Keeping up with the Joneses
Even once you loose all desire to get a bigger house or bigger car or greener lawn with a bigger pool, there is still an innate desire to beat the Joneses. In our case the Joneses are friends from Tokyo that, at the same time as us, aspired to escape the hell that is "big city".
The "Joneses" too the lead by looking at available houses from early on. They had been searching for about a year when Tomoe told him one day at work that she was coming to join me in Otari-mura to look at houses (this was back in March when we all still lived in Tokyo). It just so happened that he too was on his way to look at a house in Otari-mura as well. We seemed to be running neck-and-neck.
While we did not find our dream house in Otari, they did. We, however, moved out to Hakuba anyway, deciding that to continue the search from here would be much more effective. Our friends were still back in Tokyo looking at us and feeling a bit of fire under their butts.
They soon moved out to their dream house, and we found our place in Sakae (still living in Hakuba). We soon began hearing stories of how difficult it was for them with all the work they had to put into their house getting it ready for the winter (it sounded as if the whole place needed to be almost completely rebuilt). We were feeling a bit jealous because the place we found is too new and does not require any work - something we were looking forward to doing. But on the other hand, based on theirexplanation, we envisioned their place to be in a small cluster of houses we knew along the main highway connecting Hakuba to the Japan Sea. The place we found had so much support from the village and so much potential in terms of our future plans, that we could not help feeling a bit smug. We thought to ourselves "They should get rid of that place and move to Sakae as well".
As summer rolled around and Tomoe had a chance to visit Sakae again, she came back with some terrible news. Sakae is HOT. Better than Tokyo, sure, but nothing like the cool summer days we had been enjoying in the Hakuba/Otari area. Also, while Sakae has more snow than Hakuba/Otari, it is also heavy, wet snow. Not ideal for enjoying the back-country ski experience Hakube/Otari is known for.
Still, we thought we were winning. Until, that is, we finally got a chance to visit them in their home a few days ago. We met them at the 7-11 along the highway, expecting to be led across the road into the little cluster of houses which are hopefully just out of reach of the constant drone of cars and trucks. Instead, we passed by that little cluster, then another cluster, then another, the road winding further and further upwards, leaving us in awe that their ligh-weight truck could make it with the weight of two people.
Half-way up we knew we had lost the race with the Joneses.
They were living in our dream house. An old (really old) Japanese style farm house that needed lots of renovation. A large field right behind their house. A mountain side filled with trees free for their use. No neighbors preventing them from building an outdoor bath, and, what must be one of the most amazing views in all of Otari-Mura. Not to mention a great one-eyed cat to share it all with.
The photo below is Tomoe's "I think we lost" face, followed by her "good sport" face in the next photo.