It was indeed a trap

My family’s back to Japan after a very busy days packing, moving, and handling administrative stuff.

I’m happy to be back in Japan, and even if there are things I’m not necessarily happy to see again, for now I’m trying to see a positive to every negative aspect. Yes, the heat and humidity is crushing me. I see it as an excuse to drink beer and “salty lychee”. Yes, I don’t like to have to deal with the bureaucracy of the local city hall to get my paperwork done. I see it as an opportunity to get better in Japanese, which I always sucked at.

So far, so good. We leveraged Amazon Prime day to try and get some of the furniture we’ll need soon, although for now we’re staying at one of those furnished condos for expats. My company pays for that for a few weeks until we find a “real” place, and we only brought a few things with us on the plane (the rest of our furniture is probably on a ship somewhere in the middle of the pacific ocean right now) so for now it still feels like we’re at a hotel.

Cheap Phone contracts in Japan

We also got ourselves some Phone contracts as early as we possibly could. I’m happy to see that the MVNO market is (finally) striving in Japan! We signed a contract with Aeon Mobile, following the great recommendations of Ben over at retirejapan. In total I think we’ll end up paying Y6’000 a month (for a shared 6GB a month on two phones + voice and sms), which is about $55 a month for two at the current exchange rate. Not bad, close to the $60 a month we paid with T-Mobile for 2 phones back in Seattle, and, more importantly, way below the $150-or-so we used to pay when we last lived here (ugh, Softbank…).

My wife’s phone from the US (a BLU phone) works in Japan with the Aeon Mobile network, while my Fire Phone (Hey don’t judge! Who else in the FI/RE blogosphere has a phone which name represents our common life goals, huh?) doesn’t. I was surprised as I was expecting the exact opposite to happen. This is not an antenna problem with the Fire phone as I can connect to the Docomo network with my T-Mobile SIM card on the Fire Phone. Sounds more like a compatibility problem with the MVNO itself.

So I ended up buying a cheap ZTE Phone for $100 or so. It does the job so far.

Socializing in Japan is not cheap

I also got to meet some friends, acquaintances, and colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while. I remember someone mentioning that socializing in Japan is fairly expensive, and I’m seeing that. Although I hope this is only because I just came back, I’ve had a Y4’000 ($35) note every day in alcohol/food for social events since we landed. My wife doesn’t like it (the kids are jetlagged and she’d rather have me at home rather than in a bar with friends), and my wallet doesn’t like it. I’m enjoying seeing friends back so much though that the financial aspect can wait a bit, but I’ll have to be careful not to turn it into a habit, as it won’t fit our current FI/RE projected budget. It’s not common in Tokyo to invite friends over to make social events cheaper. Probably because of the lack of space in condos here, but also for cultural reasons. Bottom line is, even if we had an apartment big enough, I’m not sure my wife would be happy to have our friends over inside the private space of our home. It’s something she was happy to do in the US, but I believe it won’t take long before we turn back to the old JP rules.

Housing in Tokyo

We started looking for longer term housing. The plan is to rent for now, and buy in a year or two, at which point I’ll pull the plug from the corporate world (basically as soon as I secure a good loan, which requires to be employed). It seems living in the US has set my expectations a bit high in terms of how much space we can have. I was looking for about 100 square meters (roughly 1000 sq. ft), but we’ll probably have to settle for 70 to 80 (800 sq. ft). For a family of 5, I’m pretty sure Americans reading this blog will scream in horror, but in Tokyo it’s a pretty conventional size for a family condo (that being said, having 3 kids in this country is anything but common).

The alternate compromise could be to increase our distance to my office, to get more space (maybe rent a small home), but at the cost of a grueling commute for me, daily. I’m not sure I want that. My company pays for the commute but I value my time too much. I haven’t thought yet about going full mustachian and bike to the office (some colleagues do), but I do think living close to the office improves my quality of life, independently of the cost.

Other financial considerations

Now that we’re back in Tokyo, there are a few things we need to do in terms of finances. I want us to close two bad insurances we took a while ago, that are hurting us financially, and replace them with something that makes more sense. These are the kind that couple an insurance with an investment, pretty much doing a bad job at both.

In parallel, we’re waiting for some administrative papers in order to be all set and open NISA accounts for my wife and kids, where we’ll start investing for them.

The Trap

So far, life is good.

However, there’s the problem of my new job. Since joining the team, I’ve learned that some key managers (including my manager) of the team are leaving in the weeks to come. One of them, who’s a good friend, also shared with me that more than half of the team members are going to leave in the next two months, but that information is not public yet.

In other words, I’m landing in that new team right at the point where the rats are abandoning ship. It’s also now clear to me that that team has no clear direction and no exciting project to work on. With more than half of the team gone in less than two months, they will be stuck maintaining old code that nobody else wants to touch, and I’ll be in charge of doing the work of all the senior management that is leaving, including stuff I really don’t want to do, and at least until we find replacement for all these folks.

I don’t think I’m too demanding when it comes to my job, in particular as I get closer to ER, but here I really feel like I got screwed. I’m going to meet with my hierarchy next week to discuss the future of the team and where I fit in it. In parallel, I already have a coffee scheduled for tomorrow with another team that sounds a bit more promising. I’d hate to be part of the people fleeing the team as it is not my personality to abandon a team so quick, but here I really feel I was mis-sold the whole thing, so I need to have options (I have not contacted my former’s team VP yet). If I’m to stay in this company for 18 more months, it might as well be to work on something exciting.

  1. sendaiben
  2. Mr. Tako
  3. Senior Crown
  4. Financial Velociraptor
  5. Joe