I've been working out of the same office in Shiba, near Tamachi in Tokyo's Minato Ward, for well over a decade, maybe closer to two. The company recently decided to move out of the building and into another one in the Shibaura area. The "ura" means "back" or "behind", and indeed Shibaura is on the other side, the Tokyo Bay side, of the train tracks. It's a somewhat less prestigious address, but presumably the rent is less, and these are financially difficult times.
The move--as of the end of March, and the end of the Japanese fiscal year--coincided, coincidentally, with my birthday, my retirement as a full-time, permanent employee and the start of the next phase of my career as a contractor/consultant.
For the last three weeks or so of March, though, I was rather less concerned with changes in addresses and statuses than I was with the logistics, and the manual labor, of moving.
Everything had to be removed from the old building by the end of the month. To make things more interesting, I'd been working in a more-or-less private office with three desks, two large bookcase/cabinets, and three file cabinets...all of them filled with books, texts, files, and miscellaneous equipment, mostly stuff I'd collected and/or produced over the years, but some acquired by the company (a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, and dozens of translating dictionaries) or left behind by colleagues who had long ago moved on to other jobs. In the new office, I've got one desk in a typical Japanese open-plan office.
Much of the stuff could be, and was, thrown out or sold to recyclers, but a lot of it had to be moved. This meant a great deal of sorting, packing, carrying boxes, and making several 150 kilometer round trips from home to office in my car, a smallish SUV. I could have used a couple of professional movers and a 2-ton truck, but you make do with what you have.
I ought to mention, for the benefit of my readers who aren't familiar with traffic conditions in the Kanto Plains area, that the trip from the wilds of the Saitama/Gunma border country to southeastern Tokyo takes a lot longer than someone from--for example--northern California might expect. The 75 or so kilometers can be driven almost entirely on expressways with a nominal speed limit of 80 kph, but unless it's three or four in the morning, it will probably take three or even four hours. Most of that time is likely to be spent fuming in the exhaust from cars moving at glacial speeds on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway, the last 10 or 12 kilometers of the journey.
Having learned that the hard way many years ago, and being unwilling to add insult to injury by actually paying the 700 yen toll to participate in a world-class chronic traffic jam, I opted for a "lesser evil" solution. I took the Kanetsu Expressway (which is usually pretty fast, as long as it's not ski season) to the outskirts of Tokyo, and then ordinary roads to the office. That's a better strategy than using the Metropolitan "Expressway" (an extraordinarily inapt name), but is still somewhat tactically deficient if you're doing it at the end of the fiscal year. That's when the infamous "let's do all sorts of road and other public works construction now so that our budget isn't reduced for next year" activity kicks in. The predictable result was around 45 minutes for the first 65 kilometers getting to Tokyo, and two hours or so for the next 10 within it. It worked the same way in reverse, except for one day when I left Tokyo before dawn.
There is, of course, the option of not using expressways at all. If you don't mind dealing with an astonishing number of signals, roads that expand and contract from two lanes to six and back, and hundreds of sleep-deprived truck drivers, you can save the 1400 yen for the Kanetsu, the 500 yen for the Gaikan connecting ring road, and the 700 yen for the Metropolitan Expressway...but it'll probably take over four hours and the stress--even if you're like me and really like to drive--will probably take a month off your life expectancy. I can only recommend that option for masochists.
In any case, I did manage--just barely--to get a ton or so of stuff packed and moved by the deadline.
I don't want to think, just yet, about unpacking and finding storage space for it all.
*Thanks are due to my old friend David for the title.
Home Truths column for February
1 week ago