While our arrival in Tokyo has felt much less daunting than our arrival in Moscow 10 months previously, it is none the less equally as challenging establishing our new lives here. Our apartment was an unfurnished one so it has been our responsibility to fit it out and make it a home (right down to providing some of the light fittings even....), so we really found ourselves even a few steps backwards from where we were in Moscow. Maybe it was the fact that we had already been through the establishment process in Moscow in such a foreign environment with so little guidance, that the slight familiarity of Tokyo along with a more employee friendly company makes it easier to get by in an unfurnished apartment. Luckily the school put us up in a hotel for the first 4 days of our stay here to allow us time to find the bits and pieces that we needed to make our apartment livable.
Expats = $$$$$
If there is one thing we have noticed in our travels over the last year is that any company with "International" in the name or set up primarily to service ex-pats generally means you pay considerably more to use them than if you were to use an equivalent local company, the problem is finding alternatives. Needing to furnish our apartment as quickly and cheaply as possible we set to and endeavoured to find the best deals we could without resorting to using the type of companies who charge a fortune because you are an expat. The companies I share with you below have all been used by us and we have received no payment, commission or any other reward for sharing their details with you. They have all been excellent to deal with and very good value for money so we have no hesitation in recommending them to you. If you do use them and save yourself some money, feel free to show your gratitude by making a donation through the Paypal link in the side bar.
For us bedding was the most important aspect in the short term, we could live without sofas, TV, lights, etc, but you can't survive without a bed, however to get enough beds cheaply and in a short space of time was always going to be difficult. Our first stop was to visit The Freecycle Network
, something I had read about somewhere but never really had the need to use, now we did... and Craigslist
. Here we managed to find an American family who were leaving Tokyo during that week and had a house full of stuff to give away or sell cheaply to a new home. One thing we have discovered here in Tokyo is that there is no real second hand culture among the Japanese, who see owning a new item as more prestigious than making do with someone else's cast offs, and it is also expensive to dispose of unwanted large items, so if you don't want to pay to ship everything home you are better off giving it away. By about our 3rd day in the hotel we had managed to build up the energy (remember we were still getting over our run in with food poisoning at this stage...) to risk a half hour each way trip to visit these people and see what they had, that we could use. Luckily they had 3 futon sets going cheap along with a table and office chair going free, so we booked those, and picked them up the following day with a large taxi.
Our next find was also on the Freecycle website, where we made contact with a nice Japanese man who was clearing out his mother's apartment as she had recently passed away. We visited him one evening and went through the apartment sorting out what we needed, luckily we were able to get a large amount of stuff and more that we needed to make our apartment a home. From here we got a kitchen table and chairs, Fridge, Washing machine, various grillers, drawers, shelves, lamp, TV, everything we needed in the kitchen including some food. We set a date to pick everything up and just had to arrange transport. Not knowing where to start I contacted a friend who lives in Japan who put me on to one of his friends who was part of a large international removal company, so I got a quote from him. In the meantime I did some searching on the internet for local companies and came across a gem called Tokyo Helping Hands
, who I contacted via email and soon had a quote for under half of the price of the other company, so quickly secured their services.
On the day of the move, I went around to the other house and packed up the remaining goods into boxes, at 1:00pm as agreed Ota-san and his offsider arrive to pick everything up, they do an excellent job of picking everything up and loading onto their truck, and then delivering to our apartment, I cannot recommend them highly enough to anyone wanting to move anything around Tokyo. On the drive between the pick up point and our apartment, Ota-san was able to tell me the best places to shop etc across Tokyo if we wanted to avoid paying any more than we needed to, so 10 out of 10 to Tokyo Helping Hands.
That only leaves us with a bed to find for us and some furniture for the lounge. Due to the cost of buying these items we decided that the best way was to lease so checked around and settled on Toyko Lease Corporation
, we visited them one afternoon and went through their showroom discussing what they had available, and then they took us over to their 2nd hand warehouse where we chose the bulk of our furniture from. They sent through their quote which looked good, so we placed the order, a week later they arrive and install all the furniture, fit the drapes and lights and finally our apartment is our home. We made a late change to what we wanted while they were delivering it which wasn't a problem they just popped back to the warehouse, swapped the item and were back in no time.
After living in the now furnished apartment for a week, there were a few other minor bits of furniture we needed, so made the trip to IKEA
to join thousands of other shoppers to finish off furnishing our home.
With just some minor bits and pieces left to obtain we continue to scour Freecycle, Craigslist
t to pick up either free or cheap stuff and to offload any of the excess bits we have picked up.
It takes a few weeks to get yourself settled in here, but it does happen and it can be done affordably.
If you are looking to resettle into Tokyo, below is a list of the companies we recommend to ensure you get a good deal.
Furniture and household stuff - IKEA
Household stuff, cleaners, storage systems - Don Quijote
Cheap meat (Wholesale spermarket) - Hanamasa
Also we are eternally grateful to Aki-san for his extreme generosity in providing us with so much with which to furnish our apartment, we now have the best authentically Japanese stocked cupboards of any ex-pats in Japan I think.