After my first twenty-four hours in the largest metropolitan city in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metropolitan_areas_by_population), and by far the most expensive city I’ve had the pleasure to meet, I thought it to time to pick my jaw up off the floor and hands from jet-lag mode and let you know what’s going on here. In 24 hours, it’s plain to see that I’ll need to multiply that by 244 more hours x 244 days to get a handle on this city. Tokyo’s metro map ( http://www.bento.com/subtop5.html) makes Paris’s metro map look like Billabubb, South Dakota’s tram system (if there is a Billabubb, South Dakota that is).
In this post, I won’t tell you about how easy it is to get lost in Tokyo because the streets have no names (hey, is that why U2 wrote that song?), or how utterly confusing the streets are because they’re packed at all times (and nameless!), or how Tokyo makes NYC look like a pumpkin patch in the middle of Nebraska, or how everyone has an iPhone because they’re cheap, or that Tokyo was deemed the most expensive city in the world for expats in 2011 …(in the WORLD people: http://www.cnbc.com/id/43374737/The_World_s_Most_Expensive_Cities_to_Live_in_2011?slide=11), but I will tell you about my house.
The school where I’ll be working sent me a list of housing options and out of the list, I chose one of the Borderless House’s of Tokyo for its proximity to the subway (less than five minutes walking), its newness, and its nearness to the school itself. The house, just renovated in August of this year, is located in Oshiage, which isn’t central Tokyo, but in a quiet neighborhood about thirty minutes away by train. Borderless Houses are shared houses, and by regulation house half international residents and half Japanese residents; they can range from nine to sixteen residents. In my house, there are five private rooms and two shared rooms. Out of my desire to save yen, I chose a shared room. If I regret my decision, I’ll change to a private room for a small fee when someone moves out. These shared houses are usually temporary situations for many residents, so the stays are anywhere between six months and one year.
Can I digress and tell you a little about Valerie S., and why my mother thinks it’s incredible that I’m sharing a room, albeit a large one, with someone else? I have two older brothers, who shared a room when we lived in Jamaica, as the girl I had my own. Flash forward to New York, my older brother went off to NYC, my other brother had his own room, I was still in my own room. Years later in college, I never once had a roommate– requested a private room in a suite at HU and lived in that. Left that college, went back to my own single rooms from NY to Sao Paulo (slight hiccup there– I shared a room for six months with a girl who’s now a sister) to Kingston to New Jersey. I had flatmates often, and always swore I never wanted to live with anyone again, and that I never would. I swore. Then the rents for Tokyo flats rolled in, and I realized that there was no way, no how I was going to be able to afford my own place and save. Let me just tell you that a private room in the house is close to a US$1000.
I’ve met all my housemates , except one and we really are a diverse group; there is an Economics student from Fukishima, a student who’s studying Japanese and waitressing, a professor who’s teaching sociology at Meiji University, an assistant headhunter for an IT firm, a runner, a part-time worker at a French language school, a woman who I haven’t met yet, thus have no idea what she does, and me. Sadly, I have only photos of only five of my roommates (for now), so that’s what we’ll start off with:
* I start with R, because he was the very first housemate that I met. I was so happy to hear by email that there was a Smith in the house, because I knew that meant that there would be someone with whom I’d have little difficulty speaking. He’s lived up to his Smithness by being gregarious, sweet and funny.
Y’s energy and sparkle is captivating. She lived in France for two years, and now works in a French language school. When we went to the supermarket earlier, she looked as cute as can be in her heels. It’s no fallacy that Japanese women are always well put together.
* T’s cool as heck. He went to bed at 2:30 am (a few minutes ag0), so I know that he’s the one that will hang with me to the wee hours. He’s a brilliant student at Meiji and wants to get a job helping those in developing countries build better financial structures… believe me, it sounded better when he said it, as I’m merely paraphrasing and know nothing about economics.
*M (not pictured) is T’s professor at Meiji. She’s from Chicago, but speaks fluent Japanese, as this is her third time living in Japan. Right before this, she was living in Brooklyn. M’s so intelligent and well-rounded having lived and traveled to numerous places, that she’s an inspiration and an eye-opener. She also has a special place in my heart, because she introduced me to the Shibuya neighborhood of Japan and my first taste of authentic Japanese sushi (with wasabi inside the roll– yum).
* I is my roommate… and the best possible roommate that I could have (she’s not reading this, so there’s no kissing up involved on my part). She’s not too neat, and therefore not uptight (yes, in my book the equation is overly neat=anal=uptight (needs behind - stick); she fits with those she’s around, and is an adaptor. She’s amiable, and talkative but not overly so, and definitely one who sleeps early as her job requires her to be up at 6am.
* E‘s a 22 year old Russian hostess at a restaurant in Tokyo where the entrees start at US$100. Her co-workers are all blonde Italian, French, and fellow Russian women who’re hired to be eye candy. She’s fun-loving and at this very moment of 3:09am, she’s sitting behind me at the kitchen table on her laptop. My fellow late-nighter!
* YH– Can you tell that YH‘s wacky? He speaks little to no English, and thus we need a translator between us; but not a person, his phone has an app that he types what he wants to say and it spells it out in English. The only problem is I can’t answer him back in Japanese, so there’s a whole lot of head nodding going on. Let me tell you one more thing, I expressed to YH that I’d love to run with him in the mornings, in the quest of fitness, and he translated that he runs 10 miles a day. Needless to say, that idea was quickly squashed by me. He finished his run with a huge green bean and watercress mixed salad.
Now, let me introduce you to the house:
* One of the toilet rooms. Like many bathrooms in Europe, the toilet is in a separate room than the bath; however unlike Europe, for efficiency, the sink is on top of the toilet, and automatically turns on when the toilet is flushed.
* My favorite room in any house by far, but especially in this house. Please notice that there’s a television placed above the tub, the small white box beside it regulates the heat. To the left, there’s no shower stall, but there is a shower head, because the whole floor drains. Genius. Believe me when I say that we each take and love our 20 minute showers.
* The kitchen– 2 rice cookers, sliding cabinet doors, and a convection oven/microwave/toaster in one to save space.
* We have two refrigerators, both sectioned in three parts: food on top, fruit compartment, freezer on the bottom.
Now, you know the house and soon I’ll send photos of the streets.