16 October 2010

TwoStyle - 2

     Following a preliminary meeting with Two Style Architects where we roughly explained what we were looking for in a house, we fixed a meeting for a Presentation.  On that day, Director Shioda-san and Architect Yakushiji-san showed us two plans and a model of our house.  We were really pleased with one of the plans which featured a beautiful wooden terrace enclosed within the walls of the house.  This terrace, while occupying a significant amount of space (18m2) would not count toward the specified surface that we could build on.

     In this area, and most of residential Inokashira surrounding the park, the surface on which we are permitted to build is 40%-80%.  This means we can occupy another 40% of the size of the land on the 2F.  We can also have a loft, but here again there are restrictions: a) the tallest point of the house must not exceed 10m, and b) the ceiling of the loft cannot be higher than 1.4m.  This restriction on construction surface, as we soon learned when looking for land, is called "Kempeiritsu".

     Now, our initial feeling on this was that we would definitely have a lot of room around the house and we could definitely get a garden.  But 40% of the land is quickly filled when you add an enclosed terrace, parking space, entrance, and the mandatory 50cm around the house...  From looking at the sketches and the model, it actually feels like the house is filling out a lot of the land! 

     Japanese laws have changed recently regarding building restrictions.  For instance, our soon-to-be neighbor to the left was not imposed this 40-80% restriction back when he built his house; his front door is so close to the road...  But we prefer having a bit of space between the house and the road, and our neighbors!  We were also imposed a setback because of plans to widen the street which shaved off a few cm off our land.  The houses to our right have already complied with the setback regulation, but not those to the left.   As it is right now, the street is a bit narrow, but we won't be driving a large van anyway, if we drive a car at all.  Still debating the purchase of a car, as we also need to get our Japanese driver's licenses.  If we succeed with this we will post later on that process as well... 

15 October 2010

Buying Real Estate

     When we began looking for land this past August, we really wondered where to start.  This was actually a process we had undertaken 8 years previous, but we had never followed through on a purchase back then because we didn't have our Permanent Residency and also because we were ambivalent about staying in Japan for long at that time.

     So this time, we started looking at available land and properties on the internet but we wanted to get in touch with a Realtor that would help us track that piece of land that would best suit us.  We didn't want to buy a used home, knowing that the building standards have evolved in recent years.  We didn't want to buy a prefabricated home either (Tate-uri) because we had very specific needs that were simply not adressed by ready-made homes.  We had already seen a few and weren't impressed.


     We first visited a Real Estate Agent near Kichijoji Station who introduced 3 pieces of land.  Surprisingly, the agent was only midly interested in helping us, and after our initial meeting, he never contacted us again.  We never went back there either.  We then visited Landmark Real Estate Agent where we met with Fujimori-san and Miyao-san, who were both keen on assisting us without being overly zealous.  That's an important point because we didn't want to feel rushed.  They showed us 3 pieces of land and took us to see one of them. 

    In the evening, we took our bikes and peddled on over to see one of the proposed lands, and that's when it happened!  We fell in love with it!  We were unable to even consider any other land after that.  So it was hard to bluff with Fujimori-san on our next meeting and not let it show that we REALLY wanted this one.  Fujimori-san showed us a couple more places, but finally, by the end of the meeting, we were making an offer...

   Land prices have been dropping in and around Tokyo over the past few months.  This particular land was originally posted at a much higher price than what we got it for.  The difference between last year's price and this year's was 1000 man yen (approx. 100,000 dollars).  We still requested a rebate on the asking price, and confirmation that our offer had been accepted came to us the very next day.

6 October 2010

Fujimura Pool

     Back when our daughter decided she wanted to learn to swim at all costs, we considered many alternatives in our neighborhood.  We tried Yokogawa and Fujimura, but the latter won our vote due to proximity to our place (just a few minutes walk), even though it seemed a little strict.  So we went all out and bought the club's swimsuit and the swim cap, got the swim bag also and our daughter went merily to classes, as I sat at the 2F viewing station with our then baby son.  Since then we've also enroled our son, from the age of 4, as he was also fretting about getting into the pool. 

Totally different experiences with both kids: one was serious and dedicated to learning quickly and passing the different levels of competence, the other totally committed to fooling around in the water and making as little effort to listen to the teacher...  I was approached once by a concerned instructor who wanted my permission to be "stricter" with my boy...  No way! He was only 4 and loved water, so I thought the classes were worth it anyway, even though he progressed ever so slowly.  He's 7 now and a bit more in tune with the program, so I'm happy I didn't pull him out as I had considered so many times.

     Fujimura's administration also eased over the years.  I recall an incident way back when the "Furikae" (make-up classes) rules were tighter where I ended up explaining my views to the pool's director...  (Gaijin parents are usually trouble-makers!)  Amazingly, the policies changed a bit thereafter, and I've been very happy with their system ever since.   Tests for lower levels are held during class, once a month.  For higher levels, tests are given every 3 months, on a Sunday.

     Fujimura is located near Tokyu Department store, and they are open everyday but Sunday for regular kids classes.  My daughter now takes Diving lessons there and loves it, but the class is given a bit late (7pm) for the time being.  My son is on the twice-a-week program, and is finally learning the crawl...  Prices are every reasonable and switching classes is now easy and practical.   I also like the kind of family atmosphere in the reception hall; the assistants are quite welcoming and seem to know the kids by name!
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