When I return to Japan later this year, I want a bigger apartment. Nothing palatial, you understand, but something bigger than the 400 square feet I have called home for the past two years, someplace where I can swing the proverbial cat without endangering its tiny cranium. So, with some nostalgia (especially for the clear-weather view of Mt. Fuji from my bedroom window), I am giving up my Saitama digs at the end of the month. I debated whether to just sell or give away the few sticks of furniture I have accumulated over my time here, but I actually quite like some of them, in particular a chocolate brown leather reclining love seat that looks and feels like a pair of first class airliner thrones. This was a high-yen item from the Shinjuku International Design Center, bought at a fire-sale markdown price in keeping with my moderate circumstances, and one I would not be able to afford to replace. Then there is the ultra-modern bent plywood kitchen table, whose Noguchi-inspired legs twist and curve in ways previously unknown to plywood. And my Okamura office chair, different in feel from the Aeron I use in Canada, but exceptionally comfy in its own right. So, after due consideration, I decided to rent a storage space and shlep all my stuff over there for the summer.
I phoned several moving companies, and Panda was the first to respond. Their rep was in the area and he came by to give me an estimate shortly after I called. He did a lot of writing in Japanese, talked to himself while making his notations, and then took out his calculator to tally up the total. Panda’s price seemed quite reasonable to me, but I thought it would be a good idea to get a second estimate nonetheless. The rep was understanding about that, but he presented an argument that was difficult to refute: “I know I am the first person here, which basically means that when I give you the price, the next person will come along and ask what was your best quote. He will beat that price by 10% and you’ll go with him instead. So how about if I give you 10% off the price now? That way you don’t have to waste any more time with other movers, and we will earn your business.” Done deal.
On moving day, three strapping fellows appeared right on time. Their truck was ultra clean, stocked with all sorts of ingenious moving supplies (collapsible cabinet boxes, rolling beltways, etc), and (most importantly) it was sized perfectly for the job at hand. In the space of an hour, they were able to load up a three-room apartment’s worth of stuff into the truck, including completely wrapping the sofa, table, bookcases, etc, and hefting countless boxes that had been self-packed the day before. We agreed to meet at my storage space, about twenty minutes’ bike ride away. Tokyo traffic being what it is, twenty minutes’ bike ride gets you a remarkably similar distance as twenty minutes’ truck ride. Of course motorized traffic can go faster when it is moving, but bicycles can shoot along the sidewalks while motor vehicles are gridlocked behind a car waiting to make a turn; for around-town trips, a bicycle is hard to beat. We arrived at the storage space within two minutes of one another. I actually would have been there first but for the fact that I stopped at a vending machine to pick up drinks for all of us, setting me back about three minutes in the race.
The load out was even quicker than the load up; in about forty-five minutes, the diminutive (10 x 10 x 10’) storage space was filled, basically from floor to ceiling. It looked not unlike an intricately stacked game of Jenga, awaiting only the removal of one strategically placed box, thereby causing the whole tower to collapse. In earthquake-prone Tokyo, this is a concern, but the movers assured me that all the light stuff was on top, so even if it were to fall, it would likely not do much, if any, damage.
Today, I will attack the small remainder of stuff in the apartment, things to be shipped home or thrown away. Then, with any luck, I will get a couple of relaxation days before the marathon eighteen-hour flight home, punctuated by an overnight stopover in Detroit, home of one of the world’s finest pizza establishments, Steverino’s, in suburban Sterling Heights. After having tried bizarre Japanese variations on the pizza theme (mashed potatoes, corn, and sardine pizzas), an American Pie is looking mighty fine!