Yesterday (Saturday), we looked again at the Kubiri house much more carefully to determine if it is really the one for us. Well...it was. We had the agent fill in the appropriate information on the form, and we will be dropping it off at the Housing Office on Monday morning. The longer we looked at the house the more impressed we were with its layout, construction and feel. There are some issues, such as the fact that none of the toilet rooms have any sink in the same room, which can be a convenience issue. However, these became minor in light of the overall feeling we got from the place.
So! Big sigh of relief, we have selected our house! I've been pulling out about $2000 a day in yen (about Y150,000) for the past several days, so by Monday we should have all Y831,000 ($10,8000!!) necessary to move in. Needless to say, moving around frequently is not going to be an option here. We'll probably arrange contract signing for Thursday, and possibly be able to move in by next weekend.
We are so grateful to God that He has guided us in selecting such a great place so quickly after arriving (it was the 2nd house we looked at!), and confirming that choice as we continued to look at other houses.
After being dropped off near the base entrance, Kerri and Rowan headed back to our hotel while I took the train to Akihabara. I had been given a good tip earlier by one of my bosses that I should stop by the ITT (Information, Tours and Ticketing) office near the NEX/Commissary. They had a filing cabinet with lots of drawers, each dedicated to different destinations around Japan. Each one had a hand-out describing how to get to and back from each destination by train from different locations. Very handy, so I had one with me when I started my trip.
I decided to start from Shioiri station, which is probably the one I'll get on/off at for work. The paper said to start from Yokosuka-chuo station, which is one stop down. I figured either would work, but I was wrong! Apparently Shioiri is a minor station and the express lines (green/red) to Shinagawa do not stop at Shioiri. So I took a local (white/black/grey) line up one stop to Chuo and changed platforms to wait for the next express.
Did I mention how cold it's been? Friday it felt like gale-force winds as I pedaled around base, and I swear there were some ice pellets mixed in with the rain. It snowed in some places a bit north (Yokohama) and was bitterly cold. Saturday was still quite chilly, minus the rain and the wind. Anyway, standing on cold train platforms for quite a while as I sorted out the above situation was getting me pretty chilled.
Finally the correct train came by and I hopped on, standing at first, then sitting when I realized how long it would be. Yokohama seemed to come up pretty fast (maybe about 20 minutes) and it wasn't much farther to Shinagawa station. From there it was a quick transfer to a JR line that 7 stops later dropped me off at Akihabara. All of this was rendered extremely simple by the use of a PASMO card which was already loaded up with about Y10,000 from the other day. Swipe on entry to the first train station, swipe again at the transfer stiles, swipe once more at the last station on exit. Fares are automatically deducted correctly. I have never used an easier system.
Here's the route I took:
View Larger Map
So Akihabara...quite the place! I didn't even begin exploring, but I did make the rounds outside, looking for cell phone shops, avoiding the maid cafe hawkers (girls dressed in maid outfits trying to get you to come inside). I checked at 3 different places. The first said maybe I could buy a cheap cellphone/sim combo with a data plan, then cut the sim to work in my iphone. The second said no, it was impossible (official Softbank of course). At the third I met Hobart (his english name), a chinese gentleman who immediately whipped out his own Softbank microsim from his phone, popped it in mine, verified it worked perfectly, and then told me to come back when my ID situation is all sorted out and he'll hook me up. Yay! Mission accomplished. Thank you Hobart!
I then set my sights on lunch, and turning a corner was shocked to see a donner kebab stand! Now, I may not have mentioned before how disappointed I was in the donner kebabs in Germany. The meat was not very flavorful and the sauce likewise anemic. I eventually gave up trying different kebab stands as I was constantly disappointed. The good news is that this particular donner stand was excellent! Well spiced meat, garlicky yoghurt sauce...mmmmm boy! It was a small little thing, so on the way back to the train station I popped in a small sushi go-round. A few odd things, like figuring out how to use the tea powder and spigot of hot water sticking out from the bar, but otherwise straightforward. Grab your plate of sushi, eat, smile, get more. The pieces are a little smaller than state-side, but perfect for popping in your mouth in one bite. So nice to eat proper sushi once again. It's hard to describe, but if you've had good sushi, and then had "meh" sushi, you'll know what I mean. There's something about how the Japanese do the vinegar (su) and rice (gohan) combination that is absolutely unique in terms of flavor. It's subtle but it's definitely there. I'm sure there are better places, but for my first real sushi in Japan, it hit the spot. Funny thing also, when I went to pay, I noticed you could pay with thePASMO card! Neat idea... In total it was about $20 for a decent, quick meal.
I made my way back home, reversing the directions, without any issues. I am definitely feeling more confident about getting around after that experience..it was simple, and I think soon I won't need directions other than Google Maps (which has a pretty awesome public transport option). Oh, the total price for the trip was Y1560, about $20. Considering the speed and convenience, that's pretty good!
Today we are test driving a car in the morning and will try to go to Ginza (Tokyo) to attend a church we've heard about (Grace City Church Tokyo) in the afternoon (their service starts at 3pm).