On the last Saturday of February, I started my maternity leave. On that particular day, a friend and colleague invited me to her home for a housewarming. We completed our PhDs in the same school, although we were in different labs. We got recruited into the same company and joined at the same time. A couple of months ago, she informed me she had bought a house.
I was like, what? How? You mean you can afford to buy a house at this age?
Then I realized, oops. I am in my 30’s. I am at that age. That age of getting married, getting mortgages, making babies. In that order perhaps. Especially in that order if you are in Japan.
I had just never considered I could ever afford a house in Japan, but it turns out that the amount I pay in rent for a 2LDK in Tokyo’s suburbs is the same amount my colleague is paying for a 3LDK, standalone house in Tokyo’s more suburban suburbs. I just have to commit to a repayment period of 34 years (shudders). I can’t make that kind of commitment to Japan. Plus, the value of a house starts depreciating the moment you put your signature on the purchase form. So selling your mortgage later becomes quite difficult.
It turns out you can get easily get a mortgage even if you are a foreigner if you work for a big company like ours that’s still known for lifetime employment. Most of our bosses have worked for the company for 30 years or more. You don’t even need a permanent residency visa if you can pay a large percentage (20%?) of the mortgage value as a down payment. Not forgetting that you can get some tax discount because of having a housing loan, which you can’t do as a tenant, even with the property tax that you have to pay annually.
Anyway, I was quite impressed by her house. It feels like such a grownup thing to do, buying a house.
I met another colleague, who had also been invited, at the station and together we went to her house. She lives with her boyfriend. There was another couple already there, setting up some kind of game on the TV. She had invited us for lunch and yakiniku and associated vegetables were prepped on the dining table. She gave us a tour of her home and we admired how lovely it was.
Coming down the stairs, the gaming couple also informed us they were pregnant. You couldn’t even tell that she was 6 months pregnant, she’s so small. I started chatting with her as her husband continued setting up the Nintendo. We were comparing notes on morning sickness and kicks, and how whenever you want someone else to feel or observe the kicks, the baby will somehow sense it and become still. The moment the other person averts their attention, pong! comes the kick.
“Luckily, I didn’t have any morning sickness, but I have a lot of orimono“, she continued in Japanese.
“Orimono?” I questioned as she gestured ‘down there’ and looking it up in the dictionary on my phone, I was like ugh, can we switch to more pleasant aspects of pregnancy. I don’t want to talk about your vaginal discharge.
I have this photo of printout of an ultrasound of my baby’s face on my phone. One eye is open and it’s almost like a black and white photograph. I showed it to her and to everyone else to admire the miracle of ultrasound; the ability to reconstruct a face from just sound.
One guy (not the dad-to-be) wasn’t impressed, I think he just couldn’t see the face. He said it doesn’t look like a human. Like, couldn’t he see it? It was so clear to me. In fact, he said, 「なんか気持ち悪い。人間じゃないみたい。」Disturbing, doesn’t look human at all. Were we looking at the same photo?
Excuse me, mister? I fumed inside. Your job is to admire my ultrasound pic even though it horrifies you hahahah. Keep your feelings inside. I vowed not to show anyone the photo anymore, but I am tempted to share it here just to prove that it does, in fact, look like a baby.
I have given in to the temptation. Let’s play “spot the face”. Can you see it? (Just pretend if you can’t).
Anyway, after that, we had a pleasant lunch while conversing in Chinese, Japanese and English. The dining room was flooded with light from the ceiling to floor windows on the South side of the house and it was a lovely Saturday afternoon.
The pregnant couple’s male half told us how he got 100/100 points on the permanent residency application. He’s got a PhD and is also a colleague at the company. He’s got publications in international journals and had passed JLPT N1, plus the work experience and income needed to get all the points. Amazing.
I could apply for PR myself, I do qualify, but eh.. still making that commitment to Japan….
After lunch, we played video games on the Nintendo gaming set. As you can tell from how I am describing it, I don’t play any video games. But these were simple games, just shaking the controller up and down, or swiping it to slice fruits or such. We went on a quest and managed to complete one journey, and that felt so great! I can only imagine how addictive it can get. We also played a card game, suitable for ages 6+. We were all 30+, thank you very much, but we enjoyed it a lot.
Before we knew it, it was past 5pm and it was time to get going. The pregnant couple dropped us off at the station.
A lovely time had been had by all.