To summarise the past 10 months in one go is too much, so I decided to break them according to the seasons.
26th July 2016
We arrived at Narita Airport early Sunday morning and were taken straight to a serviced studio apartment (part of a hotel – Tokyu Stay Aoyama Residence) in Aoyama by an eight-seater cab which had been reserved in advance. The nearest train station to this apartment was Gaienmae. The place was rather small but it was just a temporary arrangement while we looked for a more permanent place to live. There was a queen-sized bed which could be separated from the living area by a sliding door. We requested for an extra bed for Ar, while Mel slept on the sofa.
My husband, Li’s office is in Omotesando which is within a walking distance from that apartment. A rice cooker was not provided at the apartment, however being Malays, of course we had to eat rice. Initially, we bought the instant rice from 7-Eleven which could be reheated in the microwave.However, after I ordered some halal chicken from Baticrom, an online store which I’d use during our previous stay in Japan, I could cook more properly, so I then learned how to cook the rice on the stove-top. I’d always relied on an automatic rice cooker before, thus to cook on the stove-top, I had to recall how my mum did it when I was small, long before our house had electricity.
Japan has a very hot summer, the heat is even worse than in Malaysia. During the period of one month, we went school-hunting, house-hunting and furniture hunting, all done under the scorching hot sun. Alhamdulillah, we managed to do it all just in time. August was my wedding anniversary month. We sort of celebrated by eating out at an Indian restaurant in Aoyama, Dip Mahal. We didn’t really plan it. We went out for a walk to Omotesando, saw the restaurant by chance and asked if they had halal food and they said yes.
During the first month in Japan, Li still used his Malaysian number and switched on the data roaming service when necessary. On our third day, I bought a data sim card for 4,900 yen which was valid for one month. Inside the apartment, we could rely on the wi-fi, but it was important to have a data network so that I could refer to Google map when going out visiting schools. I could not make phone calls using this sim card other than using the Whatsapp call.
25th August 2016
On the last day of our first month, a Tuesday afternoon, we moved to a rented house in Yakumo, a small town in the south of Meguro. Alhamdulillah, the agent managed to find for us a 4LDK, a charming two-storey house with four spacious rooms and sufficient compound planted with plants and trees, really a lot better than I had expected. Before we came here, I’d often thought that living in Tokyo would mean living in a small apartment and the only plants I would have would be potted plants. Now, this was more than I could ask for. I’m so grateful for it. The house is 10-minutes away from the train station. The walk home is uphill, thus it is rather tiring when we carry groceries home after shopping.
The budget allocated by Li’s company also provide us with most of the basic furniture, electrical appliances that we needed to live comfortably and even curtains. The furniture was efficiently delivered by the leasing company on the same afternoon. Even on our first night in the house, we could already sleep on comfortable beds. I just needed to buy cooking pots, some kitchenware such as knives and dinner plates.
On our first night here, we only had some instant noodles. The landlord provided us with an induction cooker stove and a built-in dish-washer. The first time I use the induction cooker was at our previous apartment in Aoyama where they also provided suitable cooking pots to use.
On Wednesday, we went to Jiyugaoka to look for the kitchen items. Because I was going to ship our dinner set from Malaysia, I didn’t want to buy expensive things, so we just bought some dishes and mugs from a 100 yen (Can Do) shop in Jiyugaoka. We also somehow managed to find a reasonably price Meyer’s set of pots and pans from Watashi no Heya also in Jiyugaoka. We were lucky because the cashier at the shop spoke some English.
Then on Thursday we went for registration at Meguro-ku Municipal Office in Nakameguro. Now that we have a permanent address, we could have it printed on our residence card (zairyu). With that also my husband could open a bank account and apply for a credit card. We needed to have a credit card before we could subscribe to a phone line. The next few days we were busy with the installation of home phone and satellite TV.
Our three kids’ birthdays were at the end of August, but Fa was away at her university in Malaysia. That weekend we went to Sunshine City in Ikebukuro to visit the aquarium because Ar loves animals. That was what we did 9 years earlier when we also spent our summer in Tokyo. I wanted to look for the Build-A-Bear shop where we bought a bear to mark his 5th birthday and Fa’s 9th birthday, so that we could make another bear to mark Mel’s 8th birthday. However, the shop was no longer there. In the end we bought a little penguin puppet for her from the aquarium.
31st August was Malaysian Independence, Merdeka Day. It was Ar’s first day of school. He started as a freshman, a 9th grader of a high school which follows American syllabus. Since he was not familiar with the public transport and didn’t have a phone, I had to accompany him to school and pick him up after school. He could use either the train or bus to go to school, but if he took the train, he needed to change train either in Denenchofu or Shibuya, so he preferred the bus. I did this for a week until he was confident enough to go and come back by himself.
As for Mel, school started on the 1st of September. She was placed in the 2nd grade rather than 3rd because she seemed a bit immature for the upper primary syllabus. I didn’t really mind, perhaps it’s better for her to be in the lower grade in order to feel more confident. Her school is actually only a 10-minutes’ walk from our house. However, during the first two weeks of school, the new building was not yet ready, so we had to go to the old building of the school in Jiyugaoka. On the first day, I had trouble finding the school even though it was so close to the station. It turned out, the school has 2 buildings in Jiyugaoka which caused the confusion. I was so relieved when we didn’t have to go to Jiyugaoka anymore. At least, we would have more time in the morning.
September was still rather hot here. We did not need to wear any jacket or sweater yet. Li’s birthday fell on Malaysia Day. Mel help me baked a small chocolate cake for him. During the 3rd week of school, Japan had a public holiday to mark the beginning of autumn, but this year we had extra holidays known as Silver Holiday. We did not go anywhere outside Tokyo during the holiday. We were still trying to settle in. Just when the kids had to return to school, it was Eidul-Adha, The Feast of Sacrifice. The kids went to school on that day, my husband was the only one who went for Eid prayer at the mosque in Yoyogi-Uehara. We did not have any celebration at home. I did not cook any special dish; we did not dress up and take photos. My husband and I went out to have our Eid lunch at an Indonesian restaurant in Shin-Okubo, Merah Putih Café.