Thursday, April 20, 2006

Further Housing Adventures

January 18, 2006

We had to let the housing office know by noon whether or not we would take our second offer of base housing, or if we would take our chances finding a house in a cho. No contest...we want the space, the light, the adventure and the experience of living within the Japanese community, not just beside it. It's a little scary, as we had to sign a paper attesting to the fact that we were choosing to give up base housing, and that we understood that we have until February 10 to find housing. At that point, the military will no longer pay for the Navy Lodge. However, it seems that once we decide on a house, it will take a week or less from initial paperwork exploration to the moving van arriving at our new front door.

Unfortunately, we also had to tell them by noon whether or not we would take the House on the Hill. Luckily, I had a sneaky lateral move...I told the housing folks that Fearless Husband was sick the day before, and that he insisted on seeing the house himself before we could make a decision. They went for it--hurray! So we made an appointment to see the House on the Hill again, as well as House #5.

Ms. Agent was the real estate agent for both of the day's house viewings, so off we went. FH liked the House on the Hill, and the road seemed less steep now that the initial surprise had worn off. There was a yappy dog next door, and that concerned us both, but that's the only negative we could see. We jumped back in Ms. Agent's little box on wheels, and headed back to town, which was confusing since House #5 is in the opposite direction. Turns out Ms. Agent had to return the key for the first house in order to "check out" the key for the second house. Guess they don't trust her with both keys at once? Who knows. She ran in for the key, and we headed back up the hills, past the road to the House on the Hill and continued to climb. School seemed to have just let out, and there were dozens of really darling little Japanese schoolchildren trotting along in the rain. They all had uniforms on (all Japanese schoolchildren wear unforms) and each school has a different color hat. So everywhere we looked were little boys in short-brimmed, beanie-style baseball caps and little girls in little "Gilligan" hats with the brim pulled down around their little faces. They all had sloped, hard-shell backpacks, and they were all smiling. There is one particularly Japanese custom that drivers really have to look out for--Japanese children are taught that if they raise both arms above their heads, they can step right out into the street and cars will stop for them. So my head was swiveling, waiting to see if anyone suddenly signaled "touchdown" and darted into traffic!

We turned down an even narrower lane, and began to wind our way between houses clinging to the hillside. The road was another of those insanely narrow two-way lanes, and this time, it went on and on and on. After about a mile and a half of this, we finally pulled into a surprisingly large driveway/parking area, in front of an amazing house with an even more amazing view. House #5 was, if possible, even more Japanese than Dream House--and in even better shape. There were workmen laying a beautiful new floor in the kitchen, and building a storage closet in one corner of the main room. The tiled roof curled up slightly at the corners, and the whole thing seemed almost too pretty to be real. The kitchen was large, leading into a large tatami room with shoji doors all the way around. On two walls, there was a narrow hallway between the shoji doors and the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass windows, sort of like a moat around the central room. One could open all the shoji screens and the sliding glass doors, and basicallly have an open air pavillion, or one could close the metal storm shutters, the glass doors and the shoji screens, and be safe and isolated in the cozy central room with the insulating "moat" of the hallway. The larger tatami room was built along the same lines, but with the hallway moat on three sides. The shoji screen nearest the altar in this particular room was much more intricate and delicate. An EXTREMELY narrow staircase led up to a huge 14-tatami room with hardwood floors upstairs, with windows on three sides.

At one side of the house was the parking area. At the other side was an amazing, slightly formal garden with orange and kumquat trees heavy with fruit. An ornamental fence ran from the parking area, past the front door to the end of the garden. Beyond the little fence, the ground fell away sharply in a tangle of bamboo, all the way down (and down and down) to the harbor below. A single large tree helped frame the fantastic view of the harbor, complete with a single, lumpy mountain/island.

The house was really amazing--but with two drawbacks. The first was that mile and a half, insanely narrow and steep lane. The slightest bad weather would trap us. At least with the House on the Hill, we'd only have two blocks of steepness to climb before getting to a safer place to walk or drive. The second drawback was a little larger. There is no way to get any furniture larger than a a dining chair up to the second floor--I don't think a twin mattress would fit. The stairs are so steep and narrow that there is a vertical railing, and I had to stoop to get through the door at the top of the stairs. And hoisting furniture in via the window is forbidden. So no furniture upstairs. That would mean we'd have a living/dining room downstairs, and a wonderful large bedroom..but no guest room, no dining room, no den. We both need a little study/office/escape room, and a guest room is a necessity. We were both really glad we got to see the house and the view...but this was probably not our house. (It would be THE PERFECT HOUSE if we were able to have it as a guest house for our visitors though!!)

We got some surprise news when we got back...the chief's test is at 7am tomorrow!!! FH spent the rest of the evening studying, and I made dinner, and practiced reversing in my little car.