From the bat cave

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

It’s been over a month since I wrote anything here. My head is full, and even when talking to my friends it gets in the way. I want to tell them everything, in one breath, and then the conversation becomes one big monologue about bank accounts, tatami mats and bats, and that’s not fun either. Or well. Not very reciprocal. So here’s a good old blog; lovely one-way traffic, info dumping goodness. You may have already seen fragments on Instagram (really, that medium still keeps me somewhat sane), but here it is organized and with context: Toeps in Japan, the recap.

Batshit crazy

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

After some research I came to the conclusion that there must be a mouse in my ventilation. Strange, on the tenth floor, but when I opened the grille, three small droppings fell out, and when I tried to peek through the cracks in the grille, I saw a moving hunk of fluff. I contacted the manager of the apartment, and they (fucking five days later) sent a man.

The guy opened the ventilation grille 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 flying mouse, so I was still somewhat right. A flying mouse also makes more sense at the tenth floor. Anyway. Bat the Mouse decided to flee through the same grating through which it entered, leaving us with a load of bat droppings. The management man put on gloves, wiped the shit in a plastic bag and then said to me: “Bat shit is dangerous, clean it well!” My later research showed that his swipe was the most dangerous of all, so I ventilated the house for days. I just stayed in the office for a while longer.

House? Office? How does this work? Well: Late last year I bought an apartment (on the fifth floor) that was to become 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 had to become my home.

Unfortunately I just missed the apartment one door next to the office, but on the tenth floor of the same building there was still something empty: the batcave. So that's where I live now. This has to be the case, because as a Business Manager I must have a company 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 for a very large part.

Anyway. Bat gone, everything cleaned… But it still stunk. Still stinks. I’ve tried everything from an ozone generator to chemicals, and the smell has definitely lessened (I live/sleep there now too) but it’s definitely not gone. It is especially noticeable when you enter. Of course it could be that the smell is still in the walls, but there are two theories that I think are more likely:

  1. The smell is coming from somewhere else. Last week my eye fell on the bulging mailbox of the downstairs neighbor. Let’s hope he’s just gone, and not er, you know, in an advanced state of decomposition.
  2. There are also bats in my other two ventilation ducts, which unfortunately I can’t reach. Given the proximity to the river, and the design of these canals (I don’t blame the bats for thinking these domes were made for them), that’s almost a given. Unfortunately, the building is so badly designed that you need a scaffolding or window cleaning installation to see at all. If this is the case, I also understand why my downstairs neighbor has run off.

To test scenario 2, I turned on both the kitchen and bathroom fans this morning and opened the balcony door. This airflow did indeed blow the smell away for a moment, so I think I’m on the right track. I read on the internet that bats don’t like mint, so I bought mint bags (these are marketed as bat repellers, but the mouse repeller I bought earlier also contains mint?) and a mint air freshener. If possible, I will insert this into the ventilation duct, or else place it directly below it. If that doesn’t help, then building management should hire some exterminators or something. Or well. Aerial platforms. With gauze. Because bats are protected or something. Bunch of stinkers.

Pat & Mat

With the bats thing you would almost forget that there is another problem with the apartment: the neighbor. This elderly man does little other than smoke and watch TV all day. And his TV is next to my wall, I guess. Deaf old man volume.

Fortunately, I found a good solution online: soundproofing panels, made of 5 centimeters thick rock wool with a special layer of soundproofing material in the middle. These 90 by 90 cm panels are wrapped in fabric or wallpaper, and can then be attached to/in front of the wall in various ways. Because the batcave is a rental house, in my case I prefer to do this without too much damage to the wallpaper. I came up with a handy arrangement of panels, furniture and tension poles (oh Japan) and ordered a sample.

After a tip from some Instagram followers, I decided to paint my sample, and apart from the fact that my test paint was accidentally high-gloss, this seems like a good idea. So soon I will order the panels, and hopefully I will have a lot less trouble with the annoying neighbor.

The necessary Ikea furniture was already delivered this morning. It won’t be my last order from the Swedish furniture giant in Japan, because I’ve already figured out that the former washing machine location in the office apartment could still use a shelving unit.

And so it goes almost every day. I dive into an Amazon rabbit hole, I scour thrift stores, and I keep coming up with new things for both the office and the batcave. For example, the screen mesh of the sliding balcony door on five must be replaced, the other balcony door needs a screen, do I want a sound-absorbing curtain or another smart solution to prevent noise from passing traffic, do I still need a microwave for the batcave, I want another thicker futon for myself, a cover to store the guest futon, photo prints for the wall at the office, a shelf with a rod at 10… And 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 often find out I’m still missing some information.

Look, basically I’m almost there. I can live. But perfectly… It is far from perfect.

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

Muh bedraif *

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

This time we visited a smaller branch, where you didn’t have to make an appointment and were not sent away with a form and a “maybe try it online”. We spoke to real employees, who spent more than half an hour filling out the form correctly, together with me. Questions like “are you a tax resident in a country other than Japan” – “Uh, well, NOW I am, but once my Japanese company started up, not anymore, so eh…” proved difficult even for the staff, so I understand that my self-completed application was full of “errors”, and thus was rejected. But that day Mariko and I walked out with a real passbook.

Brilliant, by the way, such a passbook. Or well, antique. You know, when people say, “100 euros has been written into my account”? That is still the case in Japan. I transferred my business capital with the Wise app, walked to the post office for five minutes, put my booklet-with-magnetic stripe in the ATM and -SHRIEEE- the funds were added to it by a matrix printer.

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

With all this shit arranged (well, especially that bank account, MyNumber wasn’t really needed – I had already obtained the necessary certificates from City Hall) it was time to start my business! I went back to Kaisha Express (the company that takes care of my business for the whole start-up) to sign a pile of papers, er… To stamp!

Stamps? 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 taking packages (this is often a ready-made one you can buy at the Daiso, the Japanese equivalent of the Action), one for banking, and one for official shit. My hanko-for-official shit I got as a gift 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 is so cool these days).

Companies need yet another hanko, for signing invoices and such. I would like to post a picture of my hanko, but since that is also your signature and malicious people could then imitate it, that is not smart, my Japanese friends warn me. Hanko's in Western script are almost always too ugly for words, lol. They almost use Comic Sans.

With all papers stamped and my identity verified (that’s when a Japanese-equivalent-of-a-notary calls you, asks your name and date of birth, and that was that), my company will be established on May 9th if all goes well. Earlier wasn’t possible, because it’s Golden Week, meaning a lot of holidays in a row, aka the whole country is on its ass and nothing happens. But! When I am really officially a company, then I can finally bring business relations here. So very excited!

* Sorry, the “muh bedraif” joke is only funny for Anne, Jorine and Corné, and I don’t even know if they read my blog. Something about a lying former classmate… Sorry, it’s still funny.

Jawöhl...

In the meantime, I’m busy working on all kinds of websites, and my German book is almost finished! It is now with the designer, as soon as she is ready I will 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 is also an Amazon printing company in Japan, but… The mail to Europe is still cancelled, except for boat shipments. And they last two to three months, if not longer. So…

I'm coming to the Netherlands!

Next Thursday, May 5, I will fly back to the Netherlands for a short while. For a while, as in, two weeks or so. Not much longer. So in those two weeks I have to sign all those German books, see everyone, maybe shoot someone… And then quickly back to continue building here.

I initially intended to bring a suitcase full of kimonos, pottery, Polaroids and other webshop items, so that I can send them to you from the Netherlands. But with my full schedule that would mean that I would have to take pictures of it tomorrow. Or well. Or in the Netherlands. Good. I’ll see how far I get. Anyway, my studio wall is ready.

Nothing, but with people

I can’t wait to be with Riemer again. Just to turn my head off. Take a moment to relax. These two months in Japan feel like I’ve been running non-stop. Sometimes I complained to girlfriends, “It feels like I barely work!” And then I realize that having a fuse box replaced, repelling a bat or installing blinds is also work.

I can’t wait to be back in Japan soon. And that everything is finished. Or well, more finished than now. So that I can go on an adventure again. One day I yelled “fuck it!” and climbed Mt. Takao, the mountain I would look out on if it weren’t for a flat with a large billboard on the roof. At the top of the mountain, I checked my email, and found that I got the house on the tenth. To do list x100.

I’m in the mood for nothing. With Riemer. With friends. But before that I have keep working, so that they can actually come here. In a non-smelly house. With a visa arranged by me. And that I also have time for them. I can not wait.

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

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