Well here we are, at the start of a new Japanese life. It’s been a long nine months since this adventure first became a possibility for us and it’s hard to believe that we are actually here. We could have had a baby in that time. Oh wait. We did. Meet Coby.
As mentioned, the move to Tokyo was conceived around the same time that Coby was. Bede’s corporate position with a Japanese company in Sydney gave rise to an overseas transfer opportunity too appealing to turn down. A couple of loose ends were tied up (finishing renovations, selling an embarrassing amount of clutter, accidentally birthing Coby in the lounge room [sorry no pics]) and we were on our way.
Bede has been here for two weeks now and Natalie arrived last Sunday with the kids, grandparents, and 11 pieces of luggage in tow. While Bede has been heading off to work each day, immersed in a new job and Japanese language lessons, Nat, with the help of her parents, has been negotiating new surroundings with a toddler and a baby in a whirlwind of exploration, nappies, projectile vomits, tears (mostly the children) and lots of walking. Exhausting! #lovethemlots
We had some help from a bilingual real estate agent to find an apartment. Two points to note on this:
1) Unless you have big bucks, Tokyo apartments are very very small. Hello space saving solutions, inventory management and closer family bonding.
2) Turns out it is fine for landlords to reject potential tenants for anything, including being foreign, or gay (we aren’t, but we heard stories).
This week we found out that we have been successful in our application for a two bedroom apartment in a suburb called Daizawa. It is part of one of the wards of Tokyo called Setagaya-ku and near to a train station and bustling area called Shimokitazawa. By sheer coincidence, our apartment block is a few doors up from the airbnb apartment we are currently staying in with Nat’s parents.
Upon first impressions, Shimokitazawa could be described as an Asian version of one of the small arrondissements of Paris. But, we suspect, it is so much more. It is hard to imagine that we will uncover all there is to see and do in this one suburb in just 19 months. One long street packed full of tiny specialty shops, restaurants and cafes winds uphill to the bustling train station. There are countless small side streets branching off the main road with even more shops and eateries. Some restaurants are so small, they only have two or three tables. With four adults and two children, we often feel like we could hardly fit inside. Then there are the op shops and recycle shops that make Shimokitazawa one of Tokyo’s hipster hubs.
Over the first week while Bede has been working, the rest of us have visited several nearby parks and playgrounds, battled our way through the famous Shibuya crossing, explored the local shops and tried to find ways of entertaining a two year old in a small apartment in wet weather. The playgrounds could not be compared to what we have in Australia. We are spoilt for choice. However, it has been a good reminder that children really don’t need all that much to be entertained. Most of the playgrounds have a swing, a slippery dip and a dirt pit (yes, you read that correctly). And Aria has been loving it! What more could a child want but some dirt to play in? She is happy as a pig in mud. And in mud she is.
Once we knew we were moving to Tokyo and that we were expecting baby number two, we did some research into the best stroller options. It has become increasingly clear that our “well-researched” choice was not well-researched enough. Our stroller (a Baby Jogger City Select for those of you in the baby game) is laughable in a place like this. The local women ride bikes with one child strapped onto their chests and the other in a seat on the back, or they push strollers the size of, well, a small seat on wheels. Back home, when our stroller arrived, we immediately named it Battleship Wolf. Alarm bells should have rung there and then. Unfortunately Battleship Wolf may just need to be sunk. While the locals are very polite and do not stare at us at all, they do often cast a second glance at our ridiculous battleship. We can only imagine what they must be thinking…
So some adjustments may be needed for us to become part of life in a place such as this. Obviously. Perhaps the first step for us will be to ship the battleship back home and buy some bikes.
P.S try the ramen. Oishi des!