting my thoughts. It’s taken no small amount of effort to focus myself on these kinds of tasks. Being bombarded by so much ‘new’ can be quite disorienting. Now I can take a tiny step back and start to view my picture as a whole and to be frank, I like what I see.

The new photos page has some content on it now and I will add to it as frequently as I can. I hope the setup I’ve devised will work for now. It’s just much easier and faster to upload to Picasa web albums right now. If I delete any albums off of the photos page, don’t worry they will still exist in my picasa web albums page. I still need to get some shots of my cute little kei car and  my new little garden I’m growing. I’m afraid I’m not really allowed to take pictures of my schools… supposedly, nor can I even tell you where they are and so on. So I apologize in advance for taking any information off or not giving some that might be helpful. I think it’s a little silly but that’s what works for the company so I’ll do as they ask.

Dehli to Dublin has me in a groove write now so maybe I’ll give a small time line to start out. So many things to talk about it’s hard to know where to begin. There was the flight, Osaka, training, getting to apartment, first impressions on Nanao, shopping experiences, getting comfortable in the apartment, driving, the intricacies of the teacher’s room, school lunch, and finally the kids themselves and teaching English.

Real quick, about the flight. My Grandma and Nana came to see off, traveled from Virginia, and that was really nice and unexpected. I had planned out a small sleep adjustment regiment for the couple nights before leaving to help me get on Japan time. Surprisingly, it worked for the most part. I stayed up late on Thursday, a couple hours later on Friday and hardly slept at all Saturday night before my early flight Sunday morning. I actually was gonna get a couple more hours sleep that night… but had serious tummy issues. Likely just nerves. I flew from Philly to Chicago and then got on the ANA flight to Tokyo. My seat partners were two late teen Japanese dudes that were pleasant but weren’t comfortable enough with their English to really chat about stuff. However, it was still a good flight and the service was awesome. I never got hungry or thirsty cuz I was always being handed something to quench my needs from the attendants.  Everyone gets their own little TV’s with all sorts of shows and movies and games. But still, a 12 hour flight is 12 hours. I slept a little but mostly zoned out with movies and reading. Note to the wise: after getting off in Tokyo and through customs, it was very easy to get to the domestic ANA transfer flight area (I assume cuz my international flight was also ANA) and to cash my traveler’s checks. I didn’t have to think too much.

Enough for now, yah? Time for some food stuffs and more hanami-ing. Also gonna check out a crazy looking internet cafe on 159 called Freaks…

The Oops and Recovery


Man oh man. There’s been a bit of back and forth on things so I was trying to wait for the dust to settle before I did another update. To be clear, not ‘bad’ back and forth, just… lots of decisions to be made. Some rearranging of my schools and also where I’ll be living. I will update with maps as soon as I have a more final answer/decision. The worst part is waiting for a reply. Gotta love that 14 hour time difference.

I had my not-so-official last day in the office this past Friday. Fortunately and unfortunately, since this isn’t really my job and I’ve pretty much taken on my bosses duties out of the goodness of my heart, I can drop the reigns at any point. But I won’t. I’m seeing all these loose ends through as far as I can see them. The last thing I want is for this program to suffer any just because I got tired and let some things slide. It’s not in my nature. But, come to an end it shall. I can’t really help anyone while on the other side of the world… well, maybe just some emails here and there… and some powerpoint presentations… and maybe some website stuff… GAH.

On to heavier things.

The Oops: The day I was going to mail my visa, I discovered my passport was missing from our family safe. On the night before I was going in to get my replacement passport, I discover my birth certificate is also missing. I officially have thieving gnomes that follow me around. Panic ensued.

And Recovery: After a few tears, I gathered my wits and sent off for my birth certificate. I wasn’t born here, in Delaware, so I had to request it from Orange County, Florida. I know, right? Just my luck. Surprisingly, I got it less than 3 business days after I ordered it using the credit card expedited method they recommended. Then I was off to get my passport replacement, which went off without a hitch. (Make sure you have all your paperwork in order BEFORE you go! Several people were having fits due to their own unpreparedness.) And today I picked up my passport, again just under 3 business day wait, and mailed it off to the Consulate in New York.

When I hold that visa in my hand, then I shall dance and scream SUCCESS.

For those of you out there who fear this scenario, and fear it you should, don’t be like me and wait to make sure that passport is where you think it is. Caress it each week until you send it off for your visa. But at least, in this sort of worst case event, all is not lost. Well, it was… but I made it reappear. Stay sharp, stay calm. As Tim Gunn says, make it work!

And now for some awesome.

With love – M

Destination Confusion


After a little hiatus from blogging, I have returned. There have been quite a few variables floating around and a few have been pinned down recently so I can finally chat about them in confidence. From where I would like to live to where my schools actually are, it’s been a little turbulent.

There tends to be some frustration involved when dealing with people over long distance primarily via email. It has little to do with the people on either end and more to do with the fact that we have to wait till the following day sometimes to get a response. Thankfully, my contacts at Interac have been plugging away at making sure my needs are satisfied as can be. I ask a question, I get an answer. It may not be the answer I was looking for but hey, it could be worse. I’ll do my best to keep the next bits brief.

Shika is my city. Period. I believe my accommodation contact was trying to place me in Nanao (noted on the right side of the map) simply because that’s where they’ve had all the other ALTs previously. It is 45 minutes drive from Shika so you can imagine how far a drive that would be to  the 5 schools noted on the map. My dude is going to look into  finding a Leopalace in the Shika area but I’m not holding my breath. I did my own searching and found nothing. The closet building was in Hakui, about 30 minutes south. Unfortunately, google maps no longer lets me search for アパート which is just weird. Before I could pull up every apartment in Japan that was listed.

Click on the “View Larger Map” to see the actual addresses and such.

What happened originally was my dude gave me a call and we chatted about possibly having me move into one of the apartments that are currently occupied by ALTs that are leaving in April. This was a good idea in theory but like I said, they were all in Nanao and were way more expensive than the Hakui or Shika. Now it looks more and more like if I would like to get a place I actually want, it’s going to have to be on my own. A mightly daunting task, for sure, but a feasible one.

As you can see on the map, my schools are a little scattered. Three are well within acceptable distances (10 min, 17 min, and 23 min) but the two up north in Togi… a bit far. The saving grace is that I can take the cliff/sea-side highway and it’s about 45 minute drive to both schools. That will be just beautiful. The ugly icing on the cake? My base school is the Togi Jr. High. Of course, I mean why wouldn’t it be? It’s okay, I’m not really that bitter about it. It would have been too much of a dream to get the Shika Jr and Sr High schools like my placement guy thought I might.

Oh – and for anyone curious, I was originally just told I had 4 schools. That was it. I had to specifically ask for addresses. I assume they do this because things tend to change sometimes and it’s easier to give you all the information during orientation. But since I’m renting a place on my own, I want to have it reserved BEFORE my butt lands in Japan. In fact I may look at a couple apartments since they’re all so close to each other in the town. And then I sent another email asking that I please be notified should any of my schools change so that I can plan accordingly. Osaka Branch got back to me lightening quick to let me know I had another school (the 23 minute one). I guess it’s a compliment. They must think I’m pretty hot stuff.

The biggest issue now is how to go about getting a guarantor. For those that don’t know, this is something that most all apartment real estate agents require for any foreigner: a native Japanese to co-sign, essentially saying that you aren’t going to take off at a moments notice and are at least somewhat trustworthy. Though I could whip up more glowing recommendations than threads in a shirt… I don’t think it would get me anywhere. This seems to be one of those things in Japan that is simply unbending. Right now, my feelers are out with a friend who works in the state government of Delaware and with a friend in Japan who has recently discovered a fellow JET ALT who found a guarantor through her board of education of her prefecture. Hmmm…

That’s enough for now. I’ll do another blog soon about packing struggles. Since I’m a girl, I’m sure it’ll be unendingly entertaining.

With love – M