My sister and Takashi’s relationship was a committed one, so there was no scream of joy when they told me they were getting married and moving in with my sister’s parents at their home. Takashi had a younger brother who stayed with his parents and a sister who was already married. So he didn’t mind becoming a mukoyoshi, an adopted son-in-law of my sister’s family. I didn’t know until then that if a man was to marry into his wife’s family, he could be “adopted” to his wife’s parents and married to his wife—this transferred inheritance rights from the wife to the husband. There was no reversed case.
We all started preparing for the move in the middle of the summer. The sun beamed on the asphalt and concrete buildings that gave no space for breezes and relentlessly scorched us from all directions. Hot and hangover, I visited a realtor who drove me to see a few apartments in the area I requested – Gotanda area. Gotanda sat on the Yamanote Line, which circled around central Tokyo. Shibuya was three stops away, and Tokyo station, where my office moved to, was seven stops away, twenty minutes ride. Most of the southern half of the Yamanote Line prided in high-cost housing, except Gotanda. There was no mega office/shopping complex, which I liked. What shunned high-minded Tokyo denizens most was, however, a cluster of love hotels and the sex service industry in and back of downtown. But in contrast to its reputation, Gotanda was, in my opinion, clean, safe, and super convenient and had many fantastic restaurants.
Still, apartment hunting was neither easy nor pleasant. One had an old boiler system, and the other had a loft bed that trapped summer heat. All of them were like a big partitioned box that a mouse ran around, and the mouse was me. I conveyed to the realtor as politely as I could that none of them were livable, and he implied as politely as he could that I was insane to put such high expectations at such a low budget.
Disgruntled, I visited a different realtor, where I was helped by a young woman in a realtor company’s uniform. She pulled out two thick files of currently available apartments in the Gotanda area, and we both flipped through them as we chatted about what young women needed for an apartment. Safe neighborhood, sound security system, laundry hanger hidden from the street, spacious kitchen and bathroom. I was feeling relaxed with her when I came across a unique floor plan. It was a shape of a flipped L, which vertical part extended from the entrance to the room, sided by a bathroom and a kitchen. The kitchen space was indented to the side instead of being a part of the aisle. The room was not perfectly rectangular, and one of the longer sides was slightly shorter than the other. It was on the 5th floor and had a balcony facing the south. I told the realtor this was it. She thought it looked too small, but we decided to see it anyway. It was about a 10-minute walk from Gotanda station on a busy street of shops and restaurants. When I entered it, my heart swelled. The dark wood floor and white wall, compact and simple, quiet and private. I called my sister and told her I found my place.