Monday, September 10, 2007

Another long monday

I began the day with an ice coffee, toast and boiled egg at my local kissaten (喫茶店, a traditional coffee shop that usually serves some free food with the 400 円 coffee in the morning). Then I met Ken at Nakazaki-chou Station (中崎町駅) and we set off on another grueling day of errands and bureaucratic bullshit. It was still all so new to me that I was able to be amused by most of it. Ken on the other hand, could hardly contain himself on a number of occasions.

The first order of business was to look at an apartment that we had decided would be the best bet. Ken was determined that I should avoid many of the unnecessary expenses involved in renting through an agent, a private owner or a Gaijin rental service. This was a real sticking point for him. He had humored me by letting me look at some of these places, and then taking me through detailed calculations of the costs, proving that these places were much more expensive once these added expenses were divided by 12 or even 24 months. My agreement with his general position was solidified by the fact that they were all basically dumps.

By renting directly from a corporation that owns many apartment complexes throughout the city, I would save on agency fees and other customary expenses. The only drawback would be that I would have to fully furnish the place, including a refrigerator, gas range, washing machine and other items that are typically included in a North American rental. Again, Ken rightly pointed out that all these expenses would be absorbed in a 12 month period.

We looked at the place and, to Ken's obvious satisfaction, it was far better than anything else I had seen. Thus began the process of actually drawing up the contract.

We went to the main office where they proceeded to ask us for far more documentation than I had brought, and this despite the fact that I had tried to anticipate such an eventuality. Since we had to go out to the university anyway, we decided to see if we couldn't get, or fabricate, the necessary documents when we were out there and return to the office again at the end of the day.

At the university, we were again involved in a endless stream of paperwork, only some of which had to to with my arrival. We went from one office to the next, while Ken filled out forms and repeatedly entered his stamp (inkan, 印鑑) into various ledgers. At one point, as he was for the third time that day, filling out a form in duplicate, he wryly pointed out that, given the circumstances, it was a wonder Japanese scholars got any work done at all at this time of year.

The one good thing about our trip to the University was that I was able to pick up an electronic dictionary (denshi-jishou, 電子辞書), paid for by my research grant. I had originally believed that if I bought items over 10,000 円 they would be retained by the university after I left, but it turns out I had misread the conditions and I am allowed to keep any items up to 100,000 円. Now this is much more agreeable, so I purchased a hi-end Japanese-English denshi-jishou for 34,000 円. It contains the full text of 35(!) dictionaries, including things that would come in handy anywhere, like the Advanced Learner's OED, and strange ones like the Oxford Guide to British and American Culture, which has slang in it that I've never heard and which I frankly doubt anyone ever really used (for example, "go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut"). The user's manual is all in Japanese, of course, so I imagine it will be some time before I've even scratched the surface of this thing.

Finally, we returned to the office of the rental apartment and managed to satisfy them regarding the documents. We completed the contract in short order and I settled out the amount owing in cash, of course.

Here, however, we ran into another snag that caused Ken to nearly lose his composure. My rent is to be paid electronically by automatic deduction from my bank account, however, my bank is not included in the long list of banks from which the rental corporation accepts electronic funds transfer. When we were outside, Ken informed me that this is probably because Shinsei Bank was rescued from bankruptcy by a buy-out of foreign capital and is consequently, in the eyes of many, not really a Japanese bank anymore. What makes this situation even more absurd is that for the second month's rent, they will send me a form that I can take to Shinsei Bank and pay electronically, but they claim to be unable to continue to do this for subsequent months. Ken decided that the best way to deal with this would be to open a second bank account at a second bank. I couldn't really believe that this was the simplest solution, but Ken was adamant. For now, I think it's best to take his advice in such matters.

Many of the transactions throughout the day generated what I regard as a staggering amount of paperwork. The purchase of my denshi-jishou produced six full-sized sheets of paper - two were signed and stamped by both Ken and the clerk, one of which was retained and the other of which was our copy. The other four copies seemed excessive to me, but when I asked Ken about it, he didn't think anything was amiss and supposed that they might come in handy. What is more, apparently these are only temporary receipts, when my grant arrives, sometime in the next month, six more forms will be made out, this time in my name.

Below, you see the paperwork I received from the rental office. (It may be hard to see from the photo, but three of these forms have other, smaller forms stapled to them) Half of the documents are informational brochures and so forth, but the other half are my originals of various contracts and agreements, not all of which I fully understand, but which I, nevertheless, filled in and signed. Naturally, the rental office retains duplicates of these, which I also filled in and signed.

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