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Moving Considerations

May 27th, 2007

In an attempt to get the most complete understanding of the area that I can before signing the contract to move in, I have been visiting the Ikebukuro area and checking things out. I stopped by in the evening a few nights ago, and noted a few interesting things: first, that the 24-hour supermarket on the 1st floor is now stocked, but a person inside said that they would not be opening until a still-undecided date in June. No problem for us–we move in at the end of June.

The other thing I noticed about the building is that it seems like almost nobody has moved in yet. Only five or six units were lit in the whole building, which has some eight units per floor, on 36 of the 38 floors. While some people may just not have gotten home by 7:30 pm, it is more likely that most people have just not moved in yet. Sachi is worried that way too many people will be moving in at the exact same time, and she has a point. The elevators will be severely taxed, at best, and it could slow things way down. While half the building was taken by people who could move in any time they wanted starting last week, the other half will be spoken for by people like Sachi and me, who may be given the choice of starting rent payments in the same one-week period.

Another thing I’ve been looking at is transportation. Ikebukuro is a hub, and the choices of train lines are considerable. We’re looking at the Yamanote, Saikyo, Shonan Shinjuku, Tobu Tojo, Seibu Ikebukuro, Marunouchi, Yurakucho, and the Takasaki & Utsunomiya Lines. The Narita Express also runs through Ikebukuro, and the new Fuku-toshin Line will start a year from now, if they finish on schedule. There is even a streetcar that runs through, the Toden Arakawa Line, going as far south as Waseda.

I was looking forward to using the new Fuku-toshin subway line starting next year, but then I realized something: the stations are very inconveniently placed for the new apartment building. It’s as if the planners thought, “how far away from this new apartment building can we place the stations?” and then acted on it. The Ikebukuro station of the new line is on the other side of the main Ikebukuro station, adding maybe 5 minutes to the walk to the station. And while the line passes close to the new building, there is no second station close-by; that’s even farther away than the terminal station. As you can see on the map I ginned up from Google Maps below, the blue line is the Fuku-toshin opening next year, the dots representing stations. The yellow line is the existing Yurakucho Line, for comparison. Note that the Yurakucho stations are more conveniently placed; the Fuku-toshin stations are farther out. Ah well.


The good thing is, my work is a short bicycle ride away. I look forward to using my bicycle to make the trip on good-weather days, and at the same time, exploring all of the back streets between Ikebukuro and Shinjuku.

I also looked more closely at the shopping. As I feared, most of it is stuff I would not be too interested in, but as I also noted, you just need a few good shops to make it worthwhile. And god knows that there’s virtually nothing out here in Inagi, where I live now.

Ikebukuro has more department stores than you can shake a stick at–five, by my current count. Down side: department stores here tend to be expensive, upscale places; the best thing about them is the food center in the basement. Clothing stores abound; maybe good for Sachi, but meaningless to me. Food stores are also plentiful, which is nice, but has the drawback of tempting me to eat badly. Control yourself, Luis! Stay away from those Cheetos! Cost might be an issue; a lot of stores are expensive, but I have already spotted at least a few discount places that I’ll have to check out. There are zillions of restaurants, most of which will be too expensive or not very good quality or service (as Sachi and I discovered when we ate lunch at an Italian place last week). Good news: Akiyoshi has a branch there; it’s a bit far away on the other side of the station, but is close enough. And right next to it is a Spanish Tapas joint which touts authentic Spanish chorizo. We’ll have to see about that.

But the most notable point is the volume of stores and restaurants, and the sheer multitude of back streets. Out of so much, even if only 1% is worth going to, that still represents a large number of good places.

For a while, I thought that the movie theaters might be skimpy–there are eight places, but the closer I looked, the more they seemed to be tiny little places, maybe half of them art houses or something. But the Cinema Sunshine has 6 screens, the largest being 426 seats, and the Humax has four screens, the largest being 483 seats; both of these are within a few blocks of our place. The Tokyu has 300 seats for a single screen. Two more theaters have twin screens and three more are solos, all of which have 100-250 seat screens. Alas, I have grown addicted to the Toho/Warner MyCal theater style, with the reserved seating and western-style popcorn, but these chains are typically outside of central Tokyo, like Costcos are. But there is a Warner MyCal in Itabashi, six stops out on the Tobu Tojo Line. Best for going to movies with crowds and long lines–just drop by the theater and buy a ticket a day or more in advance, then stroll in just before showtime.

Sachi and I are preparing all the documentation we’ll need for the contract signing. One of the documents is a form which states that we are engaged to be married. One of the idiosyncrasies of UR is that most of their better apartments are reserved for couples. The agents tend not to take this too seriously; when I moved in to my current place 7 years ago but was thinking of a unit that is only for couples, the agents actually suggested that I fake the engagement form. Sachi and I are not formally engaged, but we have no trouble putting up the pretense.

We’re also looking at moving companies. One which dropped an ad in my mailbox last week advertises a move for a place my size for about “from $300”–not too shabby, so long as they don’t go too much higher than that. This would include taking down my air conditioners for me, not a small thing. But the big thing is the inconvenience of my building. The people who designed it, for some malicious reason no doubt, made it so that the elevators stop at mid-floor on the stairwell–meaning that even if you take the elevator, you still have to walk up or down a half-flight of stairs. I think I mentioned this when I had the broken foot. It also makes moving a bit of a bear–have you ever tried to carry a large refrigerator up or down a flight of stairs? Not fun.

All we need instead, then, is the deposit money, and first month’s rent. Since we’re starting on June 29th, that’s only two day’s worth. (We’ll have to ask them how the July rent will be handled; as soon as I can, I’ll want everything to be automatically debited from my bank account.) Despite there being no key money or agent’s fee,we’ll still have to plunk down ¥739,940 (about $6,080). Still, that’s far better than double that amount!

In any case, it’s now pretty much solid that we’ll be moving. For a while, I was afraid that Sachi was doing this for me, humoring me with my choice; however, she assures me that she likes the place more than well enough to move in. So here we go!

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  1. May 27th, 2007 at 14:21 | #1

    The Tapas place… over by the Crown Plaza Metropolitan? Little place down a set of stairs? If so, it’s damned good, not sure about the “authenticity” though, but it is tasty, I make sure to eat there each time I’m in town.

    Where was the Akiyoshi branch?

  2. May 27th, 2007 at 16:36 | #2

    You don’t need department stores to be tempted by Cheetos. They’re carried by Family Mart. There’s temptation everywhere. 😉

    I’ll be looking forward to those “after” pictures when all is said and done!

  3. Luis
    May 27th, 2007 at 18:14 | #3

    Cheetos aren’t around where I am now, though. No close-by Family Mart. They only carry “Scorn” around here.

    Ikebukuro, however, appears to be Family Mart Central–in one area, there are three FMs in a one- or two-block radius, and even more nearby.

  4. May 29th, 2007 at 18:38 | #4

    Hey Luis, when first came to Japan I was hanging around Ikebukuro all the time, mostly because I lived nearby. I loved the area because of all the shopping and department stores. But that was when I was really young. Now, I feel very different about the area.

    Ikebukuro was one of the main places to go in the late ’80s kind of like Roppongi Hills or Midtown is today. Mainly because of Sunshine 60 and Seibu Department Store which used to be the largest department store in Japan at one point. Unfortunately, a lot of Ikebukuro is now dated and bit run down. I recently was in Sunshine 60 and noted how the design of the place was so out of date and very user-unfriendly especially the bathrooms. The TOBU on the west side is more modern.

    There’s still a lot of Fuzoku on the west side and crowds of “yankee” kids of Saitama who hang around the area all through the night making lots of noise (last I went there) but they are mostly on the other side of the station. Your place is quite near Otome Road which is where all the dojinshi shops are I think. The route you would walk to get to your place looks like it would go through that main shopping street past Tokyu Hands. Have you visited at night yet? You might feel different about the area. Also, that street gets really crowded on Sunday.

    Anyway, these things may not bother you at all. It’s still a nice mansion and I’m sure you’ll find the area quite convenient.

  5. Luis
    May 30th, 2007 at 03:20 | #5

    Roy: Thanks for the rundown. Yeah, I kind of got the impression you’ve imparted… but to me not a lot of it will matter too much, I think. The fuzoku can gather all they want (I noted the abundance of love hotels nearby), so long as the bosozoku don’t streak up and down the street outside all night. If they do, hopefully the double-paned glass and other insulation will help douse some of that noise. Not that I don’t get the occasional bozo here out in Inagi. Not sure who the “yankee” kids are, though. Foreign? Some Japanese clique? Our place is far enough from the station so as to hopefully be beyond the non-motorized gangs, in an area more or less uninteresting by any other standard.

    I looked up Otome Road, and realized it leads from just next to Vanguard down along the west side of Sunshine City. Have gone down that street several times, including a few times tonight. Never noticed anything–though I did notice book stores there. Think we’ll get treated to the occasional cosplay outfit?

    I don’t care much for design or department stores, so those won’t matter much. The run-down look I am quite used to, having spent so much time in Shinjuku, using back roads to cut across areas. The crowds can be a bear, but there are so many side streets, it’ll be easy to find some place which is not stuffed with people. these are definitely down points, but not (at least yet) so bad that we’d want to move away. But who knows what time will bring. Hopefully, we won’t care too much about any of that, and will instead just enjoy the stuff we like in the area. I’m kind of like that, but I don’t know about Sachi.

  6. Andy
    June 6th, 2007 at 01:16 | #6

    Hi Luis,

    Great place. Is that the unit with balcony? I was just in Ikebukuro about a week ago. Visited toys R us there in the underground maze. I was told Sunshine was the most trendy area in the 80/90s during the economic boom. Much has changed since then, but it is still a very fun place to be and work. I’m a bit north in the Akabane area. The food is great here. You should try the sushi joint by JR Keihin line if you havent already but you might have to take a transfer somewhere. Great stuff for a fraction of price.

    Congrats on your new place. Looks like a great find!

  7. Andy
    June 6th, 2007 at 01:17 | #7

    Oh by the way! You should check out some isakaya by Sugamo if you havent already. Great food there too! and cheap!

  8. Luis
    June 6th, 2007 at 01:42 | #8


    The apartment we’re moving into has quite a big balcony. And yes, I remember seeing the sign for Toy’R’Us–though I doubt I’ll be doing much shopping there… As for eateries, we’ll probably be busy for years just trying out the places in Ikebukuro!

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