The purchase is due to complete at the end of March and interesting pathways to knowledge have continued to present themselves.
2 weeks ago I met Aaron, who is an experienced carpenter friend of Mark's.
We spent an entire morning in his workshop looking at woodwork machine tools where I learnt what a router is, why wood warps, how soft Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria) is and why it's not good for flooring but is useful for building structures and cladding (Insects don't like eating it!), how stained wood can be matched and much more. Exciting stuff to learn how stuff is done - especially being taught by the very person who will be working on our new house!
At lunch time, we drove to the house so Aaron could take a look at the property and I could bounce my ideas off him...
Just after we arrived, a red Honda Fit pulled up on the drive and an inquisitive Japanese man wanted to know what we were doing there. After politely explaining I'd bought the house, he revealed that he was a retired policeman and wanted to check we weren't Yakuza...
Yakuza? - What was he saying? Slightly alarmed, I enquired why he'd think that - and he explained that the abandoned house next door had a debt to the Yakuza from a long time before (9 years) and he wanted to be sure they weren't up to no good with this property. He did assure us there was no problem with the property legally and that the Mafia has no claim on it, but I wasn't sure we could trust him. Eventually, satisfied we were who we said we were, he left.
Aaron & I then looked at the house. We found some woodworm on one of the beams which would need repair and looked at other work we planned, so we could begin to work out material costs. The plan began to hatch - where we'd have the floors re-done with wood boards on all rooms currently covered by tatami, replace ceilings on two rooms (To make the lounge), have the electricity meter moved to the North wall and increase power to 75 Amps, build two wardrobes, repair walls where there are cracks and re-wire before moving in. The wiring could go under the house, so that fitment of wall / floor plug sockets would be as unobtrusive as possible. Aaron wasn't as enthusiastic as me about the trees on the property, because Sugi can take a long time to dry but then again he's quite a calm person. I did feel a sense we'd found the right man for the job, so a good day spent.
After returning to Oyumino where I'd be staying the night at Mark's house, I couldn't help be concerned about the chance meeting with the retired policeman. What it he was involved with the Yakuza? I tossed an turned in the bed that night wondering...and made up my mind Yuko & I would go to the land registry office the following week and check who owned the properties around us and what the histories were, in addition to checking our land's registry details were all correct.
So last Tuesday that's exactly what we did on our way to Mark's place where we'd spend the next 3 days as I had work to get through in Chiba for business that week.
We were joined by Hiromi, a neighbour we've befriended who has about 30 cats, 5 dogs, is half Italian American and half Japanese but has forgotten how to speak English. She was curious to know if the Yakuza has any stake on the farm land surrounding her house. After spending 90 minutes there learning who owns what and the histories of debt on properties, etc. we learnt that the land of the house next door had a small debt secured against it 9 years ago and the house on the property is still owned by some distant relatives of the couple who used to own our house.
Hiromi and other neighbours knew the debt was from the owners having borrowed money to run for local elections, but had then lost. As they hadn't paid and the interest rates were high - the land is now owned by the Yakuza. But it's clear they pay no attention to it. It's one of those properties that cannot be developed that's falling apart now. Interesting to learn.
The following day, having some hours spare, we went there with our daughter, garden tools and step ladder and had fun trimming about 8 trees and realising there are far too many of them! We'll eventually remove some to make way for orchards of fruit & nuts - but for now we'll just take care of them.