Getting Settled in Japan: Buying a Fridge, etc.

The text of this post was originally written in April, 2004 as part of an online diary I kept before I actually started my blog. I'd forgotten about it until I ran across it in February 2008. I inserted it into my blog then, assigning dates appropriate to the content instead of to the time I actually added it. Thus, these April 2004 posts show up as my “first posts” in my list of posts, even though I didn't actually start a blog until a year later with my first post about buying a car in Japan.

There's nothing here of interest to anyone but me; I insert it here so that it's together with my other posts (which are also of little interest to anyone but me :-)) Any comments I add while posting this to my blog in February 2008 appear like this.

This was originally written just after we moved from California to Japan, so our days were dominated by jet lag, and trying to set up our life and newly-acquired apartment. Anthony was 18 months old.

After waking up sporadically every few hours throughout the night, Anthony woke up for good on his jetlag-induced 2:45 schedule. Around 8am, Fumie and I took Anthony for a walk about town (Kuzuha, where we're staying with her folks), keeping an eye out for cars that look interesting.

(The next few paragraphs apparently formed the basis for my first blog post, Choosing a car to buy in Japan, when I created a blog a year later.)

We'll be buying a car sooner or later, and it's a daunting task just to come to grips with the sheer number of makes and models. There must be well over an order of magnitude more to choose from, relative to The States. Considering only domestic cars, there are nine major makers (Itsuzsu, Daihatsu, Honda, Suzui, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Subaru) representing an incredible 217 models (a stunning 69 from Toyota alone). Then there are about 15 major foreign makers, representing another 120 different makes.

To go along with all those models are a lot of different classifications. In addition to the normal sedan, SUV, wagon, minivan, and sports/specialty classifications are super-mini and “2BOX”. It turns out that the cars we're interested in are in the “2BOX” class (although I have no idea what "2BOX' means).

With so many models, names are, uh, “creative”. Some of the ones we're considering at the moment (after our one walk about town) include the Honda FIT, Toyota Corolla SPACiO, Toyota RAUM, and the Toyota Corolla RUNX. I saw one this evening that also bares investigation, the Mitsubishi Colt (unrelated to the Dodge vehicle by the same name). Other names I see on the Toyota web site, which I happen to be looking at now, include a litany of names that would bring the best spell-checker to its knees, including the Toyota ist, Toyota WISH, Toyota Opa, Toyota bB, Toyota Brevis, Toyota Crown Majesta, Toyota WiLL CYPHA, and the Toyota Cami. The starting price tag of these Toyota cars (before options, etc.) range from under $9k (Toyota Vitz) to $100k (the Toyota Century). The ones we're thinking of at the moment are in the $17k-$21k range.

At around 2pm Fumie and I left for Yamada-denki, an electronics shop, with the hope of making progress on a refrigerator, air conditioners (we need four), a microwave oven, some light fixtures, a phone, and a washer-dryer.

Fumie didn't have a lot of energy, so it was decided that she'll wait in the area that sells massage chairs while I did reconnaissance on the fridge, our primary target for the day. There were probably 45-50 different refrigerators to choose from, but we were looking for a rather large and nice one, so that brought the selection down to (a more manageable?) 30-40.

One maker's refrigerators are distinguished by their doors having two handles, one on either side of the door. You can open from either. The action of opening from one side engages the hinge on the other, and vice-versa. A very nice feature. Unfortunately, all their models had very small freezers... a trend that all Japanese refrigerators seem to have, but this particular company's were even smaller than normal. Fumie likes to freeze leftovers, so we wanted something larger.

One reason the freezers are so small is because they all have a separate section for vegetables, which is slightly warmer than the refrigerator (about 40F rather than 34F). These sections are often larger than the freezer, hence squeezing them out. Combine that with the other sections (there's usually a separate drawer that is the ice maker/storage), and other separate drawers for other things, e.g. half of the refrigerator space is accessed via normal side-opening doors, and half is via a pull-out drawer.

Anyway, I quickly learned that just about any of them would be fine with me, but that they all had special features that Fumie would care about, so I had to pull her away from the massage chairs. One had a feature whereby one of the smaller drawers could have its temperature set to as low as -30F. One had a feature where one of the drawers could have its temperature set so that it acted as a freezer, fridge, or veggie drawer. Convenient.

After some discussion among Fumie, me, and the sales man that was helping me, Fumie decided that the sales man and I were more of a distraction than anything else, so she sent us away to make her own decision. I went to look at some light fixtures and air conditioners.

Eventually, she decided to get the Toshiba GR-NF505CK, a 495 liter model (which happens to be the biggest Toshiba sells) for $1,800 or so. (Having used it for almost four years now, I'll note that it's an excellent fridge.) Together, we moved on to light fixtures.

When you buy/rent a place in Japan, it generally does not come with light fixtures. Rather, there are brackets in the ceiling into which you can easily clip fixtures (all sold with the same universal mating collar). That way, you can bring them from place to place, I suppose. We didn't have any, and needed five. They can be expensive ($300 for a nice one), so we thought to get just one sort of cheap one, to give us some light. It turned out to be a bigger deal than we expected, but after much hemming and hawing, she picked a $70 simple one, although one with a remote control. Home light fixtures in Japan almost universally have four modes: off, on full, on half, nightlight. In the old days, there was a string that one pulled to cycle among the modes, but they almost all now have a remote control. To me, that's just one more thing to get lost, and I much prefer the old variety. But, one doesn't have much selection with those, so oh well.

Heater/air conditioners are looking to be a major expense. We need four, and they're looking to be upwards of $2k each. There's a wide variety of features, most of which we probably don't care about, but we have to sort through them.

Fumie then wanted to look at microwave ovens by herself, so I went off to look at computers (we'll get a Windows box for Fumie). When I got back, she was thinking to change the color of the fridge. You see, matching the fridge is the most important feature of the microwave oven (so that her kitchen has a “total coordinate” image), and there were no good microwaves that matched. So, off to the massage chairs to think about it. In the end, she decided to change the color — we placed our order, paid our $1,800 for the fridge and the light, and went home.

In the evening I went to the muscle/joint specialist who had done such wonders for me during my last trip to Japan. I'm not sure why (perhaps the plane trip over), but my back is killing me again. (It's not nearly as bad as last summer, but bad enough to want to go see him.). After waiting an hour and a half (there are no appointments — you just get in line), he worked on me for an hour. It was painful, but working out the knots helps in the long run. The cost was a shockingly low $30. (Would have been $3 had I had insurance, I think.)

Continued here...

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