Monday, August 1, 2016

Best Laid Plans

We're back from Naha. We stayed at Wires Hotel, a small apartment hotel in the harbour area. Great place, and I can warmly recommend it. You have a kitchen and your own washing machine, and there's a large supermarket almost next door. We made our own breakfast — I brought a French press — and washed our used clothes almost every day (bring your own detergent). Extremely convenient when it's so hot outside.

Everything went swimmingly (literally — there's a small beach right in Naha) and we got more done even than we optimistically planned for. Except for one unexpected problem with the car, but even that worked out in the end.

Naha has a small man-made beach in the harbour, right outside our hotel. It's not big, but plenty enough to cool off, have a swim and get refreshed. There's a fair amount of parents and kids in the daytime, and young people hang around playing beach volleyball at dusk. It's about 30 minutes on foot or fifteen minutes by bicycle from our new apartment.

The most important thing is that we found an apartment. We got the contract, and we only need to sign and return it in the post. We get the house key once we arrive in Naha.  It's a 2/3 room (there's tatami room-style dividers if we want to use them) apartment in a very quiet, cozy residential street in the middle of Naha. We even have a small, shaded garden in the back. Route 58, the main road leading north to OIST, is just a couple hundred meters away, and the city center is within easy walking distance.

The living room and kitchen. Spacious, if a little tricky to furnish. Probably dining table on the left, couch on the right. Perhaps a cupboard on the far left wall.

The bedroom and workroom. We can add a wall down the center to make two rooms if we want, but we'll probably just keep it like this, with sleeping area in one end, and desks and bookshelves in the other.

We have a garden! True, it's so small that I need a fish-eye lens to capture it, but it's still much better than what we have here in Osaka. Mostly shaded and cool. Coffee-chan will feel right at home.

We ordered a refrigerator and washing machine at the local Kojima/Bic. To our surprise, this kind of thing is actually cheaper on Okinawa than on the mainland. We checked the Bic Camera online store, and we got the fridge and washing machine for slightly less than what just the refrigerator costs online — and that includes a ten-year and five-year warranty, something you normally pay extra for.

That's been our general impression, by the way: the overall price level is quite a bit lower in Naha than in Osaka. A typical 700-yen lunch in Osaka will cost 500 in Naha.  Or it costs 700, but you get a soft drink, an extra side dish and a dessert. A taxi to the harbour area costs only 500 yen, and going through all of Naha to Urasoe city costs around 1000.

Naha looks and feels very different from Osaka.

We'd spent over a month agonizing about what model car to get, and didn't decide until right before we went to Naha. The plan was to find an apartment, then order our car. The car that we would park in the bottom-floor parking space. The very low-ceilinged parking space. The car we wanted (a Suzuki Ignis) is 2cm too tall to fit, and we're not going to change apartments just for a car.

So, back to the drawing board — and in a hurry, since I need a car for work so we had to have this sorted out before we left. We'd looked at some other models as well of course, so we weren't starting from scratch.

There's a number of big used-car chains on Okinawa, and we spent a day looking at possible vehicles. Problem is, none of them had the features we wanted. Side airbags and collision avoidance systems are not standard on small cars here and many people don't add them. I'm bad enough at driving that I want a rear-view parking camera. For small, inexpensive cars the actual price difference between new and recent used isn't all that large.

Toyota Aqua. Picture from; we can obviously not take pictures of our own car yet. Ours is dark blue, and has a few other small differences as well. It should get me to work no problem.

In the end we went the safe route, and ordered a Toyota Aqua. It's the hybrid little brother to the Prius, and one of the best-selling cars in Japan the past few years. It's compact, inexpensive, reliable and economical. But the luggage space is small and the rear seats are cramped. Also, if you really enjoy cars I suspect this is about as exciting to drive as watching drying paint.

A new Aqua is about 400k yen more expensive than a similar 3-year old model. But we would not get the side airbags, collision warning and auto-braking system or the other options we wanted, and we'd not get the full warranty period or the cheap prepaid service plan. That's well worth it for us.

Asahibashi monorail station, Naha.

Now that we have a place to stay, a car, and the most important appliances, we can finally plan the move. So we're running ragged figuring out what to do, what to bring, what to buy, and what can wait until we're in Naha.

Closets and cupboards, internet subscription, certificate of residence and address changes, moving houseplants, driver's license and residence permit exchange, gas and electricity... It's good in a way; there's just so much to do that you give up trying to panic and have to focus. We'll finish all the important things in time, no problem. The rest can wait.

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