Living “in-between”

009A month has passed since we left our home in San Diego. After almost a 12 hour flight, we landed and started our long walk towards the immigration gate, dragging our sleepy kids with us. After passing through immigration and custom we exited to the lobby where we were greeted with by a tall person holding a piece of paper with my husband’s name on it. He turned out to be one of his colleagues, and he drove us (along with our 17 pieces of luggage) to a hotel located on the U.S. Navy Base in Yokosuka. We did not know that someone would be there to pick us up, so it was a really nice surprise and I was so relieved that we didn’t have to spend another 2-3 hours taking bus and train with all of our stuff to get to our temporary home for next few weeks.

The first few days flew by quickly – we were busy getting situated, going here and there to register ourselves with places – attending a mandatory Housing Office brief, getting kids enrolled into base elementary school and arranging childcare for our youngest while we looked for houses. I quickly realized that we really need a good phone number to start house hunting so that became the next task. It was a time-consuming experience but after spending almost 2 hours at the DoCoMo shop in Yokosuka, we managed to get our U.S.-bought iPhone and Android phone to work with the Japanese SIM chip and obtained Japanese cell phone numbers. We learned to ride a base bus to get around the base (it feels really huge if you have to walk everywhere). Our hotel room only had a small kitchenette, so we have been eating out almost every night. I always prefer to go out of the base and eat at local restaurants rather than going to the restaurants at the base (I believe we ate at almost every one of them by now). When we do go out though, sometimes we don’t make it back to the base to catch the last bus back to the hotel and we end up taking base taxi, or walk 20-30 minutes if the weather accommodates.

Speaking of weather, in this short 4 weeks, we had two big typhoons. Both of them were said that it was one of the biggest in past few years. When the first one (Typhoon #18) hit, we were staying at my parent’s house for the weekend. It just so happened that we rented a car for the weekend and getting there by car was faster and more convenient than taking the train. But I had not driven in Japan for over 12 years and I was not confident in driving back in heavy rain and wind, so we extended our stay. The base command had declared school closure even before the first drop of rain. As we’ve learned from our Area Orientation Brief (AOB) which we attended during our 2nd week, the command would always chose safety over people’s convenience. Watching the heavy rain continued over 24 hour period, I was thinking that I had never seen this amount of water falling from sky back in San Diego. We really are in Japan now.

After having seen 6 rental properties in Yokohama/Yamato area, we had found a place we’d love to rent out, but the owner of the place is still there and it’ll take a while for it to be move-in ready. In the meantime, we just purchased a car last week. Purchasing a car was relatively easy as we bought it from a dealer who does business on base. We put a deposit on Wednesday around 12:00pm and it was ours by lunch time on Friday. It would not have gone this quickly if I tried to buy a car from a Japanese dealership store as we still do not have a local permanent address. When I called a Japanese dealership, they asked me if I had my “Inkan-Shomei” which is a certified seal of my last name to verify who I am. Also, we’d need to submit the measurement of the garage before we could buy a car. I was again reminded that we are in Japan where the seal is required in an official transaction and also living space is very limited. I didn’t have my Inkan-Shomei as we still don’t have a Japanese address, so we went with this dealer who could register our new (used) car with the hotel address and also helped with the registration process with Yokohama Land Transportation Office(LTO). It’s a Toyota 7 seater car – a type of car I had always been afraid of driving because of its size, but this one came with a back camera that turned out to be very helpful when we have to park backwards. I am slowly getting the hang of it.

Although we are still transitioning, we have roof over our head, means to get around and get what we need for day-to-day life. We see my parents fairly regularly which is nice, and spending time at my parents house provide a welcome break from living in a small hotel room with family of five. The next big step is to actually sign the lease, move in and hopefully get our household goods shipment which is supposed to come during the first week of November has actually arrived today. That is then the real transition will happen – especially for kids as they will then start going to Japanese school. As much as I am eager to get to the next step, I also realize that it will eventually happen, so I’m trying to enjoy this “in-between” state of living.