Monday, April 21, 2014

The Grape Orchard

Having been kicked out of hubby's company subsidised housing (or moving to the new company dorms in Chiba which would make my commute 2 hours... shudder), we found a place that was in budget and has parking and allows pets and within 10 minutes of the daycare and has nice neighbors and good sunlight and is over 60 meters squared, pretty spacious for Tokyo...
But now we're paying wayyy more rent. And daycare money. Good thing I'm back at work now!

So with all this expenditure including food and clothes, both of which the baby seems to gobble up at an alarming rate, we're starting to give a good hard look at real estate. Low low interest rates on mortgages certainly sweeten the pot. And with the last month of my maternity leave, I found myself pounding the pavement, looking at all of the land around here.

My neighborhood is strictly residential, and not without it's quirks. It is plain to see that not too long ago it was all farmland, owned by a few families.
As the years passed, these all turned into three types:

-farmland, a huge plot, , aa throwback to the older days. There are three of these left within walking distance of my apartment that I know about.
this one even sells veggies! omnomnom...

- a large house with a garden. Ok, let's call this american suburb sized plot of land, with a front yard and a backyard, a comfortable house with a bit of elbow room. The gardens are various sizes, some have only a bit and some have a yard the size of the house. This is gregarious affluence in the face of most Tokyoites with only 50 meter squared apartments.

- the third type of house is a claustrophobic building that is one car-length wide, two car-lengths long, and three stories high. In other words, a shoebox.
Yes, this is three houses. And according to my husband these would be selling for about half a million dollars, the very upper limit of what we would ever consider buying.

that's a bicycle. I'm not sure that bike would fit in the house sideways.
 It makes me cry myself to sleep.

How did we get into this triple standard?
Apparently in Tokyo there is a very expensive inheritance tax, which makes it impossible to pass land down to your dependents without paying a huge fee.
The fee forces the inheritees to either sell the land, or have another way to make money from it in order to have enough liquidity to pay the tax off. So, what happens is, land is sold off in chunks and parcels to generate income by building smaller and smaller new homes on the land that remains.
Which brings me to the grape orchard.
Near my house is a farm, containing several grape orchards, with a sign that was written decades ago proclaiming it to be the New Koizumi Grape Orchard. It is spring now, and google recommended we walk right by its outskirts as the fastest way to get to the daycare drop-off.
What a lovely commute, I thought, watching the grape blossoms come in one by one every morning, pointing out the birds and flowers to the baby.

Then the next day, BAM! all the trees were chopped down.
I would be lying if I didn't get a little indignant watery-eye sting as I realized the death of the beautiful trees is probably to get the land ready to be parceled off to be turned into ten or twenty shoebox homes.
No telling if we could even afford one.

Whenever we walk around the neighborhood I see myself pointing out the houses with big gardens to hubby and saying 'I want THAT house! with the big bonsai trees and azeleas!'
his response is usually 'wait until we retire and can live at grandma's house in Nagano, where there is no inheritance tax'.

and then I think
'not yet, anyways...'
and stick out my tongue and kick a rock down the lane into the empty plot where the grape vines used to be.


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