From the bat cave

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.

It has been over a month since I wrote anything here. My head is full, and even when I talk to my friends it gets in the way. Then I want to tell them everything, immediately, and then the conversation turns into one big monologue about bank accounts, tatami mats and bats, and that’s not very nice of course. Or well. Not very reciprocal. That’s why this is a good old blog; one-way traffic, information dump style. Maybe you have already seen bits and pieces on Instagram (really, that medium still keeps me somewhat sane), but here it is, neatly and with context: Toeps in Japan, the recap.

Batshit crazy

Hooray, I was deemed reliable enough to rent the apartment on the tenth. That, or they really couldn’t find anyone else for that smelly den. 99% chance it was the latter, because damn. That smell.

After some investigation, I came to the conclusion that there must be a mouse in my vent. Strange, on the tenth floor, but when I flipped open the grate, three droppings fell out, and when I tried to peek through the slits of the grate, I saw a moving hunk of fluff lying there. I contacted the apartment manager, and they sent a guy (fucking five days later).

The guy opened the ventilation grate and…. “This is not a mouse! Is a BAT!”, he exclaimed in beautiful English-with-thick-Japanese accent. In Dutch a bat is called a vleermuis (flying mouse), so I was right after all. A flying mouse also makes more sense at the tenth floor. Anyway. Batmouse decided to take off through the same grate it had gained access through, leaving us with a load of bat droppings. The manager put on gloves, swept the shit into a plastic bag and then told me: “Bat shit is dangerous, clean up well!” My later research showed that his sweeping action was the most dangerous of all, so I ventilated the place for days to come. I continued to sleep in the office for a while.

House? Office? How...? Well: I bought an apartment (on the fifth floor) late last year that was to be my office. But it's just an apartment in itself, so when I entered Japan I quarantined and lived here. In the meantime, I started looking for another apartment, which was supposed to become my living quarters.

Unfortunately, I just missed the apartment one door down from the office, but on the tenth floor of the same building something else was empty: the bat cave. So that's where I live now. It has to be this way because as a Business Manager I have to have a business at a different address than my home address. Also, I must have invested 5 million yen in the company, and the purchase price of the apartment covers that to a very large extent.

Anywaaay. Bat gone, everything cleaned up…. But it still stank. Still stinks. I’ve tried everything from an ozone generator to chemicals, and the smell has definitely gotten a lot less (I can live/sleep there now) but it’s definitely not gone. Especially when you come in, you notice it. Of course it could be that the smell is still in the walls, but there are two theories that I consider more likely:

  1. The smell is coming from somewhere else. Last week, my eye caught the bulging mailbox of the downstairs neighbour. Let’s hope he’s just gone, and not um, you know, in a state of decomposition.
  2. There are also bats in my other two ventilation ducts, which unfortunately I have no way of reaching. Given the proximity to the river, and the design of these ducts (I don’t blame the bats for thinking these domes were made for them), that’s almost a given. Unfortunately, the building is so strangely designed that you need scaffolding or window-cleaning equipment to reach them. If this is the case, I also understand why my downstairs neighbour has run off.

To test scenario 2, this morning I turned on both the kitchen and bathroom fan, and opened the balcony door. This airflow did indeed blow away the odour for a while, so I think I’m on the right track. I read on the internet that bats don’t like mint, so I bought mint pouches (these are marketed as bat repellents, but the mouse repellent I bought earlier also contains mint?) and a mint air freshener. I’m then going to stick these into the ventilation duct, if possible, or else put it right under it. If that doesn’t help, then building management should just hire some exterminators or something. Or well. Aerial lifts. With netting. Because bats are protected, or something. Bunch of stinkers.

Neighbours

With the bat thing, you would almost forget that there is another problem with the apartment: the neighbour. This elderly man does little all day but smoke and watch TV. And his TV is next to my wall, I suspect. On deaf senior citizen mode.

Fortunately, I found a good solution online: soundproof panels, made of 5 centimeter thick rock wool with a special layer of soundproof material in the middle. These 90 x 90 cm panels are wrapped in fabric or wallpaper, and can then be attached to/put in front of the wall in various ways. Since the bat cave is a rental apartment, in my case I prefer to do that without too much damage to the wallpaper. I came up with a handy arrangement of panels, furniture and tension poles (because Japan) and ordered a sample.

After a tip from some Instagram followers, I decided to paint my sample, and leaving aside that my test paint was accidentally high gloss, this still seems like a good idea. So soon I will order the panels, and hopefully have a lot less trouble with the irritating neighbour.

By the way, the necessary Ikea furniture was delivered this morning. It won’t be my last order from the Swedish-furniture-gigant-in-Japan, because I’ve already figured out that the former washing machine stand in the office apartment could use another shelving unit.

And so it goes almost daily. I dive into an Amazon rabbit hole, I scour thrift stores, and again and again I come up with new things for both office and bat cave. The screen door of the sliding balcony door on five needs to be replaced, the other balcony door needs a screen door, I want a soundproof curtain or another smart solution to counteract noise from passing traffic, I need a microwave for the bat cave, I want a thicker futon for myself, a cover to store the guest futon, photo prints for the office wall, a shelf with a rod at 10… And so I could go on and on. In my phone I have lists with the sizes of almost everything, but when I’m in a store, I just don’t know enough.

Look, in principle I am almost there. I can live. But perfect… It is far from perfect.

In Ikea... Again! The branch in Tachikawa is nice and close, and easy to get to, so handy for getting some inspiration

My business

Then, good news: I have a bank account! A real, Japanese bank account. It was still a bit tricky, because as a non-student, non-employee and non-spouse, Japanese banks don’t really know what to do with you. But fortunately Mariko was there to the rescue, who showed up for a second time to take us to the post office (aka the bank).

This time we visited a smaller branch, where you didn’t need to make an appointment or be sent away with a form and a “try it online”. We spoke to real employees, who spent more than half an hour, together with me, filling out the form correctly. Questions such as “are you liable for tax in a country other than Japan” – “Uh, well, I am NOW, but once my Japanese company is up and running it won’t be, so um…” proved troublesome even for the staff, so I kinda understand that my self-completed application was full of “errors”, and thus was rejected. But that day Mariko and I walked out the door with a real bank book.

Ingenious, by the way, such a bank book. Or well, antique. You know when people say, “My bank book was credited with 100 euros”? In Japan, that’s still really true. I transferred my working capital with the Wise app, walked five minutes to the post office, put my booklet with magnetic strip in the ATM and -SHRIEEE- the last entries were added by matrix printer.

Also my MyNumber (a kind of Japanese social security number) was finally ready, so now I have that too. I had to go to City Hall especially for it on a Saturday morning, but with the MyNumber card in the pocket I hardly ever have to go to City Hall anymore. Now when I need a government document, I just go to the convenience store, put the MyNumber card on the reader and print out the required certificates on the spot. Magic.

With all this shit taken care of (well, mostly that bank account, MyNumber wasn’t really necessary – I had already gotten the necessary certificates at City Hall in the meantime) it was time to start my business! I went by Kaisha Express again (the company that takes care of my business regarding the whole start-up) for signing a stack of papers, uh, I mean…. Stamping!

Stamping? Yes, in Japan you don't sign things with a signature, but with a hanko stamp. This is a stamp with your name on it. You can have different hanko stamps; one for everyday things like accepting packages (this is often a ready-made one you can buy at Daiso, the Japanese dollar store), one for banking, and one for official shit. My hanko-for-official-shit I got from Kei. These hankos are often more expensive, more complicated in design, and made of wood or bone (or ivory, but we don't think that's so cool these days).

Companies need other hanko, for signing invoices and such. I would like to post a picture of my hanko, but my Japanese friends warn me that it is not wise to do so, because it is also your signature and malicious persons could then forge it. By the way, hankos in Western script are almost always too ugly for words, lol. They almost use Comic Sans.

With all the papers stamped and my identity verified (that’s when some Japanese-equivalent-of-a-notary calls you, asks your name and date of birth, and that was that), my company will be incorporated on May 9 if all goes well. It couldn’t be earlier, because it is now Golden Week, aka a lot of holidays in a row, aka the whole country is on hiatus and nothing is happening. But once I am officially a company, then I can finally bring business relations here. I’m really looking forward to that!

Jawöhl...

In the meantime I keep working on all kinds of websites, and my German book is almost finished! It’s at the designer’s now, and as soon as she’s finished I’ll go through it one more time, and then it can go live.

But now I’ve sold quite a few people a German book… And I’m in Japan. Now there’s also an Amazon printing factory in Japan, but…. The mail to Europe is still cancelled, except for boat shipments. And those take two to three months, if not longer by now. So…

I'll come back to the Netherlands!

This Thursday, May 5, I will fly back to the Netherlands for a little while. For a while, as in, two weeks or so. Much longer is not possible. So in those two weeks I have to sign all those German books, see everyone, maybe photograph someone…. And then quickly back again to continue building here.

I had originally planned to bring a suitcase full of kimonos, pottery, Polaroids and other items, so that I can send them to you from the Netherlands. But with my full schedule, that would mean I’d have to take a picture of those already tomorrow. Or in the Netherlands. Well. I’ll see how far I get. It won’t be the fault of my photo wall, by the way.

Nothing, with people

I can’t wait to be with Riemer again for a while. To be able to turn off my head for a while. To be able to relax for a while. These two months in Japan feel like I’ve been running non-stop. Sometimes I would complain to friends, “It feels like I’m barely working!” Only to realise that having a fuse box replaced, having a bat chased away or hanging blinds is also work.

I can’t wait to get back to Japan. And that everything will be finished then. Or well, more finished. So that I can go on another adventure. One day I shouted “fuck it!” and climbed Mt. Takao, the mountain I would be looking out on if it weren’t for a flat with a big billboard on the roof. On top of the mountain, I checked my mail, and discovered that I had gotten the house on the tenth. To-do-list x100.

I feel like doing nothing for a while. With Riemer. With friends. But before that, I have to move on, so they can actually come here. In a non-smelly house. With a visa arranged by me. And that I’ll have time for them. I can’t wait.

PS: The featured photo with this post is not my house, but just a beautiful color palette that I spotted during a walk.

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