premiere kiba (the tall pinkish one on the left)
Finally got settled into my new home for the next few months here in Tokyo
. Welcome to: Premiere Kiba Guesthouse. Kiba is the name of the neighborhood in Tokyo, located in Koto-ku or Koto ward which is part of the 23 wards that make up this metropolis; premiere is the Japanese fine use of English to make it sound fancy; and they call it a guesthouse, although it's more like a dormitory. Kiba actually translates to "place for wood". I guess long ago, in Edo period Japan, this neighborhood was a lumberyard where the Shogun kept all the wood to be used for carpentry and construction of the city. It was home to many blue-collar workers in the construction industry.
Nowadays, like most of the neighborhoods in Tokyo, it's just another sector of the city. It lies close to the Sumida river and just on the edge of Tokyo bay.
There was a resident party over the weekend and I got to meet some of my neighbors. Surprisingly, most of them are young Japanese (some working professionals, some professional stay-at-homes) and they are all very friendly. I was surprised to see so many Japanese residents as I had expected it was mostly going to be a foreigners' dorm, but we are definitely the minority. I guess it must be a cheap way for them to live in the city - hell that's the reason I chose it.
The building itself is kind of old - the elevator is very rickety and feels like it could fall apart at any moment, which is not too reassuring knowing that I live on the 9th floor - but the company who owns the building has renovated the interior so it all feels very new.
kiba station, with reference to its surrounding environment
The kitchen and bathrooms are shared and there's also a lounge with a television, computer, and of course, self-serving vending machines. In short, it is a very comfortable place to live for maybe the next few months until I can afford something on my own.
Right now, there are only 3 of the 11 floors that are occupied (altogether that's about 30 residents) and they are the 9th, 10th, and 11th floors. The building is odd, as you can access floors 1 and 5-11 from the single elevator, but floors 2-4 are only accessible by stairs. Some of my fellow Japanese residents speculate that the empty floors are supplemental for when the big earth quake comes: they will be the floors that give way and get crushed (like a sandwich), allowing the top floors to fall effortlessly to the ground, unscathed.
the river that my building overlooks
A few others have said that they believe those floors are haunted. I tend to agree with the latter. One day I was taking the elevator up to my room, I had pressed the 9th floor button and it was lit up. The elevator shook and rumbled as it approached the 9th floor, but instead of continuing, it stuttered and the door opened on the 8th floor (which is currently uninhabited). I gazed out timidly into a dark, gloomy, unfinished concrete hallway and almost crapped my pants. No one was there and yet the elevator thought it would be funny to stop on the 8th floor, even though I was clearly headed for the 9th. I quickly closed the door and continued up. I have not noticed any other strange occurrences since then however. The management has plans to finish renovating those floors so that more people can move in, but that may not be until well into the new year.
lounge complete with vending machines so i can have delicious japanese drinks at all hours
Until then, so sit the empty floors below us, hollow and creepy.
My room is tiny, about the size of a one person dorm room, complete with a half-closet, desk, air conditioning unit (thank god), and a mini refrigerator that works surprisingly well. For those of you that kept up with my previous blog (or if you didn't, you can access it from my home page), you'd probably think that by looking at the photos, I am living in the same dorm that I was in before. The view from my room is nice, it overlooks a small river that dissects Koto-ward and I can see the rooftops of all the other monstrous buildings that surround me. The problem with the window however, is that it only fully opens about 12 inches, just enough room for me to stick my head through so that I can enjoy such a lovely view.
If I needed to make a quick escape, this would definitely not be the window to do it from. There's also a rooftop on the 11th floor where you can hang out, take in the city view, and hang-dry your clothes. Japanese dryers don't really dry clothes (more like they just warm them up) so most people hang dry on their balconies.
The best part about Premiere Kiba however is its convenient location. The building is literally right over the subway line, so I walk downstairs and I can get to anywhere in Tokyo via the amazing, sprawling network of trains and subways. It's about a seven minute ride to Tokyo/Otemachi Station. On a side note: my friends talking about the earthquake before mentioned that because our building is on top of the subway station, when the big one comes, our building will be ok as it is sitting on a fortified sub-structure.
the night view from my window
I'm skeptical however as it would seem to me that the subway station would collapse in on itself bringing whatever is on top of it crumbling down to the underground abyss. I digress. The guesthouse is very close to Kiba park, a nice open park that's also connected to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art (I am very excited about that)! In addition, there are a number of good eateries all around as well as a massive supermarket about a five minute walk away. When I say massive, I mean, it's more like a 5 floor department store complete with movie theaters, McDonald's, Starbucks, a grocery store, electronics store, and clothing store. It's really your one stop shop for the residents of Koto ward. I've already been to this place four or five times now and each time I'm amazed at what I can find there.
I feel like I'm slowly getting reacquainted to life again in Tokyo. Of course, there have been a few unforeseen hiccups in my travels thus far (coming in the next post), but all in all, things feel nostalgic and familiar; new and sensational.