Thursday, August 22, 2019

Tokyo -- a different city everywhere you look

I've moved.  I'm now by the Tama river, in Ota-ku.  I'm still in the 23 Wards, which is Tokyo Proper, but it feels like a new city again.
Moving was both easier and harder than one might imagine.
It was pretty costly, with small bills still dribbling in.  I have no idea how I acquired so many things, some of which I will not need in the new place.  I will need new curtains, and must dispose of things bought for the old place that I can't possibly fit in here.  I wonder how I do that.
The square meter-age is identical. It translates to less than 300 square feet. That's small. This apartment has no sizable storage closet, but does have a place for the washer inside. There's a hall, which is separated from the two tiny rooms by a door, so one doesn't heat or cool the hall, laundry room or bathroom. That should be a saving.
Big, wide doors open onto a larger outdoor area -- deck? This is first floor, so no stairs, and that's nice. The deck opens onto a small green area that's separated from the neighbors, and I have been told I can make a garden there. Right now, Japan's verdant luxurious greenery is all...weeds. Everywhere.  I recognize a type of wild mustard. I think. I hope gardeners will come by and clear it all out, so I can have weed blocker and stone put down and plant things in planters on top of that.  What I think are azaleas line the back fence.
There's less kitchen, but the big bonus is that the heating and cooling work better, because the shape of the space allows the HVAC unit to reach everywhere. This gives me a real space for my Butsudan, a genuine home for it that's warmed and cooled, that gives me a better place to chant. I like that very much. Since this move was a big surprise to me, I suspect that's what it's about.
I haven't had a chance to get to the riverside park yet. It's got hiking and biking paths. It's not far, so soon. There's also a seaside park, because Ota-ku is further east than Meguro, right on the ocean.  I'm looking forward to that.
When one moves in Japan, one must register one's address. If you move from -ku to -ku (the -kus being wards, or municipalities, within the 23 wards of Tokyo-to, which functions as a province rather than a city) you have to go to your old -ku and sign out. They give you things. Your medical insurance is transferred to the new -ku, for example. You take these things to the office of the new -ku and sign in. I did this yesterday, visiting both in less than six hours, door to door, including several train rides. Incredibly efficient, incredibly nice, and I am now official.
I pay my medical insurance premiums by the year -- they are THAT cheap -- and the year runs from April to April. So Meguro will refund my overpaid premiums. Ota will send me a bill at some point and I will pay them. The premiums should remain the same, as it's a national program. The insurance remains effective. There is no coverage lapse.  I'll find out if there is any coverage or service difference -- it won't be much -- when I get the new information. That's because municipalities administer things differently and some provide more or different services from local taxes in additional to the national program. I'll have to figure out how to set up the automatic payment again.
Long term care insurance is interesting. I get bills quarterly. I can pay the premiums monthly or quarterly. I was going to set this up for annual automatic payment, but hadn't had a chance (again, the cost is absurdly reasonable compared to the US). I don't have an actual card for this, which some bureaucrats found disconcerting, but I believe it's because while I pay the premiums for this, I don't actually use any of its services. They seem to buy that, anyway. I think it has to do with not having paid in for a required minimum of time yet, though I am over the age when premium payments usually stop.  I think.  Maybe.
It's raining today, so I experimented with the coin laundry dryers next door to dry the sheets and now I am trying to figure out how to get rid of stuff. It's probably easier than I think. Getting a trash tag for disposal of an ancient broken suitcase I have no place to store was simple. I just have to walk to the nearest combini (convenience store) and buy it. Now I have to find out what to do with useful things I have no place or need for.
I'm still in the city. Kamata station is large and bustling, much more sophisticated than Musashi-koyama.  Hasunuma and Yaguchi-no-watashi, the two other nearby stations -- they all mostly lead to different lines or are closer to here; this is a very convenient location -- look like little small town stations, with old-fashioned drop-bar crossings and tiny roofs over the platforms. They feel like the country.
Cities don't get larger than Tokyo, but they also don't get more diverse. One could spend a lifetime exploring one's own neighborhood, never leaving it, as people are known to do in London, Paris, Hong Kong and New York.
But there are so many neighborhoods to explore!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

A little history...a big decision.

Two years ago today, I landed in Japan with the intention of staying.  It was hard to get a visa.  Hard to get a place to live.  I'll be moving shortly to an apartment that will suit me better, at the suggestion of my landlady.  My visa shows every sign of renewability until I can get permanent residency, which I have decided I want.  Yes, I am still here.  Yes, I plan to stay.  I like it here.
Japan isn't perfect.  Japan surprises me every day. I hate the climate right now.  I need to organize things so I can go somewhere cool in August, but I have the chance to go to Taisekiji and make a Tozan pilgrimage on my actual birthday this year, for the first time, so I'm definitely doing that -- and then I move.
I didn't know if I would want to stay here.  I didn't know how I'd fit in.  I didn't know a lot of things, but what I know now is that Japan is working for me.  J'y suis; j'y reste.  Here I am, here I'll stay.

More Kagoshima later -- there is plenty more to say, but since I'm moving, this might take a few weeks.  Enjoy the summer, wherever you are.