Nakanoshimbashi is where I finally found an apartment.
My first view of this area was coming out of the subway exit. It seemed like a very cute little area especially compared to some of the other places I saw during my search.
The apartment was listed as a 7 minute walk from the station which it turned out to be. I say turned out because two apartments I looked at during my search listed around 10 minutes from their station but they turned out to be 15 minutes or more. That's actually a pretty long walk especially if you are carrying a bunch of books or groceries.
I don't know if you can tell how narrow this alley is but cars do drive down roads like this. This particular alley is usually blocked off by a small sign so that there is no through traffic.
Here's my apartment building. It's 3 stories and as I'm on the 3rd floor I don't have to worry about noisy neighbors upstairs. Of course I do have to worry about making too much noise for the people downstairs. I wonder sometimes if they can hear me as I'm often up to 4am making these pages. They haven't said anything yet so I'll assume I'm doing okay.
This is actually the back of the building but it's the side closest to the closest station so it's the side I see most of the time. There are 4 apartments per floor. Two facing the front and two facing the back. Not really much of a view from either side but it least it's not dark and dreary like some of the apartments I looked at.
The front of the building has a small interior design store/office on the first floor. I think it's rented out and not the landlord's business like in my last building. The only other reason I see the front of the building is to put out the trash or to go to the post office which is only a 3 minute walk away.
Trash in Japan is a different experience from America. In America each place I've lived has had different rules but generally living in an apartment you don't have to worry about them. You just put your trash in the bin in your complex. Here in Japan if the complex is big enough you might have that option but for most buildings you have to follow the rules. The rules are that you don't put out your trash until the night before it's going to be picked up. Since you live in an apartment that means your trash is in your apartment for a week. On top of that you have to separate stuff into 6 things. Tin/Steal Cans, Bottles, Aluminum Cans, Burnable, Un−Burnable and Paper/Cardboard and the Paper/Cardboard has to be separated by type. In other words paper is separate from cardboard. Burnable stuff which is basically things like used tissues, paper plates and food stuff is picked up twice a week. Un−Burnable stuff is picked up on a different day of the week and Recyclables, paper, cans, bottles, are picked up on a different day from those.
Here's the inside of my apartment. It's got 2 rooms. Rooms in Japan are measured by the number of tatami mats that would fit in them. I think my place is about 14 mats. One room is 8 mats and one is 6. This is a pretty big place for a single person in Japan or at least that's my impression from visiting other people's places. It's more common to live with your parents in Japan than it is to live alone. Living alone is growing in popularity but there are certainly lots of advantages to living at home from paying no rent to having Mom make all your meals etc. Some of you might be thinking "why does Mom have to make all your meals" Well, fortunately or unfortunately Japan is still very much a land of sex roles so generally Mom does all the house work at least for the males of the house. If you're female on the other hand and living at home you'll probably be asked to help do the housework. I know several Japanese women that aren't happy about that.
So, here are some of the things you pretty much can be guaranteed to find just outside any train station in Japan .
Of course we have to have a bookstore. There is often more than one. I would say that magazines are much more popular in Japan than in the states. Even though we have so many I think Japan must have double what we have and they have sooo many more pictures!
They also have lots of manga. Manga which Americans would probably look at as comics is a vary popular type of literature in Japan and topics are far more varied than you're average American comic book. Love stories, Romance stories, Mysteries. You name it. It's not just super heros and villians. There's an older series called Cooking Papa about a father that cooks and when ever he cooks the recipes are included in the book.
You've got to have a coffee shop or two or three near every station. Here's the one near my station. Starbucks is of course coming on strong in Japan. One thing in Starbucks favor at least for some people is that smoking is not allowed at Starbucks. That's not common in Japan. In fact one thing that sucks about Japan is that generally if you go out to eat you have to be content that the place will be full of smoke. My Japanese friends claim that more people smoke in Japan than don't but so far that's not been my experience although maybe I just don't hang around smoking people. You'd think that the government would be even more against smoking here than in America because of the health costs being that in Japan they have socialized medicine but then maybe because nobody personally pays for it they don't notice the cost problem.
Convenience stores are a big deal in Japan. Unlike American convenience stores you can actually get quite a bit of good tasting and healthy food here and they are all over the place. There are 4 between the station and my apartment. They are always full at night of people deciding that they are going to eat tonight. You can get spaghetti, rice omelets, curry rice, sushi, onigiri, chicken nuggets, egg sandwiches, ham sandwiches, salads and because they sell out everyday you don't have to work about it all being weeks old. In fact most stores sell out several times a day.
Each chain, like 7/11, Family Mart, Sankus, Lawson, AM/PM each has their own specialties. For example AM/PM has about 30 behind the counter dinners like hamburgers, gyudon (beef bowl), oyakudon (chicken bowl) etc.
Here's the local drug store for getting your beauty supplies as well as medicines and stuff. Medicine is more licensed in Japan than in America I think so you can't get cold medicine at the convenience store you have to get it at a drug store. That can suck because convenience stores are all open 24 hours but drug stores are not.
Of course you've got to have at least one fast food place. Most stations probably have more than one. Mos Burger is fairly popular although I'm not personally a fan of them. There's a ton of chains including McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, First Kitchen, Lotteria for burgers as well as several chains of Japanese food too although the Japanese ones are generally take out only. My favorite is First Kitchen as they have like 8 flavors of fries like butter fries, nori fries, cheese fries, etc and they have like 4 or 5 dips for them too.
Here for example is a Japanese fast food sushi place. All they sell is sushi sets. You can see the bike here for deliveries. Generally you can get pretty much anything delivered. They have special contraptions on the back of bikes for carrying soup for example if you order ramen or udon.
Generally you can find several Japanese fast food places. There is also a tonkatsu store as well as a bento(boxed meal) store on the way to my place. Bento is something you can get almost anywhere. All it really means is a boxed meal in the same way that a TV dinner just means a dinner in a box you reheat. A Bento box is never frozen though.
I don't know what to call this kind of place but it seems like there's got to be at least one somewhere near every station that sells things like cheap lamps, incense, trash cans etc.
Another thing you'll find alot of though not at every station is a 100 yen shop (similar to a 99 cent store in Ameica). There are actually two near me. One is pretty large and is part of a chain. The biggest one I've been to is in Shibuya and is 5 stories for stuff for 100yen. I got most of my dishes there.
What's missing? Well you'll find a few restaurants at every station. Near might there's a Udon/Soba restaurant, a Ramen restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Sushi restaurant and a Yakiniku (BBQ beef) restaurant as well as several others. You'll also almost always find at least 1 or 2 bars, a hostess bar or snack bar or two, a couple of kareoke places, a couple of video rental places and a couple of pachinko parlors.
Here's the local super market. I wonder if there are more in the area. This one is actually very close to my apartment. Like maybe 2 minutes away. That means that people on the other side of the station would have to walk fairly far to use it so I wonder of there's another in that direction.
This one is 2 stories and the top floor has lots of supplies like pots and pans and soaps, detergents, toiletries etc so if I really need something it's all pretty convenient. Unfortunately unlike many American super markets which are open 24 hours this one and most Japanese supers are only open till 9pm.
This is a koban or police box. It's right across the street from the super market above and practically shouting distance from my apartment. Hopefully that means I'm safe not that I have much to worry about in Japan.
My understanding is that in Japan, getting married while a very big deal for the family is not a big deal for the government. In fact I was told that all you have to do is go to the local police box and fill out some form that says you are married. I wonder if that's true. One thing about Japan, when you move you are supposed to inform the local police within 14 days.
This is the view from the super market looking in the direction of Shinjuku (and my apartment) which is probably the biggest city/area in Tokyo. It's where the majority of tall buildings are. If you look at the picture to the right you can see the towering buildings in the distance. Those buildings are probably one of the most common sites in Japanese manga and anime. Everything seems to take place near there. The main Japanese government building is also among those.
As you can see I'm not really that far from Shinjuku. In fact it's a 30 minute walk there vs a 20 minute train ride. Actually it's an 11 minute train ride but since it's 7 minutes to the train station plus another couple of minutes to wait for the train it's almost always exactly 20 minutes to Shinjuku station.
I use the Marunounchi line but there is actually another new line called the Oedo line which has a station only 10 minutes from my apartment. Sometimes I walk that way just for a change. The Oedo line just opened in December 2000. It is very deep underground. Probably 7 to 9 stories deep in places.
There has been alot of snow this year for Tokyo. The last winter I was here we got maybe 1/2 an inch and it was gone within a few hours. This year it's already snowed 3 times though it's generally been gone by the next day or two. Still it's been unusual for Tokyo. The trains have to stop running which, since people count on them, that can be a big problem.
Here you can also see from my window the building in the center of the picture just behind the power pole is a sento or public bath. I'm not sure of all the details. Are they mostly used by people that want to soak in a big hot pool or are they mostly used by people that don't have a bath/shower? My realtor told me that if I wanted to practice my Japanese I should go over there because there are always old guys hanging out in the pool and they love to talk. I haven't done it yet though.
I was surprised to find out that at least one of my friends does not have a shower in her apartment and she has to go to a public bath everyday. She generally goes to a coin shower which is probably not as public. In other words the shower is private where as a sento is more of a large room with stations for each person but nothing separating each station.
On just the other side of the station there is a small river running through the neighborhood. I took this picture at night from a bridge crossing that river. It's a pretty cool site in person or at least I think so. There are lots of places in and around Shinjuku that give me the same sense of awe that I got from the city in the movie Blade Runner where the buildings just seem to tower over you. You can also understand where all the big city ideas come from in Japanese Anime. It's from living or visiting Shinjuku.