Please note: contrary to my book, which has been translated by native English professionals, this post is translated in part by Google Translate and might not be perfect.

This post is also available in Nederlands

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

The whole day of my travels I had a pounding headache, so while I was making obligatory movies through the window of beautiful clouds and smoking hot springs, and laughed at the Korean security video with those smooth boyband boys in it, I mostly felt my head – and little else. I was on autopilot, just like the 747 I flew. SkyLiner, Yamanote, Keio Liner, home.

The neighboring apartment

As early as November, when I was in the process of buying my office apartment, I had my mind 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 nice would the apartment one door away be?! Technically totally according to the rules, but oh so convenient. The apartment was for rent, but I couldn’t register as a non-resident, my real estate agent told me.

The apartment just stood empty, month after month. So when I got here, I immediately dropped an email to my real estate agent. But the landlord still didn’t want to accept my application, because I had to have 1) a Japanese phone number, and 2) my address on my residence card. For that I had to go to City Hall, and that was only possible after my quarantine.

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

But I didn’t give up yet: The next day I was at City Hall ten minutes before opening time, and then I raced to Shibuya to pick up my SIM card with Japanese number. My broker did the registration, 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’ve already more or less promised it to the viewer (who hadn’t made an official application at the time), or because I’m technically “unemployed”. More on this later.

Last week I spotted a mechanic in the hall, who told me that the apartment next to me is indeed rented out from next month. Probably to that viewer. I’m still mad.

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

On the other hand, if the building collapses, the fifth is not necessarily better. Maybe you’d be better off on the tenth, because then you’ll at least be on top of the rubble… 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’s that about? Because you’re a business manager, aren’t you?”

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

And then you run into all kinds of bureaucratic clownery. In any case, this society is very much tailored to the standard. Do you want a bank account? Please show your job contract or school pass. Do you want a fiber optic internet subscription? Please pay with your Japanese credit card. Fortunately, Kei has acted as a savior and she is now paying for my internet. (I’ll pay her back, of course.)

I’m still arranging a bank account, because Rakuten initially rejected me because I had to show a utility bill in addition to my residence card with address. A paid utility bill. I just moved here, so I didn’t have one until yesterday. But just when I made an application for Japan Post Bank with Mariko yesterday (including printing 20 pages in the convenience store, you must have an app for it, in the Japanese app store, but then I have to get out of 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…), anywayyyy, just then I found a gas bill of two euros in my mailbox. So I went to the convenience store to pay for it (that’s acutally convenient) and bam, resubmitted that application to Rakuten. So maybe I’ll have two banks soon. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if they turn me down again. Business manager of a non-existent business. Very suspicious, of course.

Now you may think: you could just start your business first, right? But according to my administrative agent, it is really impossible to transfer my starting capital directly from my foreign account. That has to go to my Japanese private account first. I still don’t get why, but if she says it, then it’s probably true.

I also just wanted to use my office/apartment as company assets, but according to this lady it is better if I have the money in hard yens in an account. For half a year. I honestly don’t know how the Japanese government thinks “investing” works, but okay. After half a year we transfer the apartment and I finally have access to my money again. Then I can start being an actual entrepreneur, you know.


Meanwhile, the cherry blossoms bloom outside. I remember well how I dreamed about this moment, when I was not allowed to enter the country: “…and then I will be in Japan when the cherry blossoms bloom, tears well up in my eyes, the sky opens and the angels to sing!” 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 any longer? I’ll go to the bank with Mariko today. Do I have my hanko with me? Tomorrow someone from TEPCO will replace my outdated fuse box. When will I fly back to the Netherlands to finish some work? The Kickstarter isn’t going well, isn’t it? Shit, I still have three more customers to email. Oh yes. Cherry blossoms. Let’s take a picture for Instagram.”

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