Oct 19, 2012

Resident Interview: The Warren’s (Azabu-Juban)

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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