What’s the first order of business once a family of four lands in a new country? Find a new place? Open a bank account? Get cell phones? We figured finding a place to live would be the first order of business. Due to the fact that the majority of landlords require a guarantor (a Japanese citizen who agrees to be vetted and serve as a co-signer) we decided to go with the Urban Renaissance route. It’s a fancy name for government housing. By choosing to live in a UR, we avoid the guarantor issue, the bribe issue (landlords will require the tenant to pay a “thank you for renting to me” fee which is equal to 2-3 month’s rent) and the agency fees and non-refundable deposit. The downside of the UR is that, well, it’s public housing, so it’s densely populated and the buildings are older.
We were impressed with the UR Umeda business center; it is new, has a kid’s corner and English speaking staff. The first thing they told us was that we needed to register our address with the neighborhood ward office (a neighborhood city hall). So, we headed back towards the Airbnb to the neighborhood ward office where we were promptly told we couldn’t use the Airbnb address since we are temporary guests there; only permanent addresses are allowed to be registered. We explained that we couldn’t get a permanent address until the neighborhood ward office registered us. Surely we weren’t the first ones to be caught in this dilemma. But alas, we were. The city clerk, hemmed and hawed. 2 other clerks came over to see what was the matter. They began to hem and haw, when 2 more staff came over, carrying ledgers and maps. Soon it seemed like the entire office was standing before us hemming and hawing. Even the English speaking receptionist left his post and came over to see what was going on. “Call the UR service center to make sure what they are asking is accurate,” the supervisor ordered one clerk. “Drive over to the Airbnb address to see if it’s legit,” he called to another. I explained we would only be there for 2 weeks while we looked for a more permanent apartment. Apparently that didn’t help our case because then another employee showed up saying that 2 weeks isn’t worth the paperwork they need to file on our behalf. Upon hearing this, the English speaking receptionist explained that what I meant to say is that we intend to make our home at the Airbnb, but if something more suitable comes up, we would then have no choice but to move. This seemed to make sense to the supervisor who calmly walked over to us and quietly asked, “Are you really living at this address? Does it have furniture? You can tell me the truth.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond; I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. If only there was a way to know what I should say to get out of this chicken and egg situation altogether. Thankfully, the clerk who called the UR confirmed that they need us registered using the Airbnb address in order to move forward with the UR. Then the man who checked out the Airbnb came back and said it was legit. This seemed to give the supervisor a change of heart. He looked at us and told the clerk to process the paperwork. An hour later, our paperwork was completed and we were home free, or so I thought.
The next request from the UR was to have a Japanese phone number, so we headed over to our beloved Yodobashi Camera (they sell anything and everything–Michael will surely blog about it soon!) to get new SIM cards. The only thing is they were hesitant to sign us up knowing the address on our registration cards were temporary. The salesperson suggested we wait until we moved into the UR to get cell phones. Not another chicken and the egg scenario! Alas, it would not be our last either. This happened at the post office (which is also a bank) too. And at the UR when we were signing the lease. They needed forms from Michael’s work that he would receive on his first day next week, but not before that since he isn’t technically an employee yet. With each roadblock, we learned to plead our case, be patient, smile and let the kids use their charm. And thankfully, at each impasse, we found an understanding staff member who helped clear the roadblock.