The First Night

My memory of this morning is a little fuzzy for the lack of sleep these last two weeks, but one thing I can safely say is that a pair of movers were able to put the contents of our house into their truck, move everything 6.4km down the road to our new house, then unload our possessions in the span of four hours. Colour me impressed.

With the family safely ensconced in the new house, Nozomi and I took to the park nearest our home to stretch our legs and — for Nozomi — some other activities. One of the many things that we appreciate about this move is how quiet the neighbourhood is. At the previous home we could always hear the thrum of machinery from one of the many factories that operated all hours of the night. These factories were all generally more than 400m from the home, but the noise they put out was ever-present. On top of this was the fact that the apartment was along the flight path of an airport a few kilometres away. Planes and helicopters generally flew during the day, but we could hear them every so often at night. A pair of nearby busy roads rounded off the general atmosphere of noise that permeated the neighbourhood. After living in this environment for almost seven years, a person becomes deaf to the annoyances.

This new neighbourhood, though, is quite different. It's not just quiet; but silent. I could hear every sniff Nozomi took while walking in the park. The lack of noise pollution is nice. Really, really nice.

The First Night

There's a lot to like about this new home, from the creature comforts to the area it's part of. What I really like about it, though, is that it's a larger space for the family. Hopefully we will not need to move for at least a couple of decades.

Finally a Home Owner

Today, after just over a year of research, discussions, planning, paperwork, and visitations, the family and I took possession of our very own home. At two stories and three bedrooms, it's quite the upgrade from the 1-bedroom apartment Reiko, Nozomi, and I have lived in for 7 years, and the boy for just over one. Its proximity to schools, parks, and other families are great. The lack of industrial factories in the neighbourhood is welcome. And the relative quiet from the lack of planes and helicopters flying overhead will be a welcome change after almost a decade of living along the flight path of a military airport … in three different cities.

The Exterior

There's a lot to like about this place that will soon become our home. In addition to the extra interior space and neighbourhood pleasantries, the home was custom designed to suit a number of very specific needs for both Reiko and I. As we're both quite tall by Japanese standards, the kitchen counter is 10cm higher than in most homes. This will save us from bending slightly while working in the kitchen or washing dishes. Of course, we've also gone and had a dishwasher installed — our first — which will really come in handy on those days when we just can't be bothered to try and save water or electricity. As one would expect from a modern building, the home is very ecologically friendly in terms of water, power, and gas consumption.

The Living Room and Kitchen

Other niceties of the home are the working spaces. There's one downstairs next to the kitchen as well as one upstairs in the master bedroom. Both workspaces have a network port in the wall for computing devices, and the one upstairs has some extra considerations to make it better suited to podcasting.

Looking Up at the Boy's Room

What's particularly nice about this house is the size of the bedrooms. The stereotype for Japanese homes is that everything is small. This isn't always the case, but it certainly is for bedrooms. Fortunately, the boy has a room 50% larger than the average child's room, and there's an extra one open in the event he has a brother or sister in the near future. This spare room can also act as a guest room for when people come from out of town.

There's still quite a bit left to be done, such as building the rear fence and getting the landscaping constructed, but everything is scheduled to be complete before the summer heat hits.

Buying a home has required a decade of savings, a great deal of patience, and a pair of contracts that obligate me to paying an amount of money I've never thought possible to mortgage. The reality of the situation has still not completely set in.

Here There Be Walls

March 3rd in Japan is usually celebrated with the 雛祭り1 but, for the family and I, it will likely be remembered as the day we signed the last bit of the financial paperwork for our first home mortgage. Back in October of last year, I outlined 19 steps that we would need to follow in order to buy and move into a house of our own. Our experience over the last four months shows that there are many, many more than 19 and that no two mortgage professionals will answer the same question the same way. This has resulted in a lot of confusion and unnecessary double-work but, fortunately, we've passed nearly every major hurdle that has stood between us and a nice, custom-built home in the suburbs of an otherwise unremarkable city in central Japan. Reiko has done the vast majority of the legwork to ensure every 'i' is dotted and every 't' crossed. The last thing we want to discover is that we can't move in because some form was incomplete, resulting in an invalid mortgage.

Fortunately, this last bit of paperwork was completed in roughly 30 minutes, leaving us free to continue our examination of curtains and, more importantly, the house itself.

The House from Outside

While it may not be easy to see, the siding is being installed. As the house will have a custom shade of paint, the siding has a greyish primer base coat. Once everything is in place, they'll apply the proper paint and give it a clear finish. This will hopefully turn out to be the exact colour that Reiko has been after.

Inside the Home

Inside the house we are starting to see more of what the place will look like when finished. Interior walls have gone up, and insulation has been laid into the exterior walls as well. Wires and cabling are running to their respective outlets, and the walk-in shower room has been installed as well. Over the next ten days, the rest of the walls will be completed, smoothed out, then painted and wallpapered. From there we might just start to see the flooring go down before I leave for a week-long business trip to the US.

A Collage of Images

For all the trials and tribulations that have come this way over the last decade or so, it's really nice to see the fruits of our efforts take shape right before our eyes. So much of what Reiko and I thought was impossible has been accomplished in the last 30 months, and it's been absolutely amazing to witness. None of these efforts have been easy, but then anything worth doing is without challenge. I do hope that this is the start of a smoother, less stressful lifestyle, though.

  1. ひなまつり — hinamatsuri. Otherwise known as "Girls Day"

Almost Ready for Occupancy

It's been a little while since the last update on the future home for my family, and today seems as good a day as any to share some of the many, many photos that have been snapped over the last seven weeks. As the first image below shows, quite a bit has been done and we're no longer looking at an empty plot of land with roped off sections outlining where the house will be. Instead, we actually have most of a home!

The Exterior

This past weekend saw the completion of the roof with the focus changing to the exterior walls where a moisture-resistant sheet was being applied to the frame. Hopefully by this time next week the siding will be completely installed so that the focus can return to the interior, where very little has changed in the last two weeks:

The Interior

One of the more interesting bits about seeing the house built is that both Reiko and I did not think the home was going to be as big as it actually is. Seeing drawings on A3-sized paper is quite a bit different from witnessing the real thing. Of course, our perceptions can't really be trusted given that we've spent almost 7 years living in a 1-bedroom apartment, the last 12 months of which has involved three people and a puppy sharing the same limited amount of space. Just about any home would look bigger by comparison. That said, this two-storey home will be a welcome change from the apartment we've lived in since returning from the Tokyo area in April of 2011.

One other interesting bit about home building in Japan is the amount of information that the neighbourhood gets to read before a family moves in. Right near the front door of the home is this board:

The Information Board

On here is my name — as the registered owner of the house — along with the name of the building company, the managers in charge of the construction, who to call should there be questions, and even the name of the sales person for the housing company1. This will likely result in a lot of neighbours knowing my name before I've even heard theirs. Of course, given that this is a home purchase and not a rental, I'll likely have several decades to learn everyone's name and where they live.

Construction is expected to be completed in a few weeks, likely while I'm in the US for business. We'll have the keys to the place on March 31st, and will move in less than two weeks later on the 12th of April.

  1. a really stand up, patient guy. If only all salespeople were as awesome as this guy, we'd all wind up being happier customers.

The North Wall

Today the family made a trek to where our new home will be built to see how much has been done in the month since we paid for the land. I had thought the foundation would have been poured by now but, as the photo below shows, I was clearly mistaken. What we did see, however, was that the preliminary work for the small fence on the north and northwest sides of the property has been completed, as well as the underground piping that will be used for water, gas, and drainage.

The North Wall

There isn't much to look at just yet but, as the land goes from being a barren plot with pipes to a proper home, I'll post updates to share the progress. If all goes according to plan, the building will be up and pass inspection by March 31st, meaning we can technically move in on April 1st. Given that the last two weeks of March and first two weeks of April are the most expensive times to move, we'll likely opt to move between mid-to-late April … almost 7 years to the day after moving to the apartment we currently call home.

Now I Can Tell Kids to Get Off My Lawn

While I may not have the right to vote in Japan, I most certainly do have the right to own land. This became a reality earlier today when Reiko, the boy, and I travelled to the bank to meet with the — now — previous owners of the property to formally sign all the documentation in the presence of a lawyer and transfer the remaining balance owed on the land from our account to theirs. We had paid 10% of the land value from our savings back in October when we first expressed interest, and this gave us a maximum of 90 days to finalise mortgage applications, find a house builder, and get the ball rolling to build a home.

Reiko has really put in 120% to ensure that all of the paperwork is correct and the builders can deliver what we're expecting.

The View from the South-East Corner facing North West

It may not look like much now, but there will be a small land-breaking ceremony this coming Saturday and construction will begin on the 26th. If everything goes according to plan, the house will be finished in late March and we'll be able to move in shortly after.

The View from the North-West Corner facing South East

The neighbourhood certainly looks to be a great one. It's close to a number of large parks that should keep Nozomi busy for years to come. A kindergarten, elementary school, and junior high school are all within a 10-minute walk. There are other families with young children in the vicinity. And, if that's not enough, there's 10Gbit fibre-to-the-home for those who wish to pay for it1.

My commute will see an additional 20 minutes added to each direction, but it's a small price to pay for such a nice place to live.

  1. While I'd love to have this kind of broadband connection, nothing on my home network could take advantage of it. Instead, I've opted to go for a basic package with a provider that'll allow for 1Gbit Internet, 30 TV stations, and a phone line all for about $55 a month