This is our home. That’s our car parked in the driveway, our bicycles parked outside, our tanuki figurine beside the door, our tulips flowering and our futon mattresses hanging on the front balcony railing.
And in just 11 days, we will leave this lovely home forever and return to Ireland. The car and the bicycles and the flowers and the tanuki and our dogs and all our possessions will be gone, and the house will be once again an empty and echoing shell, ready for someone else to make their own home here.
We’ve lived here for a little over a year. You may wonder whether that is really enough time to have such a feeling of “home”. It certainly is.
When we moved in here, it was completely unfurnished, as is the way in Japan. By completely unfurnished, I mean not only that there was no furniture, but that there were no curtains, no light fittings, no appliances, no air-conditioning or heating. Over time we acquired everything we needed to have a comfortable life here, some items kindly lent to us by Yuko’s dad, some things we bought either second-hand or new.
We gradually inhabited the whole space and made it our own, buying and fitting furniture and lights and curtains and an air conditioner, cultivating the garden and growing food, storing our empty boxes and dog travel-crates in the attic, cooking and eating and studying and thinking and writing blog posts and working and relaxing and sleeping and generally living a happy life.
Now it is time to leave, and the next 10 days or so will be a process of progressive withdrawal. The attic is first – the boxes and suitcases and dog crates all come down. I’ve cleared and tidied up the garden – all that is left is a solitary cabbage (which will be harvested tomorrow) and some strawberries which I doubt will ripen in time for us to enjoy them.
I was in Kohnan (hardware store) 2 days ago to buy a drill, and they had a lot of food plants for sale. Tomatoes and cucumbers. It was a bit sad to be reminded that we won’t be planting anything this season and enjoying the riotous profusion of green that took over our garden in the heat of last summer (not to mention the sound of the frogs on hot summer nights).
Some of the things in the house we will give (or give back) to Yuko’s dad. Some things will be scrapped. A pity, in the case of appliances such as the fridge, washing machine and vacuum cleaner which work perfectly well. But they are old, and nobody wants old appliances. And some items will be shipped back to Ireland, arriving there about 5-6 weeks after we do, at a new home which we don’t yet know.
We’ve recently started packing, and honestly have no idea at this stage how many boxes we will fill. For packing clothes and bedding efficiently, we use “space bags”; airtight bags with a valve that allows you to suck air out with a vacuum cleaner, greatly reducing the volume.
The house is a bit chaotic as closets get emptied out and everything gets sorted by destination (suitcase, shipping, discard…).
Aside from that, the most complicated (and expensive) aspect of the move has been the dogs. Shipping 2 dogs from Japan to Ireland involves a great deal of planning and form-filling, and quite a lot of money. Quite a lot more than it cost to bring them from Ireland to Japan, because of an Irish government requirement that dogs arrive in Ireland as cargo (rather than as luggage).
Finally we have to unwind various aspects of our lives here – internet and mobile phone contracts, electricity connections, car deregistration, insurance, and so on, and try to do so in such a way as to still be able to live here until it’s time to leave for the airport. The remaining days of April on our wall calendar are marked with important words like “VET”, “CAR”, “Removal”, “VET” (again), and “Departure”.
It’s an interesting project and is keeping us very busy. But hopefully not too busy to be able to enjoy our last days in Japan!