Our current apartment was provided to us by the Board of Education when we arrived in Fukuyama. They rent about 10 apartments in our neighbourhood and since they often hire unmarried, childless English teachers the size of the apartments are usually more than adequate. We are the first family with more than one child that has been hired in this city and I don't think Dustin's supervisor put in a lot of thought before we came into our need for extra space or adult privacy.
A few months ago, Dustin and I finally decided that our tiny apartment was simply too small for the four of us, but especially our two rambunctious boys. We started to casually look around at places for rent, but we hadn't gone to view anything or even talked to the Board of Education about possibly moving. What we had read about other ALTs on the JET Programme who wanted to find a place to live other than the apartment provided for them, was that it was possible but you would have to pay all of the key money (a non-refundable down payment, damage deposit, landlord and real estate agent fee that is usually 3-7 months rent) on the new place and your rent would no longer be subsidized. Because of this massive investment on our part we were only half serious about wanting to move. In the meantime, a cute little house in our neighbourhood that had been undergoing massive interior renovations became available for rent. It is a slightly older, more traditional style house with a fenced in yard that is miraculously unpaved and not covered in a million boulders and clipped trees; perfect for planting grass and letting the kids take their energy outside.
We met with the real estate agent who informed us that the key money was an astronomical 385,000 yen (about 5,000 $ Canadian), but the monthly rent is pretty cheap and there was the perfect amount of inside and outside space for us. Next we talked to the Board of Education about canceling our current lease so that we could rent the house. We were informed that, no, we weren't allowed to move, not even if we paid our own key money and rent. We even offered to continue to pay rent on both places until our current apartment's lease ran out in August, but they wouldn't hear of it. So, we sat around and moped for a few weeks feeling even more cooped up than before.
Just when we had gotten over the blow having our dream knocked out from under us, Dustin's supervisor called us and said that after numerous discussions on her end, they decided cancel our apartment lease, pay the key money on the house for us, and subsidize our rent to the same degree that they do on our apartment. I am not sure what prompted the sudden and extreme change of mind, but who am I to question the hand that feeds me? In the future, I hope that the Fukuyama Board of Education will take into consideration the family size of those they are hiring and rent appropriately sized apartments. This was new territory for them, but we are so grateful at how generous and accommodating they are being.
So, we are moving on May 31st and are excited beyond words. I will post pictures of our new place as soon as we can after moving but unfortunately, it will take about a month or two for our internet to be hooked up, so my ability to post will be severely limited from Thursday on.
I'm so glad it worked out in the end. Negotiations in Japan can be tricky. When pressed, people are more likely to suck a lot of air through their teeth or simply say no outright, rather than have to go back on their word if someone further up the chain of command turns down your request. It sounds like your supervisor took your request to heart and continued to work up the totem pole after you got the initial no. Buy your supervisor a treat, and count your blessings. I hope we’re so lucky when we approach our BOE about moving.
Yay! Very happy to hear that it all worked out in the end. Its amazing how the family dynamic can improve with a little personal space! Looking forward to seeing you in a few months!
Congratulations! We've been following your blog since before we arrived in Japan (Yokosuka area) in January and I was thrilled to read about your news this morning. We lived 2 years in Portland, OR in a one bedroom apartment when our son was a toddler. It was bearable (due to the door on the one bedroom), but I can't imagine doing that with two little kids. Hope your new place lives up to your expectations!
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