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April 17th, 2010

Today, Sachi and I took on the moving company situation. Sachi did most of the work, actually. She called several places, and only two were willing or able to send people over today. So we saw one at about noon, and the other just past 3 pm, and got estimates.

The first guy failed to impress us from the start. To begin with, he ran about an hour late. Worse, he didn’t contact us to let us know; about 45 minutes after the appointed time, we finally called the company to find out what was up. Soon after, the guy called us, no doubt having received a call from his office in response to our own call.

When these guys come to your apartment, they go through the place counting everything up. Each item has a point value assigned to it, and the total number of points determines the number of trucks and how big they are, and in the end, the price. As an interesting side point, it brought up how Japanese and Americans tally numbers differently. In the U.S., we make four vertical lines, and then cross them with one diagonal stroke to make a group of five; in Japan, they spell out the kanji “,” which has five strokes, one stroke being drawn at a time as a way of counting each item.

Anyhow, after the guy finishes the count, we all sit down and he hands us some reading materials while he adds things up. There are a lot of variables: air conditioners cost extra to take down and re-install; they will take care of throwing out stuff you don’t need (like furniture), but that also comes at a fee; then there are four or five different sizes of trucks, and buildings often restrict the size (in our case, we are not allowed to bring in any truck over 3 tons). So we spend time talking about that as well.

So this first guy comes forward with an offer: 300,000 yen. Yikes! I blanched when I saw that–$3250 for a move about 12 miles distant. I am pretty certain, however, that this guy was intentionally giving us a high figure. We live in a pricey location, so he maybe thought we’d pay the amount without thinking. If not, he could then slash the price and act like he’s doing us a special favor. In the end, he went down to 190,000 yen (a bit over $2000). However, it was a bit of a struggle, with him constantly calling his office and asking about availability of trucks. He had this crazy scheme of of using three trucks–two 2-ton trucks and one 4-ton truck–and using the 2-ton trucks to carry stuff out of our apartment, meet up with the 4-ton truck to load it up, and then send the 2-ton trucks back for a second load, and all three would then go and unload at the new place. Weird.

We also came up against another hitch in terms of the moving day: the auspiciousness of the day involved. In Japan, there is a kind of astrology of sorts for the calendar called Rokuyo, with each day having one of six designations. Taian days are the luckiest; that’s when everyone wants to do stuff. Especially weddings–Sachi and I got married (both civil and ceremonial weddings) on Taian days. Butsumetsu are considered unluckiest. When we were discussing which day to move, the 3rd of May came up, but Sachi was very reluctant: that’s Butsumetsu. And it wasn’t just her; the moving company charged least for that day, doubtless because nobody in Japan wants to move on that day. We only got the price down to 190,000 yen by getting the salesman to give us the Butsumetsu rates for the day before.

Later, the second guy comes. He also is late, but immediately calls us at the appointed time to let us know how late he’ll be. (Just 15 minutes, as opposed to an hour late for the other guy). He goes through the same routine, albeit with a nicer, easier manner than the first guy. Chats at first, then counts the stuff, then sits down and calculates while we go over the time-killing materials. Then he gives us an estimate: about 190,000 yen. Very promising: he started where the other guy finished. Sachi, fortunately, is very good at haggling (a particular weakness where I am concerned), and talked the guy down to 157,500 ($1700). I am pretty sure that, like most salesmen, he had this figure pretty much set from the start based on some formula or another. We figured that we would probably not get a better deal elsewhere, so we signed. The guy brought up some cardboard boxes and tape and we committed.

Both salesmen asked how much the other one bid, with the first guy desperately trying to find out if he could salvage the deal when we called him up later to tell him the bad news. Maybe if we were a bit more ruthless, we could have played them off of each other, but neither of us is that “good” at negotiating–or at least, we don’t want to be.

So now the move date is set; we went downstairs and handed in the papers informing our current building when we’ll leave. But there are now a tsunami of other things to handle, packing just being one of them. We have to now cancel phone, electric, water, cable, and Internet service, and get them arranged for the new place. Then there are the official papers–tax and residency registrations, licenses and IDs, bank and other notifications that have to be dealt with. A ton of paperwork, in short. Then we have to finish buying stuff for the new place–an electronic toilet seat and washlet/bidet, a gas stove/range for the kitchen, lamps for the ceiling, and various furniture (cabinets, desks, chairs, etc.) that will be appropriate for the new place. Thank goodness we have about $7500 in deposit money coming back–we’ll need it. The deposit for the new place is a lot less as the rent is less, and will be payable over three years. That, plus the $1000-a-month savings in rent will more than cover all the expenses.

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  1. Ken
    April 19th, 2010 at 14:32 | #1

    Luis wrote:
    “…We have to now cancel phone, electric, water, cable, and Internet service, and get them arranged for the new place. Then there are the official papers–tax and residency registrations, licenses and IDs, bank and other notifications that have to be dealt with…”

    Wow, what a lot of bureaucratic red tape! There is too much govt intervention in our personal lives!

    Luis, I strongly urge you establish a new branch of teabaggers in Japan. Maybe call yourselves the “Green Tea Party.”

    Just a thought…

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