10th January 2009

Buy a house in Japan! #4

We did it, we bought a house in Japan!

Several weeks passed already since we signed the deed. In fact, it is after we missed what we thought was the house of our dreams, that we found this wonderful house:

Notre maison
Our new house

And now, I would say we are happy to have “missed” the previous one, because this one is much better. It is a large house (140m2) on a beautiful parcel (240m2), with a little garden South. The house is already twenty years old, but it is in concrete with light steal structure, and it was built by a famous company (Sekisui House, 積水ハウス). Built during the economic “bubble” in Japan, its owner did not hesitate to pay the price and carefully chose every material. Great, really.

The neighborhood is also perfect: in an old “bunjôchi” (分譲地, that is, a residential area divided in similar parcels, quite spacious, at some point in time). It is very quiet, with woods nearby. What else could we ask for?

And when I think about it, I think it is by taking the time to visit many houses, and to compare them, that little by little, we discovered what we wanted. A house is something very personal: what I like, you may not necessarily like it. In our case, we realized what was important for us: a large house, a residential area (the neighborhood is almost as important as the house itself) and quiet, a strong construction, a house having its own caracter, something unusual. And we also found what was not so important for us: the distance from the station (we have a 15min bus ride to the station), newness (we actually didn’t want of a new house), services (eg: concierge) which you get in big buildings, nor even the distance from the center of Tokyo (although, all in all, it takes no more than 45 min by express train).

Once we found what we wanted, we had to hurry up: place an offer, and kick off loan requests to the banks. It is relatively difficult for a foreigner to get a morgage in Japan without having the permanent residence permit (eijuuken, 永住権) but it is not impossible. Large banks will generally request to fulfill the following conditions: have a rolling contract in a medium-size company, have cash corresponding to at least 20% of the total amount of the transaction, and having initiated the process to obtain the permanent resident permit in Japan (funny detail: it is enough to have submitted the file, but it is not necessary that the request be accepted, which is good because the processing usually takes a long time).

Then, less than two months later, we were in our new house. Everything went well because with the birth of our second daughter, we really started feeling a bit cramped in the appartment we occupied at that time.

To conclude, I’d say what I learned is to be patient and persevere to get what I really want.

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18th September 2008

Camille is born!

Our second daughter is born yesterday, this is well worth writing a post :)

Her name is Camille, and the Japanese transcription is 迦実 (kamii). Since I am often asked about the meaning of the name, here is a word of explanation: the first kanji, (ka) has actually no particular meaning in Japanese and is mainly used for transliteration of names. This character appears among others in the word shaka 釈迦 (which means Buddha), but the meaning I assign it personally is rather based on the ideogram structure: the central part 加 means “to add”, and the external part Path is “the path”, which I (very freely) translate as “the path of Life”. The second character , has a more obvious meaning: “fruit” or (in a different context) “certainty”. My own translation of Camille’s name is therefore “the fruits of a pathway of Life”. You can find it back in the little haiku (Japanese poem of 17 syllabes), which I composed for her:

Douce pluie d’automne.
Camille, tu portes les fruits
d’un chemin de Vie.

I have actually included this little haiku in the birth announcement card in Flash, which can be found here (don’t forget to turn the pages with the mouse!).

And here is a picture of Camille, and one of her elder daughter Manon, taken 2 and a half years ago. Did you say they look like each other?

Manon Camille

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11th September 2008

My daughter grew up in a year!

Last week Saturday, we took part in a festival organized every year at the kindergarten which my daughter will attend from next year. Interestingly, we took part to the same event (almost) exactly one year ago, and the proposed activities were the same as last year.

You may want to ask why this is interesting. Well, because it gave me the chance to observe my daughter in the exact same situation as one year before, and see her evolution in one year. Amazing! Last year, Manon was 19 months old (this year 2 years and 7 months) and you really can see the difference: she was a “passive” baby last year, and this year, she became an active child, who really takes part to the activities.

You can get a feeling through the pictures below (left are from 2007, right from 2008).

Eau 2007 Eau 2008
Vent 2007 Vent 2008
Feu 2007 Feu 2008

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19th July 2008

Buy a house in Japan? #3

Maison japonaise
Maison japonaise

Damned, we were so close…

Last Sunday, we found a house which we liked very much: a little far away from the station, but on a land of more than 70 tsubo (about 233 sq m) with a two-story building of about 165 sq m, which is really huge for a Japanese house. Nice garden, underground car park, a large terrace, quiet neighborhood, with a park and a school close by. Moreover, the style is very special for a Japanese house: besides the dining room and bedrooms with wooden floor, the living room floor is made of marble! Doors and window frames are made of imported materials, not Japanese at all. There is a washitsu, but even this one doesn’t look very Japanese, more kind of a western-style tatami room. Needless to say we were really excited, but…

Maison japonaise
Maison japonaise

The real-estate agent told us there was already a potential buyer, and that the contract would be signed on Tuesday, which is… two days later. Not much we can do, they said, except make an offer for the whole price and hope the first buyer was offering less (seen the number of parties involved, it is often difficult to know who offers what). And this is what we did, without much hope. But…

On Tuesday, our real-estate agent calls us to let us know that the contract has not been signed, and asks us when we’d be available in the following days… Well you can imagine how we were: we really thought this was our chance. For two days, at least. Because on Thursday, we get another call telling us the contract has been signed. The house is sold… What happened? We’ll probably never know, but it is likely that the law of supply and demand has been applied. The first buyer probably offered less than the proposed price, and had to revise his offer (which he did because he really wanted the house).

That’s is. I’m sure we’ll never find again a house like this one. But I’m also confident that we will find a nice house for use, when the time comes. But one thing is sure now: we saw a really nice deal, and the way we look at houses from now on will likely never be the same again.

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26th February 2008

Bientôt le Hina Matsuri…

Ca y est: on a resorti les poupées hina (雛人形). (Enfin, ça fait déjà plus d’une semaine, mais je ne trouve pas le temps de bloguer).

Poupees HinaAu Japon, la préparation du Hina Matsuri (Festival des Poupées), c’est un peu comme quand on décore un sapin de Noel. On retrouve les poupées qui ont dormi pendant 11 mois et on prend plaisir à les astiquer et à les disposer sur le promontoire… en chantant la chanson du Hina Matsuri:

灯りをつけましょう雪洞に♪
Akari wo tsukemasho bombori ni,
お花をあげましょ桃の花♪
O hana wo agemasho momo no hana …

Puis, on pose des friandises (hina arare ou fuwa sen) en attendant patiemment le grand jour pour les déguster.

Poupees HinaAu fond, je me suis demandé d’ou vient le terme hina 雛, et j’ai trouvé une réponse ici. L’appellation viendrait de “hiyoko” (poussin) rappelant le côté petit et mignon des poupées. Elles trouvent leur origine à l’époque Heian (794-1185), où elles étaient sensées repousser la saleté et les catastrophes. Au départ, faites de papier ou de terre, les poupées hina étaient debout. Ce n’est que plus tard (vers l’époque Muromachi, 1392-1573) qu’elles se sont assises. Et c’est depuis l’ère d’Edo (1603-1868) qu’on décore les poupées le 3 mars, lors de la floraison des pêchers.

Voilà pour la culture. Mais pour moi, le plus grand plaisir du Hina Matsuri est de voir ma fille toute excitée et joyeuse de sortir les poupées et de remonter sa boite à musique en chantonnant la petite mélodie.

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6th February 2008

Ma fille aime les histoires…

… mais pas n’importe lesquelles!

Alors que, comme d’autres enfants, elle aurait pu aimer ceci:

Sailor Moon

… ou encore cela:

Pokemon

Voici le manga que ma fille préfère:

Sazae-san

Eh oui, Sazaé-san! Et je vous assure, ce n’est pas moi qui lui ai inculqué ça. Le manga qu’on a à la maison est en noir et blanc, mais elle adore. Ce qu’elle aime dans ces histoires de la vie de tous les jours, où il ne se passe rien de spécial? C’est sans doute qu’il y a toujours quelque chose à apprendre. Elle ne cesse de poser plein de questions: Qu’est-ce que c’est ça? Et pourquoi Sazaé-san fait ça?

Son personnage préféré? C’est “Funé” フネ, la maman de Sazaé. Avouez que pour ses deux ans, elle a des goûts raffinés, non? 😉

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