Unlike my book, which was translated by professionals, this blog was partly translated by an automated translation program. Therefore, the translation may not be perfect.

In my last blog I promised to tell you more about the journey, but I’ve been here about three weeks now, so the journey can be summarised as: I got on the plane in Korea, got off two hours later in Japan, went through the procedures at Narita and was allowed to take the train home. There I had to do another three days of quarantine, after which, after a local PCR test, I was allowed out early.

The entire travel day I suffered from a splitting headache, so while I made obligatory movies through the window of beautiful clouds and smoking hot springs, laughing at the Korean Air safety video with these slick boy band boys in it, I felt mainly my head – and little else. My autopilot was not inferior to that of the 747 in which I flew: SkyLiner, Yamanote, Keio Liner, home.

The apartment next door

Back in November, when I was in the process of buying my office apartment, I had my sights set on the apartment next door. A requirement for my type of visa is that I live at a different address than my company, and how chill would the apartment one door down be! Technically totally following the rules, but oh so easy. The apartment was for rent, but I couldn’t apply as a non-resident, my realtor told me.

The apartment just kept sitting empty, month after month. So when I got here, I immediately dropped an email to my realtor. But still the landlord wouldn’t accept my application, because I needed 1) a Japanese phone number, and 2) my address on my residence card. For that, I had to go to City Hall, and I couldn’t do that until after my quarantine.

While I was sitting inside being bored on the third day, I heard noise in the hallway. Viewers. Shit.

But I didn’t give in yet: the next day I was at City Hall ten minutes before opening time, and then I tore off to Shibuya to pick up my SIM card a with Japanese number. My broker did the application, according to him I was the first. But the landlord said no. We don’t know if it was because I’m a scary foreigner, because they had already more or less promised it to the viewer (who had thus not yet made an official application at that point), or because I’m technically “unemployed.” More on this later.

Last week I spotted a mechanic in the hall, who managed to tell me that the apartment next door is indeed rented out starting next month. Probably to that viewer. I’m still sour.

There is another apartment for rent in this building, on the tenth. The owner is a foreigner himself, so there is less chance of discrimination, but communication is very slow, and I don’t know whether that means they are actually slow, or that they secretly don’t want me. And do I actually want it? On the tenth? When I was here for a week, we had an earthquake that had me pretty freaked out on the fifth.

On the other hand, if the building collapses you’re not necessarily better off on the fifth. Maybe you’ll be better off on the tenth, because at least then you’ll be pretty much on top of the debris pile…. Sorry, my ability to put things into perspective always assumes the most negative scenarios. The building is – so they say – earthquake-proof.

The unemployed business manager

“But Toeps, you just said you were unemployed, what about that? Because you’re a business manager, right?”

Euh, yes. Technically, I am. But since my business hasn’t started yet, and most forms, when you say you’re a business manager, require you to enter the Japanese equivalent of your Chamber of Commerce number, so the option that applies most to me is… Unemployed.

So then you run into all kinds of bureaucratic clownery. Anyway, this society is very much set up for the standard. Do you want a bank account? Please show your contract or school card. Do you want a fiber optic internet subscription? Please pay with your Japanese credit card. Fortunately, Kei has stepped in as a saving grace, and she now pays for my internet. (I’m paying her back, of course.)

I’m still working on arranging a bank account, because Rakuten had initially rejected me because, in addition to my residence-card-with-address, I had to show a utility bill. A paid energy bill. I just moved here, so I didn’t have one until yesterday. But just yesterday, when I had made an application for Japan Post Bank with Mariko (including printing 20 pages in the convenience store, for which you need an app, in the Japanese app store, but then I have to leave the Apple Family with Riemer and I can’t add a Japanese payment method because I don’t have a Japanese credit card and and and…), and just then I found a two euro gas bill in the mail. So I went to the convenience store to pay it (that’s convenient) and, finally, I re-submitted my application to Rakuten. So maybe I’ll have two banks soon. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if they rejected me again. Business manager of a non-existent business. That is suspicious of course.

Now you may think: then you start that business first, right? But according to my administrative agent, it is really impossible to transfer my start-up capital directly from my foreign account. It has to be transferred to my private Japanese account first. I still don’t understand why, but if she says so, then so be it.

I also wanted to contribute my office/apartment as capital, but according to this lady it is better if I have the money in hard yens in an account. For six months. I sincerely don’t know how the Japanese government thinks “investing” works, but anyway. After that half year, we transfer the apartment and I finally have access to my money again. Then I can really start doing business.


Meanwhile, outside, the cherry blossoms are blooming. I remember well how I dreamed about this moment, when I was not allowed to enter the country: “…and then later I’ll be in Japan when the cherry blossoms bloom, then the tears will flow from my eyes, the heavens will open and the angels will start singing!” Or well, something like that.

In reality, it goes like this: “Oh. Cherry blossoms. Still haven’t heard anything about the apartment on the tenth. Should I wait? Let’s go to the bank with Mariko. Do I have my hanko with me? Tomorrow someone from TEPCO will come and replace my obsolete fuse box. When will I fly back to Holland to finish some work? The Kickstarter isn’t really going well is it? Shit, I still have to email three customers back. Oh yeah. Cherry blossoms. I’ll take a picture for Instagram.”

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