Home > Hibarigaoka, Ikebukuro > Moved In

Moved In

May 5th, 2010

Sorry to be offline for so long. We’ve been busy, understandably. The move went pretty well, and the movers we chose, Ark, seem to be a good outfit. I explained before how their rep handled himself well, and the moving staff did the same. They arrived a half hour earlier than their estimated start time, did a good job of familiarizing themselves with the plan, and got to work right away. Any request we made was instantly carried out. They wrapped everything up well, and nothing was damaged or lost (at least as far as we can determine so far).

The day before the move, their air conditioner guy had come over and uninstalled our two units, setting them on the floor for moving, so that was all ready to go. On the day of the move, everything got transported, no problem with space in the trucks, and no difficulties in terms of logistics. (The Heart guys in Inagi were almost churlish about squeezing all of my stuff in the truck.) Within three hours, they were all packed up and ready to go. Sachi stayed behind to clean up while I scooted over to the new place so I could let them in. This is what it looked like the last time I saw it:

Vanguard Panorama 600

Now, the last time I moved, when we finished getting the trucks packed up and moved to the new place, the movers (an outfit called “Heart,” as I recall) were slow; on my scooter, I stopped by work on the way back, and still the movers did not get there until about a half hour after I did. This time, though, even without a delay more than a quick gas station pit stop, the movers got there within minutes of me–taking normal roads, no less. The Heart guys also were poor at installing stuff; they just dumped our washer-drier in its space, and said they didn’t do connections, leaving us in a pinch, as the hoses didn’t match the new setup at the time. But the Ark guys this time took care of everything, and made sure we were set up.

By the time Sachi finished up and got to our new place, the movers were mostly finished. But the place was cluttered with stuff, mostly boxes–it seemed like there was way too much stuff. It just looks like that when all your stuff is out and boxed, I guess. After the movers left, we had other visitors–delivery people, cable TV people, and a few others, to help us get started with everything. By the end of the day, we had phone, Internet, and cable TV in addition to the necessary water, gas, and electric. We were way too tired after that to do much unpacking.

The next two days were torrents of comings and goings. Two different air conditioner installers came; one to reinstall the ones we had previously, and one to install two new ones we just bought (for a bargain 35,000 yen each, a sale we found a few weeks ago). Another guy came to install the heated toilet seat with bidet (can’t do without that), and a variety of other goods were brought to us–a 6 x 3 foot shoes cabinet for the foyer (which I spent most of yesterday putting together), shelves for a kitchen spot, lamps for two rooms that needed them, and I forget what else. Oh yeah, a gas stove/range, which I installed. Later, while I installed lamps and laid wires, Sachi laid new topsoil for all the potted plants, which we hope will do away with the infestation of fungus gnats which we believe breed there. They’ve been in our faces for two years now; I hope we got rid of them. And then there was the unpacking, which we’re still only about 80% of the way through–but enough so that we don’t have to dodge boxes wherever we walk so much anymore.

So today we went out to visit home centers, hoping to find little “furniture” items that could help hold all the stuff we want to put in certain places, and take advantage of otherwise blank spaces in the apartment. Like this large counter space behind the toilet that would just be a big, empty, wasted space, or the ledge next to the washer & drier which we need to hold much more stuff. The kitchen pantry is great, but has way too much wasted vertical space, so we’re trying to find smaller shelving and boxes to add to it. We found some good stuff, but decided that it’d be cheaper, faster, and much easier to buy it online. But hey, home center stores are great fun anyway.

After that, we did the obligatory visit to the neighbors with little gifts, what you’re supposed to do in Japan when you move in somewhere. Two people were home, another two were out, and the last place seems to be in mothballs. Still, the neighbors seem like decent folks. Over the next week or two, we’ll have to finish up notifying all businesses and government offices of our new address.

The apartment: we’ve only been here for 3 days, but already several points are becoming apparent. First, it’s a big place. Great for spreading out, bad for trying to find Sachi to talk to her about something. Closet space is fantastic–we have five full-sized closets, and one small one. The small one is in the toilet-bath-laundry area, which is contrarily lacking in storage space, a lot less roomy than our old place–ironic, because it seems to take up more space in the new place. So while we’re struggling to figure out where to jam stuff in the bath area, we’ve got tons of closet space elsewhere.

The water pressure is so-so, and we’re back to having a system where we have to turn on the gas heater to get warm water. My solution back in inagi was simple: leave it on all the time. Sachi originally thought about turning it on and off every time we used warm water, but I balked and so now we turn it on in the morning and off at night or when we both leave for a few hours. The toilet room is OK–more isolated from the rest of the place, though not as well soundproofed–but it kinda has that new-apartment mildew smell to it, which I think this building is prone to. I’m not worried, Sachi has an innate (neurotic) sense for fighting stuff like that.

The soundproofing for the whole place is rather weak. Internal walls and doors are easy to hear through, and we could even hear stuff that neighbors are doing at their loudest–a switch from our last place, which was built more fortress-mansion-like. Still, it’s not so bad. However, I would not want to live with more than my wife here with the noise like that. Interestingly, the place could potentially house a family of five easily, six if you use what seems to be the foundation for a partition to make part of the living room a small extra room. If every room had two people, that would mean as many as 10 people in the place. I’m actually a bit surprised that poorer East Asian immigrant tenants, sometimes known for loading up in apartments, haven’t moved in to one of these units (people who don’t mind living in other people’s noise); rent would work out to about $150 per person, a steal for Tokyo. I only mention it because it almost seems like the place was designed for that. Or at least a large (for Japan) family with grandparents shacking up with them.

The sunlight is not too bad, but nothing direct enters the apartment. Most of the time it’s bright enough, but the dining room does get dark in the daytime sometimes; Sachi commented that a skylight would be perfect for the dining area, and I agree.

The neighborhood is pretty good. There’s a fantastic yakitori joint across the street from us which has terrific chicken on a stick, and they do take-out. We ate from there the first two nights. It’s 100 yen per stick, and they’re not chintzy on the meat.


Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be too many other eateries too close, but I’m sure we’ll unearth some good places nearby soon. Denny’s is right across from us, and they’re not bad. As I think I mentioned before, there’s a big supermarket with large drug store and dollar shop around the block (a rather large block), open till 9 (the market until 10:45pm), and a smaller 24-hour supermarket much closer, almost across the street.


And there seem to be four home centers within a 20-minute bike ride, a long with a lot of other stuff.

One more nice point: while our south-facing windows mostly look out on a 15-story bank of danchi, when we leave the apartment, the hallway overlooks a nice park, seen in panorama below. Down point: lots of kids making noise during the day, and a hangout for older kids later in the evening (which has me worried about the bicycles and the scooter). But nice to look at most of the time.

Hibari Park Panorama 600

Overall, it’s a good move. We miss some of the nicer appointments of Vanguard Tower, but for a place that’s saving us a relative thousand bucks a month, we haven’t traded down nearly so far as it might sound.

Categories: Hibarigaoka, Ikebukuro Tags: by
  1. May 6th, 2010 at 07:10 | #1

    Trying to think of how to ask this without seeming preachy or like I’m criticizing because that is not my intent. It seems to be impossible so I’ll just dive in with the first sentence as my safety net. Did climate change enter into your thinking when deciding to buy two more AC units and particularly with deciding to leave the gas turned on all day? Millions of families turn their gas on and off everytime they want to use it, and I find the lack of that, along with centralized heating and cooling, to be one of the blatantly inefficient common practices of our shared Mother country.

  2. Troy
    May 6th, 2010 at 10:31 | #2

    hey, A/C adds to global cooling!

    j/k, TEPCO only gets 30% or so of its output from nuclear.

    I think the extra carbon footprint of leaving natgas on some extra hours every day is miniscule.

    Global warming is a team thing. One doesn’t have to be a hairshirt way ahead of the curve, just ahead is enough.

    I thought a fair criticism might be that Luis is in fact trying to bring the wasteful western standard of living to Japan, but two people living together is much more efficient that two living separately so they get a win for that. Plus they’ve got under 20 tatami per person, around 300 sqft each, well under western standards, and exactly what i had living in Minami Azabu 1995-2000, and this space was about as small as I wanted to live in, TBH.

    Me, I rarely ran the cooler in Tokyo since it was just so goddamn expensive, $10 a day or thereabout. Rather walk down to the Azabu National and buy a pint of icecream with that money, LOL.

  3. Luis
    May 6th, 2010 at 10:49 | #3


    Re: water heating: Maybe I’m spoiled. Maybe I would benefit from having always lived that way. But I really would rather not have a situation where any time I want to use hot water, instead of turning on a tap, I have to walk across the house, go into the bath room where the floor is always wet, turn on the heat, go back to where I want to use the water, use it, go back across the house, into the bath room, turn it off, and then go back where I was. OK, so I am evil. I think analogues could be brought up for anyone who does not go to whatever lengths to save energy in every way imaginable. We’re not wastrels–we recycle everything, we take public transit or even more energy-efficient transport (bicycles, scooter), we are vigilant about turning off lights, equally vigilant about not wasting water, and so on (in fact, the apartment building we chose is eco-friendly, with solar collectors, energy distribution systems, and a grass roof, and the last place we lived in had similar eco-measures)–but we don’t knock ourselves silly trying to save every last erg either. We do allow ourselves some luxuries.

    As for the air conditioners, we don’t run them much at all. We almost never use them for their heating feature (which most air conditioners in Japan have). If you imagine we’re having all four conditioners going at any one time, you’ve got the completely wrong idea. When we need them, we really need them–Japanese summers can get incredibly hot and humid. But the extra air conditioners, ironically, are to save energy, not to use more. Having just two would mean that to cool one of the smaller rooms, we’d have to cool several rooms or the whole house. Now, if we want to be cool, we can just go into one of the smaller rooms where we can turn on a conditioner and keep the space cool and dry a lot quicker and easier.

  4. May 6th, 2010 at 11:27 | #4

    Hey, like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t criticizing, just genuinely curious. I don’t go to extreme lengths to reduce my footprint either, but feel I should do more, which is why I’m always curious to see others’ takes on things. Now that I understand a little bit more about how your water heating is set up, I understand better not turning it off between uses. In every place I’ve ever lived here in Japan there are two gas panels: one in the kitchen, one in the bath. If I had to step through the bathroom every time I wanted to wash the dishes I’d be much more likely to be in your camp.

  5. May 7th, 2010 at 21:29 | #5

    I used to live not too far from Hibarigaoka and remember when your local park opened about five years ago (on land formerly used by Tokyo University’s Nuclear Studies Institute!). There was a water fountain play area that was a big hit with kids, and within a few months it was shut down- neighbors complained about the noise kids made as they played there. I wonder if the fountain is still there.

    Hope you like the new neighborhood.

  6. Luis
    May 9th, 2010 at 13:03 | #6


    I did kinda overreact to that–the “evil” comment was intended to be snarky, but came across as confrontational, sorry about that–but at the same time, you can’t really say that the query itself was not critical. To ask if “climate change entered into my thinking” before noting that I was carrying out a “blatantly inefficient common practice” is not really something that can blunted much by saying it’s not criticism. Of course it’s criticism. To say, “Hey, I’m not criticizing, but why are you doing this bad thing?” is self-contradictory. To “criticize” is to “indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way” (dictionary definition); you indicated a fault and expressed clear disapproval. It’s like saying, “not to complain, but the service here is terrible.”

    That said, I think it was a matter of intent vs. expression–I think your intent was not to criticize, it’s just hard to put something like that into words without it coming across as critical.

    Thanks for being reconciliatory in the reply, and again, sorry if I sounded upset.

  7. Luis
    May 9th, 2010 at 13:12 | #7


    Wow, I didn’t know that there used to be a nuclear research institute here! On one level, Yikes! On another, one can be sure they checked for any contamination in the area before building. On another UR site in Shinjuku, next to the old location of my school, they tore down a golf center and model home park to make some UR buildings–and the ground was fallow for a long time while they did checks and even archaeological digs.

    As for the fountain–I don’t see it, but it may be covered up (turtles often rest upon a block in the middle of the lake, that might be the place). I can believe it was a problem, though! Right now I am hearing the screams and squeals of kids (my “home office” has a window to the park), and I often see kids playing in the water even without a fountain. Just this morning they had some PET-bottle rafts and were playing in the lake, and a few days ago some kids in swimsuits were playing in the river. When I say “lake” and “river,” one should keep in mind that each is miniature–the “lake” is maybe 20 feet across, the river maybe 3 feet wide–but kids find a way to play in them anyway. A larger park is nearby with a larger ‘river’ and ‘lake,’ but they conveniently made that one closed to kids playing in it. So I guess they come here instead…

    It’s not a big deal, I can tune it out OK–but can imagine it being bad if it were of greater intensity.

    Interesting fact about my abode–thanks!

    BTW–how did you know about the reason for the fountain closing? Is there an information source about goings-on in the community? Or did you just know someone who lived in the area?

  8. winnie
    May 13th, 2010 at 11:37 | #8


    While i trying to find “soundproof apartment in japan”, i saw your blog in my search engine. I read your blog on ‘Japan Fun Fact #9: Apartment Hunting, Part II’.

    My name is winnie, a singaporean. My hubby(singaporean) is going to relocation to japan. As we are going to enrol our 10years old daughter to the school near Minato-ku, we need to find somewhere nearby.
    Now my hubby is house hunting in japan with help from relocation company.
    It had been tough to find a good 2LDK as most of apartments cannot play music. My daughter plays violin.
    We keep our budget less than 180,000yen to rent. But the rental is quite high too.
    Do you have any suggestion of mansion or apartment locate at Minata-ku which they can take the impact of violin sound?
    Thank you for reading my comments.

  9. Troy
    May 24th, 2010 at 01:49 | #9


    Yeah, Japan is not built for violins. Y180,000/mo isn’t enough for a house, and even houses in the Minato area are too close together for bad violin playing.

    Though they do sell soundproofed practices rooms


  10. Luis
    July 4th, 2010 at 22:53 | #10

    Late comment on the water heating: by now, it seems that the apartment’s water heater is not one that holds a tank of water at a certain temperature, but instead one that simply heats water as you go. Even with the heater turned on, it still takes about 15-20 seconds to get hot water if none has been used in the past hour or so. And if hot water had been used recently, you get hot water immediately–but then it goes cold, and then hot again.

    Ergo, I don’t think that this apartment’s water heater uses much energy at all; unlike a US water heater, it is not constantly heating a good volume of water, but is instead just keeping a pilot lit or something.

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