Setting Dates

Today, probably for the last time, I met with the architect and the contractor at my house. The carpenter, who is actually going to do all the work, was there as well. Together, we went over the design one last time and also fixed colors for floors, doors, and windows. There is now also a key box outside so the workers can come and go as needed, whether I’m home or not.

So, we’re ready for liftoff! And Zero Hour will be this Friday already, when the contractor goes to the house to measure the tatami – new ones should arrive by the 20th – and have a closer look at what’s behind the kitchen cabinet I want removed…

The other work in the house will start on the 22nd, and I’ve set my moving date for the 26th. This means, that it’s possible that the kitchen will not be finished; the office will definitely take until some time in December. I just hope that the outside wall will be finished when I move in – I want to remove the two sliding doors in the office and install a window instead. Even though Japan is a very safe country overall, I’d rather not sleep in a house with a gaping hole in the wall – and the only wall facing the street to boot…

Anyway, I’m super excited to get started! I have done some smaller things in the house like removing nails and screws from the walls as well as curtain rails that will be reused elsewhere. I also have plans for the bathroom, which may be a bit weird… we’ll see.

Yesterday I asked on an online site for quotes for the move and I got 5 calls within 15 minutes of pressing “submit”. I have arranged for 2 companies to come by and have a look at the apartment for a quote; the online site listed prices from 16,000 yen to 85,000 yen. Nothing to break the bank for the 4 km of moving, but still worth shopping around a bit more.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress, probably even with actual photos!

Names and Numbers

It was a national holiday today – Culture Day – and I spent it involved in the international DIY culture. In other words: I went to my house seeing if there’s something I can do myself. Since I don’t have experience with wooden houses, there’s not so much I feel capable of doing, actually. Thankfully, there is the internet and I have read a number of DIY manuals and watched youtube videos to get an idea of what I can do.

So far, I have stripped the dirty wallpaper off the doors that lead into the kitchen. Since the doors will be replaced eventually, I will only paint them instead of putting on new wallpaper. The walls in the kitchen are daunting enough; the wallpaper definitely needs replacing there, and I’m not sure if I can just hang a new one over the old one – the current layer seems to have been nailed to the wall at the edges?

To my great dismay, the interesting outlet before my kitchen cabinets turned out to be a connection for a gas heater. I have nothing but the deepest respect for gas, so I don’t really know what to do with this one. Unfortunately, it looks a bit like a wall socket, and it sticks out of the floor a little, so just leaving it as it is might be a tripping hazard. I’ll have to think about this.

More food for thought came with my contractor’s quote. I’m only addressing a single room instead of two, I’ve already sacrificed my double-glazed windows – and yet, we’re already way over budget. Interestingly, there are not so many big ticket items – the new flooring downstairs and the tatami mats upstairs of course – but most things are small, 20,000 yen here, 35,000 there, 4,500 over here… The sheer mass of them does add up, though. I’m now wondering what else I need to sacrifice to get my office in working order, thankfully my architect has made some valuable suggestions for price reduction. He’s really worth everything I’m paying him.

Already last week, my friend deciphered the pink note I got from my mailman. It was a simple “Hi there – are you living here already? Who are you, tell me your name!” form that I filled in and sent off on Friday, and since I already got mail there under my name, I think we’re good to go. He is still ringing my bell, so I am planning to go to the house again tomorrow morning and see if I can catch him and say hello. Always nice to be on good terms with the mailman and the neighbours…

Moving Forward

Sorry for not posting on Sunday. I had an unexpected visitor from Tokyo, and we met for pizza and sweets and wine. So much wine…

Yesterday, I met with the architect and the general contractor at the house for about 2 hours or so. We talked mainly about the office because this is the most important room for me to get done before my move. Also, we talked about the kitchen where we’ll make space for the washing machine, and we went upstairs to discuss the tatami and a possible refurbishment of the designated bedroom.

At this moment, it seems that the tatami upstairs can be done very quickly, and also the kitchen corner where the washing machine is to go should be done relatively quickly and easily. The office, where there is more to do – I want to replace the two sliding doors to the outside with a window, knock down one wall to access the storage underneath the staircase, and have new walls and flooring installed – will probably take longer. As a starting date we envision “end of November”.

Which is a bit scary, because I have tentatively set my moving date for the last weekend of November…. Everything is working in the house, so I can definitely move in, and the only thing that really needs to be done before I come with all my stuff are the new tatami upstairs. Otherwise, I and my stuff will be in the way of everything and everybody. But the contractor and the architect understand that, so let’s hope for the best.

The house does already provide entertainment. There is a garden door right in front of my entrance that has no keys, just a bolt. People don’t seem to care, they just enter – I know because they don’t bother bolting the gate, therefore it’s open every time I come to the house. All sorts of people coming to the house – the doorbell has a little camera that turns on every time somebody rings.

And I have received a pink slip from the post office with my name on it already, telling me to do something before next Tuesday. I wonder what that will be. I’ll visit a friend of mine tomorrow to decipher the cryptic message.

So yes, things are moving forward. Next step: waiting for the contractor’s quote, getting a quote and a date on the move. Things are moving forward indeed…

Made Official

Just today, I received the documents for the property registration. That means that now Kyoto City too knows that the house is mine. I am quite surprised about the speed with which this happened – only seven days after the purchase. In Austria, this procedure alone can take months to complete. Most of the time, people are already living in their new home before the official registration is completed!

As I mentioned, this will still take a bit more time for me because of the renovations. Yesterday, I went to the house to take measurements and spend some time there, daydreaming… I mean: planning things. While I am eager to start the renovations and get moving, first I need to figure out what I actually want with the rooms. There’s not much point in hiring somebody to “fix my house” if I can’t explain what I want to have done.

Some things will also need a bit more attention than I thought at first. There are veritable holes in some walls! And where the hell do all those cables come from/lead to? But overall, I’m very happy about it. So much so, that I already left my scent mark in the form of a roll of toilet paper. Not that I can use the toilet because the water’s not turned on again, but still. Baby steps!


So, this is the “really big thing” I was talking about beginning of September. And since yesterday, it’s officially mine.

A bit of background: I’ve been looking for a house on and off for about a year now. I’ve seen around 15 houses in various stages of (dis)repair, from recently renovated to barely holding together. Finding something decent is even harder if you have specific wants, like sunlight, coupled with a limited budget. So, I’m very happy this house came on the market at just the right time.

Although, technically, it was never “on the market”, at least it wasn’t widely advertised as for sale. Back in early August, my friend Junko and I were visiting another property of a real estate agent when he mentioned “oh, this one’s just in”; it didn’t even have a price tag yet. It took a bit of back and forth on the price on his end, and a bit of back and forth on “do I or don’t I” on my end, but it’s all over and done with now.

A few details: The house is 53 years old, and around 90 square meters big on two floors. It’s a bit farther away from the city centre than I originally wanted (even farther than my place now), but it makes up for the extra travel time: It lies in the Higashiyama mountains in a very quiet neighbourhood, and it is open to the south side, so the living space is very sunny.

As you can see from the photos below, it does need some renovations before I can move in; it was empty for about a year. But these are mostly cosmetic changes, the underlying structure is very good. Essentially, I am thinking of remodelling the first floor to Western style with an office, kitchen and living room; while leaving the second floor and its tatami rooms mostly intact. Don’t worry, I’m going to post more details about the renovations, you’ll probably get sick of them soon…

I am not sure when I’ll be able to move; end of October seems overly optimistic, but then again, I’m not planning on a complete overhaul of the new place, and Japanese companies are super efficient. Wish me luck!

View from the entrance. To the right is the office, then the staircase, and then the living room. Straight ahead lies the kitchen. To the left is the tiny bathroom/toilet block.
Designated office space; overlooking the street in front of the house. According to Junko, this room was used for guests and probably had big cushy chairs in it – at the 4 white tiles, probably? Right now, it’s pretty dark and depressing, a typical 70s home as I grew up in.
Living Room downstairs. Except for the stain on the tatami, it’s in pretty good shape. This photo was shot with flash, so it’s not quite as bright in reality, even though it faces south.
Kitchen. Bright and sunny, but ancient. The furniture is all metal. Well, it’ll fit with the washing machine – there’s no space for that in the bathroom.
Upstairs living room with a balcony – you just have to climb through the windows… It needs new tatami and a lick of paint on the walls, but other than that, I want to keep it as it is.
Bedroom, with view over the street in the north. I don’t know why the wallpaper is peeling, but this is the only thing wrong with it. It’ll also need new tatami because I’ll be sleeping on the floor.