Two years ago I was not eager at all to buy a home in Japan. Not having the financial means was the main reason but there have also been other reasons. ...
I have friends in Germany who own homes that are between 50 and 100 years old. They are decent, beautiful homes past on from grandparents to children and grandchildren. They are true treasures, true investments.
In Japan on the other hand you wouldn’t consider calling buying your own place an investment – in general you could say: the older your house the more it’s value decreases. On top of that you’ll find a lot of new, tall buildings in Osaka with "Panasonic Homes" that people love to buy because everything is new. Unattractively new! But that's what most people love here.
To me those places feel soulless and boring (not that I’m asking for ghosts or anything similar but I'm sure you know what I mean). Every home looks more or less the same. The kitchen, the bathroom, the toilet … Wherever you go … All homes seem to get their basic interior done by Panasonic-like companies.
Since over the last couple of years a few things have changed for me and my husband I've started to think differently about buying a house.
We got married one and a half years ago we became more and more open to the idea of having at least a base in Japan, in case we consider living abroad one day. We thought, instead of paying rent, it would make more sense to pay off our own home. We could still rent it out if we thought of moving overseas.
We kept our eyes open for something old - something within our low budget – which we could renovate.
I wanted to stay in the city center so I could cover most distances by bicycle, and be fairly mobile most of the time.
We wanted something rather spacious, but for a reasonable price.
In short, our budget and our image were like me and Serena Williams playing tennis together: It simply wasn't matching.
It became a question of being lucky and of how much we were ready to compromise whether we could find the ideal home or not.
Finally, after many house viewings and disappointments, we found the perfect place for us.
It is a bit far from the station and a little more expensive than we had planned, but it’s spacious for Japanese standards and it has a huge terrace. The thought of being able to create our own green oasis in a hectic city was what convinced us to say YES to this charming little apartment.
The moment we decided to get the place I started to go coocoo.
I was so excited about making this place as personal and individual as possible, that I became a Pinterest fanatic.
I pinned pictures of rooms that I wanted to recreate, I researched on the Internet where to get second hand furniture, low-priced wallpapers, curtains, and statement-rugs. I calculated in what price range each item was supposed to be in order for us to stay in our budget.
For a whole week I turned into a home/interior design zombie and was probably air-pinning pictures in my sleep.
At the same time my husband, my practical-thinking better half, went through a mental financial crisis. Rightly he was worried about whether we’d get a loan and under what conditions, and how much he could let me have things my way. I have a decent good taste, if I may say so, and I’m horrible with money – which makes me the worst economical house wife on earth!
On top of that, I started to have my own crisis:
A couple of times, while I was looking for information online, I was quite frustrated with my limited options here in Japan:
I can’t read the language well enough to 1) look for the right keywords online to find information on interior goods and 2) navigate on Japanese websites, especially when they are not well organised. Japanese websites do make you wonder: Is it my Japanese that's shit or is it simply the website that's poo?
It’s also a challenge in Osaka to find used furniture for a decent price. Keywords like “antique” and “vintage” magically drive costs up. Instead you need to search under “junk” to find what you would easily find at regular flea markets in Europe or the States.
Here a few examples for what I thought can be done easily but turned out to be potential money pits:
· I wanted to have one Japanese room with an old Japanese painting-like wallpaper in golden colors. Just getting that done for one only wall would cost between EUR 1.800-2.600/$2,000-3,000. Since the original paper costs so much I thought I could get a digital deco version of it but because there is little demand in digital deco the price doesn’t differ much from the original paper.
· I wanted all door and window frames to be painted white. Turns out that the material used in our new home and in Japan in general is not real wood and I was explained that painting over the existing material would look cheap and come off easily.
I’m totally into DIY and in order to keep costs down it looks like I will be working with the carpenters and painters, which I don’t mind at all.
Indeed, I’m looking forward to that.
But what I CAN’T get in my head, especially when you live in Japan, is how considerably simple things, … in this day and age, …where humanity prepares for life on Mars, … are so difficult to achieve when you are not wealthy, patient, and fluent in Japanese.
Overall, my husband and I both had our ups and downs these last couple of days.
We were thrilled to find the perfect home, we were scared to make such a big commitment, we were worried about our loan and our future finances, we were frustrated about limited options, and we even a had moments of sadness when we thought that a few close friends and family were not as excited about our news as we had expected.
Then, while I was walking home last night, I had a moment of reflection.
It just took us less than two weeks to feel stressed out about our new home, when this is supposed to be one of the happiest moments in your life.
First of all, is buying your home really supposed to be one of your happiest moments in life, like they say about your wedding day?
Buying your house and having your wedding are important milestones in life, but happiness is not being measured that way.
Happiness is when the person you are with makes you feel good.
Happiness is when you sit on a bench and feel the warmth of the sun in your face and smile about it.
Happiness is when someone gives you shit just because they feel like it but instead of responding with anger you react with understanding and see beyond that person’s anger.
If we could see things in perspective on a more regular basis than we could … maybe … enjoy life more and be more grateful for all the little things and accomplishments in our lives.
When you zoom out of your troubled world you'll see things in perspective.
This world is big.
There are so many wars, so many people living life in fear, so many not having a roof over their head …
And here I am stressing myself out about doorframes that I can’t paint white.
It’s a legitimate problem; I don’t want to dismiss it like that.
But I shouldn’t and won’t let it grow in my mind.
This house can hopefully teach me how to be patient and take my time with things instead of planning out EVERYTHING within a week. Every wallpaper, every picture in the house, and every vintage lamp will find its spot eventually.
Just one more thing about perspective:
Yesterday in the news, they showed three mysterious lights in the sky and people were wondering whether those were UFOs.
Extraterrestrial life! Aliens traveling faster than light, living a life in a different galaxy! Now if THAT doesn’t put things in perspective, I’m asking you, WHAT does!!??!!
Some pictures of our new home …