Jeff Benton and his family of four relocated to Hiroo, coming from Idaho. When they got here they knew little of what to expect, but did know what they wanted. Find out more about Jeff’s experiences in the interview below.
Was it your first time coming to Japan when you moved here, or had you been here before?
It was my first time when I came in April 2009, and I actually met Ichi from KEN on that trip.
And what was your impression of Japan and Tokyo before coming here?
I didn’t really know much about Tokyo, I just knew it was one of the largest cities in the world, so I was very excited to come. I was expecting it to be very crowded, and from the American point of view was expecting to exclusively eat fish. We never dreamed that Tokyo would be this international city with cuisine from everywhere and some of the best in the world. We fell in love instantly.
That’s great that it worked out so well. So what was it that brought you to Japan?
I got a call one day asking me if I’d be interested in coming to Tokyo. Originally they asked us to come for 3 years, but we liked it so much we decided to extended it to 5! When the time comes leaving Tokyo and going back to Idaho will definitely be a culture shock going the other way.
After moving here did your impression of Japan change?
I’ve really come to respect the Japanese culture and how friendly everyone is. Living through the earthquake it was especially impressive to see how communities came together as a group and made sure that everyone was taken care of. To be honest I really wasn’t scared because everyone was so kind and didn’t want to leave. In the end though I left for 5 days, because my family was already in the USA for spring break and my son begged me to come to the USA too as he was worried from watching the news.
That’s great that the hard times could be a bonding experience. So what was a positive difference between Idaho & Tokyo?
Well I think everything is different between Idaho & Tokyo! Since I’m kind of a “Foodie” though I just can’t get over the food culture in Japan how amazing it is. Now going back to the USA is always a food culture shock, because the quality and variety just doesn’t exist. From the food, to the service, to everything there are too many positive differences to list.
You are definitely right, from the convenience stores on up the quality is amazing!
Oh of course! We love the convenience stores! Do you know they have the best cheese cake? You would never consider going to a convenience store for Cheese Cake in the USA!
You are exactly right. On another note, how were you introduced to KEN?
They are one of the preferred providers for IBM. We were actually introduced to 5 suppliers and KEN was our favorite hands down. Especially because of our connection with Ichi, our realtor, and how he was always looking for what was best for us. Some of the other companies seemed to be more focused on placing us in a building they owned, or acting in their own benefit. Ichi really stood out because of his English, a great sense of humor, and how well he listened to our needs.
What was it about this apartment then that made you pick it?
I think we got to Japan on a Sunday and had an agenda for Monday through Friday going from 7:30am-7:00pm looking at apartment after apartment. For the first 4 days we really found nothing. Ichi had been trying to show us this place up to that point, but the schedule hadn’t worked with the owner. Then on the last day Ichi brought us here and we knew it was the place.
A couple of the reasons were that it’s a privately owned building, not in a huge high rise, has a large outdoor patio, a nice American style kitchen with oven, and of course it all fit within our budget.
So was there any place else that had gotten your attention?
Well before coming to Japan we had found a place online that we thought was great and were very excited about it. When we got here though and showed it to Ichi shared with us that he thought it might not be a good fit.
In hindsight he was absolutely right, it was an area with little to no English and would have been a hard area to adjust to.
And what was it about Hiroo that you liked?
Well Ichi gave it a high recommendation, and we were also trying to find someplace located on the ASIJ school bus line, which couldn’t be any better with the stop being right across the street. We’d considered Roppongi, but it’s all highrises and concrete, whereas Hiroo is greener and felt much more like a neighborhood.
To be honest, when we moved here I really didn’t realize just how much of a nice area it is with a great central location. I really walk almost everywhere from here and rarely take the train when it isn’t necessary.
So how has your relationship with KEN & Ichi since moving in?
I don’t have any complaints about either. Talk about being responsive! I can send an email to tenant support and have a response within an hour. Even something as small as a light bulb that I had trouble finding they had a new one to me within a day.
They also go beyond helping with personal non-rent related matters. If I have a paper that I need help translating and can’t find a friend to help Ichi and Ken really are there for me.
You said you’d already recommended Ken to friends, what other advice would you give?
Just be honest and make it known what you wan when looking for an apartment, while at the same time being understanding of the local culture and having realistic expectations.
The Wiehl family have been living in Denenchofu for sometime now and couldn’t be happier. From their great German community, to the easy commute, and not to mention all the space Denenchofu is the place for them. Read Mie’s interview to find out exactly why.
Where were you living before Denenchofu?
We’ve actually always been living in and around Tokyo.
What did your family think of this area before moving here?
We really thought it was a great place. The one thing was it’s known for having many celebrities living in the area, so I was actually a little intimidated to live here…
Really? So is Denenchofu very different from where you lived before?
Yes it’s much different from Nishi-Azabu. But it actually is very nice, people are so friendly and there’s so much greenery.
Did you know all of that before?
I didn’t know about how green the area was, but did know about the famous people. That hasn’t actually made it any different.
So how long have you been living here?
About 5-6 years. Because my children go to a German School and there is a German School bus stop here. Nishi-Azabu was nice, but it was more than an hour by bus to school and I thought that was too much for young children.
What other things did you find here that were good?
The commuting time for our children going to Yokohama really was the number 1 choice, while also thinking about my husband’s commute to his office in Tokyo. This area is really convenient for both and also there is a strong German community in Denenchofu. I think 9 out of the 10 houses in our community are German families!
So does that mean that sometimes you have community parties?
Of course sometimes we even have Barbecues!
That’s great! Is that part of what made you choose this house?
Actually we used to live across the street, and because the community was so great we wanted to stay close. There is a community board and one person organizes everything, and then there are 2 or 3 ladies who take care of the grounds and gardens, so I have a garden but I don’t have to do anything.
At the same time we also wanted more room for our children. We had been really interested in this home, but thought that it might be too expensive…
So Ken Corp got you a good deal then?
Yeah! And since we didn’t have far to move, we didn’t even need to use the moving company’s trucks! Everything was really easy.
So how have you found Ken Corporation since then?
They do good service! The moving process went very smoothly with us being in contact during the move, and then there have been no problems at all with the property since then, so I haven’t had to call them so much.
Sometimes though I still do check their homepage to see other houses and what’s out there. But I’m really happy here, so I haven’t wanted to move.
What else is nice about living in Denenchofu area?
It’s quiet, and the neighbors are very nice. Also it’s a good area to have a car, because when you go shopping there are plenty of parking areas, unlike in central Tokyo.
That’s great that you’re so happy here, so have you found anything fun around this area to do?
Well German people like to barbeque a lot so that has been a real great part of being in this community and having garden space to have barbecues.
Outside of your home have you discovered any interesting stores or restaurants?
Around the station there are some good restaurants. Our family enjoys a really tasty yakitori place, that even though the atmosphere is a little rough the food is great! Also the Maison Kayser bakery is very good. There really aren’t so many restaurants in this area, but they are all good!
And inside what is your favorite part of your home?
The kitchen is great, because it’s not only the kitchen, but also open to the living room. So even when I am cooking I am still close to everything, even while the kids are playing in the living room.
Do you have any message for families who might move to Tokyo?
I think if they have children I’d really recommend moving to an area like Denenchofu, but if they are single or a young couple get into the city and find an apartment close to the heart of Tokyo, maybe around Roppongi even.
If you’re interested in finding a home or community similar to the Wiehl’s please contact us now.
After having moved all around the world with the German Embassy, from their home countries of New Zealand and Germany, to Nigeria, Canada, Australia, and Cambodia, the Warren’s have settled in Azabu, Tokyo for their current four year post.
Life has been great in their new home, where they feel like part of the community in one of Tokyo’s premiere locals. Read the full interview with Richard to find out all about their experience so far.
What has been your favorite part of Japan so far?
It has to be the characteristics of the people in that their traits are very akin to where we come from. The orderliness of everything fits great with German culture. Also, we’re especially thrilled to have an apartment in the area we’re in right now, being just an 8 minute walk to the embassy in a city the size of Tokyo is just great.
Speaking of inroads and immersion, are there any new great foods that you’ve tried this time around?
We’ve been to some great places with local friends where things got pretty interesting. The other week we weren’t certain what any of it was or what went into it, and actually thought it might be better that way! I did certainly enjoyed eating it all though! My wife was a little more hesitant, but as long as it doesn’t break our rule of still moving we’re up for it.
What characteristic of your neighborhood have you enjoyed the most?
It’s a really generously designed with space and well designed homes, but not to the point of it feeling out of place. For example, it still has a nice town shopping area right down the street that has a real local feel to it. That small touch of personality is certainly much nicer than going to some huge chain market, especially after having been to the same place 3 or 4 times and having people recognize you.
Are there any stores in particular that you’ve loved?
We were warned to get ready for the price shock, but truthfully we’ve found the prices really aren’t higher than Europe as long as you stay local. There’s actually something classy about it all in that we have not had anything yet that we didn’t think was great, particularly in regards to quality. We have yet to be disappointed by price or quality, so I’d have to say everywhere at this point.
That’s great! So have your weekends lived up to the same standard and have there been any standouts?
Our favorite weekends have been getting this apartment ready! And also recently we went to a great festival with friends, there were lanterns, drumming, and dancing all by the local residents. We were really fascinated by that and enjoyed taking it all in. Luckily we have old friends that live in Tokyo who always know what’s going on and have shown us festivals like that one. Whenever they’ve invited us we’ve always made sure to follow their lead!
On another note, but also important to life in Japan, how have the trains & subways been so far?
They’ve been great! A huge huge difference to European and New York subway systems is they’re clean, efficient, and quiet! But that’s all part of the character traits that I mentioned earlier, it all fits in. I came for that familiarization trip in June and got thrown into the deep end, flying in and going by train to the hotel and embassy on my own. The station staff were and are very helpful for someone who has no idea what they’re doing. Whenever I’ve had the wrong ticket in my hand and the barrier wouldn’t let me through there’s always someone there.
So was it during that familiarization trip that you got in contact with Ken?
Yes I was in touch with Yogo-san and made an appointment with her to show us around for a whole day. After that we narrowed down the choices, and I really wanted to take a second look here, even though I knew location and price wise it was out of our league but she swung it for us somehow!
That’s great it seemed like you both had a great rapport!
Oh yeah, now we even have a golf teacher and pupil relationship! That’s one of the great things about our relationship with Yogo-san, she wanted us to be her tenant and we wanted her to be our landlord through Ken. It really has been great, and been more friendly than formal.
And in regards to your home you were looking for a house over a highrise style?
One of the main attractions was indeed the layout, with it being a two floor duplex style apartment attached to a longtime resident’s home. In the past we’ve been in postings surrounded by ex-pats in what some might call a “foreigner ghetto,” and didn’t get the inroads into the local culture like we do here.
And after moving in have you been in touch with Ken or Yogo-san much?
Oh yeah, as soon as anything is needed, even something small like a drain needing maintenance, you just get on the phone and someone comes same day. Ken handles everything direct maintaining an English speaking maintenance staff too.
If you had a friend moving to Tokyo in the next month or two what advice would you give them?
I would definitely try to do it as we did and seek a professional to help with the transition. Get someone like Ken involved, who not only speaks the language, but understands the culture. Its very hard to know where you want to live in the space of a few days when you don’t even know which way is North without some experienced assistance. In all honesty this has been the smoothest and easiest transition that we’ve had, and we’ve had many.
At one point I had even actually asked Yogo-san which apartment she’d like to see us in and she said the same one we had picked, this one, and everything worked out!
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