Lesson Transcript

Natsuko: 第43回日本文化レッスンでございます。こんにちは、Natsukoです。
Sachiko: Sachikoです。

Lesson focus

Peter: Peter here. Natsuko san, what are we talking about today?
Natsuko: Moving.
Peter: Yes. Now Sachiko san, why are we talking about moving at the end of March?
Sachiko: The new school year starts in April and the end of the fiscal year is also in late March. So a lot of companies will rearrange their personnel or they will start new programs in April.
Peter: Plus you have the new people who just joined the company, moving to new locations. As you said, school, new semester. So Natsuko san,
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: What percentage of the Japanese population is moving?
Natsuko: Ah I don’t have any data here.
Sachiko: I think it’s 67.8%. I looked it up yesterday, not…
Natsuko: Not that many.
Sachiko: No I don’t think so.
Peter: But quite a few.
Sachiko: A lot.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: Especially college kids who are just starting college or they are moving to a different campus because they haven’t gone.
Peter: Yeah so this is just the season to be moving.
Sachiko: Yes.
Peter: And to get a – it’s quite a headache but let’s just get an idea of how often Japanese people move? Natsuko san, how many times have you moved?
Natsuko: Don’t ask me. I think it’s more than 10 times.
Peter: Yeah I am way over 10, probably around 20. Sachiko san,
Sachiko: Really 20, that’s insane.
Peter: Yeah it’s…
Sachiko: Oh my goodness!
Peter: Yeah it’s up there.
Sachiko: Okay well you are an insane person. So that makes sense actually but no, I moved about 10 times and I thought that was a large number.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: I thought I’d be #1 here but I guess not.
Peter: Yeah well, it’s just that common.
Sachiko: It is.
Natsuko: It is.
Peter: So I’d say on an average, I’d lived in the place six months or so, about a year.
Sachiko: That’s really short. Do you like moving? Is that just a little hobby that you have?
Natsuko: There are people who like moving.
Sachiko: Yeah. I know people who love moving. It’s just…
Peter: Yeah intimately get to know Japan.
Sachiko: Yes.
Peter: Umm well several reasons. As you said, I was a student for many years.
Sachiko: Okay right.
Peter: So I’d moved from one dorm to another, then they’d have outside housing or basically apartments near the campus that I go to, too. So it just kind of added up and at first, my moving consisted of just throwing stuff in a backpack. I didn’t really have much but..
Sachiko: Wow!
Peter: A lot of people have furniture and when you move, the dimensions of a Japanese apartment ah you really have to be careful.
Sachiko: You have to calculate down to the millimeter because your refrigerator may not fit into your new apartment.
Natsuko: Yes that will be a tragedy.
Sachiko: That’s huge yeah. Furniture and washing machine.
Peter: Oh yes.
Sachiko: Those two are the biggest pains in the butt.
Peter: All right. I guess ah umm I don’t know. We are going to have to now use the clean. I don’t know if we could still use the clean table on.
Sachiko: 失礼いたしました。
Peter: I too. We got to see about that there. Okay but where to start, where to start. Now moving is quite a process. It involves one, finding a broker like a real estate broker to find the place for you.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Two, going around and looking for the places. Three, moving into the places or moving all your staff and then four, some customs kind of associated with this.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: And we will talk about these because they could really be important especially if you want to get along well with your neighbors.
Sachiko: Definitely.
Peter: So let’s let Natsuko san walk us through this. Natsuko san, let’s talk about finding a real estate broker or someone who will introduce you to the places because as far as I know, that’s the only way to get a place.
Natsuko: Yes. You have to find a right broker.
Peter: Now in the US, sometimes you can negotiate directly with the owner of the building and things like this but how common is this in Japan?
Natsuko: I don’t think that’s very common especially in cities.
Peter: So finding a broker. Now Natsuko san, Sachiko san, how did you ladies find brokers?
Natsuko: I went to the town I want to move in and walked around and there are always you know 2 or 3 real estate agents there. So I just walked in and said, I am looking for a house.
Peter: Very, very I don’t even know what to say…Okay so walking around and looking out and what made you decide to go in?
Natsuko: Well they usually have signs and the information about the real estate they are handling.
Peter: Right in the front window.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So it’s kind of like window shopping for a place.
Sachiko: Definitely. That’s what it felt like. I just walked into these places with certain conditions that I had to meet. For example, I didn’t want to pay more than 1 month in deposit or 1 month in guaranteed money.
Natsuko: Oh yes!
Sachiko: So I had a list of conditions and I just splattered out and I said, listen, I am looking for this kind of house and if you have it, I’d like to see it and that made things a lot easier on both them and me.
Peter: It sounds like a great strategy but I think you know, you are not having everyone follow along with us because let’s tell everybody about this gift money and this deposit and how moving into a new place in Japan could actually wind up costing you thousands of dollars.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: And I know from experience.
Sachiko: Definitely.
Peter: Now Sachiko san, maybe you can bring everyone up to speed. Why don’t we start with the gift money which is the concept we don’t have in the US.
Sachiko: Yes it’s called the 礼金 and literally it’s written as Thank you money, so gift money to the landlord. This unfortunately doesn’t come back.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: What a nice gift!
Sachiko: For them.
Peter: And two months deposit if you are looking at a place even a one room place, just one room which you can probably fit your bed and desk and have a little – kind of little room to move around and then it has a kitchen, a place of shower and a small bathroom. Even a place like that in Tokyo could cost you around $600, $700.
Sachiko: Yes if you are lucky.
Peter: Times that by 2 because 礼金 the gift money is usually two months, whatever your monthly rent is, you times that by 2. So you are talking about $1500, $1400 given to the landlord for nothing.
Sachiko: Exactly.
Natsuko: Exactly.
Sachiko: And if you are moving every year, that means you are paying that kind of money every year which is a lot.
Peter: And adds up quick.
Natsuko: Quickly. I heard a story that this gift money custom is becoming very unpopular in Tokyo recently but it’s still very common in western area of Japan, Kansai area.
Peter: The last place I moved into, they were still practicing this custom but my friend, he moved into a place and he didn’t have to pay and I was really angry.
Natsuko: Yes it depends on you know, the landlord and the agent. There are some agents advertising that they won’t take any gift moneys. That was one huge point that I made when I was searching for a house, I wanted the gift money to be just one month which is really rare. It is usually two and also because we have to pay another thing which is the deposit money and again, this is usually two months worth of rent.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: So initially you have to pay two months 礼金 gift money, two months 敷金 deposit money and the rent.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: For one month.
Natsuko: So that makes up 5 months?
Peter: Five months. Now let’s talk about that real estate agent who wants one month for his introductory fee.
Sachiko: For which he almost does nothing. He just gives you a piece of paper.
Peter: You want to talk about nothing. I went to see him and you know where we were looking for places, on the internet.
Sachiko: Oh that’s ridiculous.
Peter: So it cost one month for him to look up the places on the internet.
Sachiko: And you could have done that by yourself.
Peter: Yep. So there it is. Six months, six months.
Sachiko: In a lump sum payment, they usually don’t let you pay in installments. It’s a lump sum that you have to pay up front.
Peter: Up front. Now slap on furniture and you can easily get up to $10,000 without even breaking a sweat which is what it cost the last time I moved into a decent place with me and my wife.
Sachiko: Wow, that’s a lot of money.
Natsuko: Uhoo!
Peter: Oh it was a lot.
Natsuko: That’s why you say 引っ越し貧乏 in Japanese.
Sachiko: Ah becoming poor for moving too much.
Natsuko: Yes. You can’t really become poor.
Sachiko: Our family moved about ten times before I turned 14 and my mother used to say 私たちは引っ越し貧乏なのよね。We are poor because we’ve moved too much.
Natsuko: I really agree.
Sachiko: Yeah. Now I understand as an adult.
Natsuko: Yeah moving is very costly in Japan.
Peter: Very costly but I must admit they do a very good job. So let’s just – let’s kind of wrap up you know finding a place. So you go to real estate agent, you find a place and then now, we talked about the bad side but Natsuko kind of mentioned that recently, it’s becoming less and less popular to pay this gifts money. I got the worst of it. The last place I moved into which had a bedroom, a kitchen an extra room and then a separate bathroom and separate shower. So that the bathroom and the shower were separate. So all in all, it was about 40 square meters.
Sachiko: Okay.
Natsuko: Uhoo!
Peter: And the rent, the monthly rent was about USD1100 and…
Natsuko: Not bad.
Peter: Yeah not bad and the place was great. Just a little far from the station. Now, I got the six-month treatment.
Sachiko: Oh!
Peter: Two months gift.
Sachiko: Oh
Peter: Two months down, month upfront plus the introductory fee.
Natsuko: Oh!
Peter: So…
Sachiko: That’s a lot of money.
Peter: So 6600…
Sachiko: Oy!
Peter: Another 4000 to furnish and welcome to the 5-digit club.
Natsuko: Oh!
Sachiko: Ayyayi!
Peter: On the other end of the spectrum, my friend, my best friend and when I heard this story, it kind of really made me angry that he winded up by – he only paid one month up front and one month deposit. So he got the two-month treatment which is kind of similar to what you would get in the US. Maybe which I was really, really upset about but so depending on how well you shop, you can get from two months to six months.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: Yeah. That’s a huge difference up front.
Natsuko: And of course this is very important for many Japanese people who are moving. They must include this information about the deposit money and the gift money. So it’s always written there in the document.
Peter: Yeah and the advertisement.
Natsuko: Uhoo.
Sachiko: Well I was very lucky. The new place I just recently moved into is about the same size as Peter’s apartment, 40 square meters and I am paying the equivalent of about USD900 and I got the two month treatment. Sorry Peter!
Peter: Ah!
Sachiko: And another good thing to look for, if the broker is good friends with the landlord, if they’d been in business for a long time together, we can make a lot of requests to the landlord through the broker.
Natsuko: Right.
Sachiko: So we – we moved in on the 11th and we asked that we did not pay for the first 11 days of the month.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: And because the broker was good friends with the landlord, they are like okay, no problem. It is very, very easy.
Peter: Now hearing your story Sachiko san brings up one more thing we have to talk about when moving, finding a real estate agent, finding a place to live and this is the guarantor.
Sachiko: Oh yes!
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Oh yes. So you found your dream place, you got the six months or two months up front. You are ready to move in, but wait Natsuko san, tell us what we need.
Natsuko: You need a guarantor.
Peter: Yes and what is this person doing?
Natsuko: Well what does a guarantor do? Guarantees!
Peter: Yeah well this is kind of a big guarantee. This person who is also signing with you is guaranteeing that you are going to pay your rent, you are going to pay your bills, you are going to abide by certain rules and this is quite a big commitment. You know because if you decide not to pay or you know, there is some kind of issue, this is going to reflect bad on that person.
Natsuko: Uhoo right.
Peter: And sometimes for foreign people, it’s a bit of a hassle to find someone to do this.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: And sometimes in the past, this was very prevalent. Now I think times are changing. Now Natsuko san, you mentioned that some places, they even advertise no gift money while some places even advertise no guarantor.
Natsuko: Wow!
Peter: So it gets to be quite a long advertisement. No gift money, one month deposit, no guarantor needed and so on. So it’s a real project.
Natsuko: Really it is.
Sachiko: And usually for a guarantor, I think for Japanese people, we just ask our family members to work here because it is a huge responsibility that you are asking people.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: And I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking anyone outside my family.
Natsuko: I agree.
Sachiko: But if you don’t have family in Japan, I can understand how that might be you know difficult.
Natsuko: I hear that you know sometimes the company employer guarantees….
Sachiko: That’s true.
Natsuko: Yeah.
Sachiko: That’s what I did when I was living overseas in New York City. I had my employer just be my guarantor because I didn’t have family.
Natsuko: Yes I think that’s very common in Japan as well.
Peter: Yeah so quite a project.
Sachiko: It is.
Peter: So now, you got everything ready, you are ready to move. Natsuko san, tell us what happens next?
Natsuko: You have to look for a moving company unless you are just carrying a backpack.
Sachiko: Good point.
Peter: Now Sachiko san, you’d mentioned you just moved. Tell us about this experience.
Sachiko: This is actually a pleasant experience. We found a place that did everything, that moved all our furniture and we had huge furniture for just USD300, the equivalent of.
Natsuko: Wow!
Sachiko: Now this is a great deal considering it was enough furniture for two people, my boyfriend and I. The distance was kind of close. It was only about two cities away. So maybe that’s why it was cheap.
Natsuko: But that’s very reasonable.
Sachiko: It is I think. Usually it would be about USD1000 maybe?
Peter: Kind of depending on what you have.
Sachiko: Right.
Peter: But I’d like to point out a pitfall like one time we used this really cheap moving service. Like it was even less than $300 but..
Sachiko: Wow!
Natsuko: Really?
Peter: This old man showed up.
Sachiko: This doesn’t sound good.
Natsuko: Oh!
Peter: So he starts carrying the boxes and like, I don’t know if it was like his gimmick or he is like you know, his plan from the start but like you know, at first, we were kind of watching him and then we are like, oh we can’t let him move all of this stuff and so we started moving and basically we moved it ourselves.
Natsuko: Oh!
Sachiko: Oh! So that was all a scheme?
Natsuko: Yeah maybe, that was part of the price.
Sachiko: Yeah he actually dyed his hair gray. It wasn’t naturally gray. He dyed it so that you guys will feel guilty.
Peter: It could have been.
Sachiko: It could be…
Peter: But the point is that as Sachiko san said, there are a lot of moving companies and a lot of individual movers out there and there are some really good brand name companies that you might want to use because they do have that trust value. Three young people ready to punish their bodies will show up for you.
Sachiko: Right. Which you unfortunately didn’t get.
Peter: Didn’t get it. Yeah so yeah, finding a company, negotiating, getting a time and then getting everything to the boxes.
Natsuko: I recommend that if you have time, you should ask 3 or 4 companies to estimate the price.
Sachiko: Oh definitely!
Natsuko: And then you can use that price to negotiate you know like saying, well the other company said it would be ¥50,000 like that.
Peter: Yeah. That is a really good strategy.
Sachiko: That goes for electronics goods shopping as well?
Natsuko: Right.
Sachiko: Yeah that’s where we learned this trick right?
Natsuko: Yeah.
Sachiko: But Japanese moving companies are very patient in terms of giving you estimates. I really appreciated that.
Natsuko: Oh yeah!
Sachiko: And they wanted to know every little minuscule item that you had at home, every little miniscule detail. It’s fascinating.
Natsuko: Oh really?
Sachiko: Yes.
Peter: For me, what – the best part about Japanese moving companies is like you can let them move and well, from my experience and my friend’s experience, you can really just not worry about things being broken or stolen.
Sachiko: That’s huge.
Natsuko: Yes.
Sachiko: That is a huge!
Natsuko: That is guaranteed…
Peter: Yeah or at least as far as again I know, my experience and again, over 10 moves and my friend’s experience, like stuff gets there, you know. The people are working very hard, take their jobs very, very professionally which is not the case in some places.
Natsuko: Maybe.
Sachiko: Right. We won’t say where, but some places. Another thing I appreciated was that because people are very – are pretty neat freaks here, the movers were also very, very clean when they moved my boxes in. They made sure they took off their shoes at the entrance.
Natsuko: Oh, yes, yes.
Sachiko: They made sure to wipe ______ (0:16:42) and wiped the windows for me.
Natsuko: Wow!
Sachiko: This mover, they even opened up all the boxes for me so I wouldn’t have to do that on my own.
Peter: That’s nice.
Sachiko: Very thorough.
Natsuko: It sounds that Sachiko san had a very lucky moving experience.
Sachiko: Ah it sounds like it.


Peter: Yeah I think I don’t know if we should call this the norm but yeah. All right, so again we are talking about this because March is the month to move. Everyone is moving, April, everyone is getting settled in. So we are running out of time now. What we are going to do though, we want to talk but the whole goal of this, the Japanese culture class but not to talk about the moving, not to talk about the movers not doing it. Kind of a promo for Japanese movers but the goal today was to talk about the customs associated with this and they are pretty unique. Well, I don’t know if I could say unique but they are pretty interesting and I really wanted to talk about these because I had some really interesting experiences. So what we are going to do is we are going to come back next week actually in two weeks and we are going to finish this off talking about customs associated with moving. All right, that’s going to do for today.
Natsuko: じゃ、また来週。
Sachiko: また来週。