This post continues my chronicle of moving to a new apartment in Japan. I just finished calling the electric company to make sure I have light in the new place (and am not still paying for light in the old place). Now I need to call about the water and gas.

Week 4, Tuesday:
It hasn't been so long since I first started looking at new apartments online, but already I find myself going to pick up the key to my new place.

This step is very straightforward: After work one day, I simply show up at the agency. I've been half a dozen times by now and all the employees recognize me. My agent is busy helping another customer, but someone else comes over with an envelope containing the keys and a document for me to sign, stating that I've received them.

Miwa is one of the biggest
players in Japan's market.
This might sound stupid, but it's really important to count the number of keys you get while you're in the agency. Several moves ago, I signed for my new keys with a smile, assuming this isn't a point over which mistakes could be made. It wasn't until I got home and read the document closely that I discovered I was short a key. The document said four keys, but my ring only had three. I was already out of the agency and had already signed the document, so guess who had to pay for the missing key when the contract was up?

So this time, even though I'm excited about getting into the new apartment, I take an extra minute to count my keys carefully and check everything that's written on the document before signing. Looks like there will be a flat fee to pay if I fail to return any of the keys at the end of the contract, but no lock-change fee. This is fairly unusual. It's standard in Japan to re-key a rental property between tenants, and most rental agreements will require each new tenant to foot that cost either at the beginning or end of their rental period. Often it is bundled into the deductions taken out of the shikikin deposit, but even if you aren't told about it up-front, if you're paying for it, that will be indicated within the fine print of your contract.

Thanks to my phone calls yesterday, the electricity and water are already on at my new place. I have a few boxes of stuff in my car already, so I decide to swing by the new place, turn the electricity on, and unload my spare bedding, clothes, books, and assorted junk.

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