Here's a diagram of what we hope will be our new apartment. It's on the 11th floor of a building that is just about equidistant between the two base entrances. It's on a road that's about a 5 minute walk from the main train station in town. About 10 minutes gets you to the local mall. Most of the apartments in this building are rectangular with the only real windows facing out over the balcony. This one is different because it's on the side of the building, and that means more windows. The genkan (entrance) has lots of storage space for shoes and other stuff, and there's a small alcove with a window directly across from the front door. The area is fairly narrow, but as you turn right and proceed into the apartment, the walls V out and expand resulting in a fairly powerful psychological effect that makes the living room area feel more spacious than it probably is. There is a large window to the left the looks out over the city, and you can see Tokyo bay in the distance dotted with ships, and Sarushima (Monkey Island) as well. There is an odd large closet that was passed by earlier on the left. We have contemplated making it Rowan's room, but I don't think he'd appreciate it. The kitchen is essentially part of the same room, which Kerri likes, and I'm not quite sure if we will have a proper "dining" area. We might go with a kitchen island with bar stools. The tatami room is ours (of course), and Rowan will get the adjacent room. There is no carpet (thank goodness), and we'll probably have to get a bed from Rowan's room. Kerri and I will sleep on the tatami using futons, and we'll put them away during the day and use the room with our kotatsu (low table) for schoolwork or whatever. The balcony looks in towards the city, but there's not much of a view that way.
It will cost about $1180 a month (that's including a $150 maintenance fee), and we are hoping to get a base parking spot which will save us about $300 a month in parking fees.
They are going to put a single air-conditioner in (not sure where), so we'll probably need to get another one on our own dime. Additionally we'll need to buy a range (standalone ovens being somewhat unheard of here) and possibly light fixtures. Otherwise we have most everything we need already. We were thinking about hiring movers (something we've never done), but now it looks like we'll get to overlap significantly with our current house and be able to move leisurely.
The apartment hunt began in earnest at the beginning of the year. We scoured various online sites and saw several good candidates and sent off our inquiries. We got to see a few places at first and were pretty disappointed by what we saw. The apartments were small, cramped, old and dingy, and were going for about $1000 to $1500. And that was a Japanese lease. A $1000 apartment jumped to $2000 when it was converted to a "Navy Base Lease." The main difference between the two types of leases is that the navy lease allows us to break the lease with 10 days notice, and we're pretty much guaranteed to get our deposit back (barring egregious damage). Also, we don't need a japanese guarantor (japanese citizen or company willing to pay your rent if you flake out). Needless to say, we decided early on we'd probably end up needing to get a japanese lease if we wanted to realize significant savings. We figured we'd get a guarantor company to cover the guarantor requirement.
We had a falling out with one of the first agents that showed us around. I could never quite figure out what his issue with us was, but it was the first time I'd ever encountered such unprofessionalism from a Japanese agent. He flat refused to show us any more apartments and we were very disappointed as that company seemed to have all the apartments we were interested in. We proceeded with other contacts for a while, and then we took a break as I had to travel to Bahrain for work for 3 weeks.
After returning, we started up again, contacting our current agent for our house (who we love and would like to keep working with) to see if she had anything. She showed us one apartment that was again disappointing, but we wanted to take one more shot with the previous company to see if we could see some of the apartments we were most interested in. I called the main Tokyo office and requested to not speak with the person they would usually refer us to. The gentlemen who ended up helping us was very nice (an American citizen but 2nd or 3rd generation Japanese Hawaiian) and came down to Yokosuka one saturday to show us several apartments. There was one that Kerri absolutely loved, but it was a little far from town and the base. Then there was the one that we settled on above. There were actually 5 or so different apartments in this building available, but we liked this one the best.
Kerri made us wait 24 hours before deciding, and then we told the agent we wanted it. Since then there have been some hiccups, but hopefully everything will work out. First, the guarantor company that the building accepts rejected us, probably due to our strange visa situation (we don't fit in any of the normal boxes). So we asked some friends that we have made here if the wife would be our guarantor (she's Japanese). They said yes, so we go their info to the agent. I need to get a "signature certificate" from the US Embassy tomorrow morning which is in Tokyo. This is a notarized document that says my signature is actually mine. Here in Japan they use official seal stamps for important things like buying a car or getting a new apartment, and since I don't have one my signature has to do the same thing. This enables that to be official. Also, we were told by our agent that he found out our apartment is actually owned by the prefecture, so it would take longer to process everything. This has us a bit worried as I've scheduled our current lease and payment cancellations for next week. We are hoping to hear something more solid before then, otherwise we might postpone.
So that's where we are at the moment. When we get in we'll take some pictures and post them. For now, there is the layout above, and here's a picture of the building. Our apartment is the 3rd from the top on the side closest: