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Monday, April 22, 2013

We're Finally Getting Somewhere

It’s time to build a garage. Rather than paying an extra 3000 yen a month for a separate line to the garage, we decided to extend the existing line from our home to the garage. An electrician gave me a few pointers so that I didn’t knock the power out in Tsukahara. I’m still anxious about the whole thing because there is no ground wire. On another project, I’ll be starting a new deck with benches and an outdoor sink. I’m excited because the wood I’ll be using is Hinoki (the stuff that palaces and temples are built from). Hey, when in Japan, do as the Japanese carpenters do. We’re getting a great deal on Hinoki and I couldn’t pass it up. What makes Hinoki so special is that the wood is super strong, resilient to decay and insects. It also looks great.

I was beginning to wonder if these projects were ever going to get off the ground. There has been a rash of construction projects. Finding a reliable carpenter was a challenge. Things work a little differently in Japan. Once a potential carpenter is found, a meeting is held. The meeting is held to discuss mostly personal things rather than business. They wanted to know who they were working for. Why? Simply put, to establish trust. A successful working relationship can only be established based on trust. This was made apparent when I saw the sparsely written estimate. The estimate to build the garage was only half of a page long. In the U.S., there would have been one page for the itemized list of materials and labor charges along with five pages of legal jargon, acknowledgements, and agreements. I was surprised to hear what would happen if something was built incorrectly. What proof do I have that it was supposed to have been done another way? Could I sue? Erika reminded me as to why we hired this particular carpenter…we trusted him. I’m not used to doing business like that. Trust? What’s that? I need it in writing.

Oh, as far as selecting a carpenter…that was interesting. There are not many choices when you live out in the middle of nowhere. In the U.S., I would call up five different contractors and get some bids. I would find out who offers the most for the least amount of money and then check references. Not so in Japan. The way it works here is that once you receive a written estimate from a particular contractor, that’s it. You are committed. You see, before the estimate was done, a personal meeting was held. A trust was formed between the contractor and the client. This trust cannot be taken for granted. It is important to know who the contractor is BEFORE the meeting occurs. This is often done by word of mouth. Trust and reputation make the Japanese economy go’ round.  The carpenter we chose is a neighbor and I have seen his work. He is a traditional style carpenter which appealed to me. The amount he is charging for labor is ridiculously low which is why we chose to have him do the work instead of me.  I’ll do the wiring and finish work. I can’t wait to get started. BTW, trust only goes so far. We made sure that we had a signed receipt for any funds given to the carpenter. Stay tuned for pictures… George



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