However, I can't possibly procrastinate any longer. I have way too many things to tell you guys! So many good things have happened for me lately. I'll just list them out all at once and then go into a bit more detail about each one after.
1. Kazu and I got engaged shortly after my last post, in June 2015
2. I got an engagement ring while I was in America for Christmas 2015
3. Kazu and I will be moving in together next month, February 2016
4. I finally passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N1 level
Engagement: We were at Kazu's house one night, sitting on his bed talking about random stuff after dinner one night. Suddenly he hugged me tightly and said "結婚しよう" ("Let's get married.") Since we'd often talked in a 'far-off future' kind of way about getting married, it didn't occur to me at first that this might be a proposal. About a week later, when it finally occurred to me I asked him and he was like "Yeah, I guess it was!" I don't think it really occurred to him either, but then he said that we were no longer dating and now "engaged." I was a bit self-conscious about the fact that although we were engaged, he never gave me an engagement ring. I knew the reason: we're both dirt poor, and it didn't really occur to him to go out and get a ring. I think he just intended for us to get wedding rings once we actually got married.
Engagement Ring: When I went back to America for Christmas, my dad had a proposal of his own for me. He really wanted to secretly conspire with Kazu about it, but since Kazu can't speak English and my dad can't speak Japanese, it ended up being me and my dad conspiring. When my grandmother passed away 5 years ago, she left me her engagement ring from her marriage to my grandfather. My grandparents divorced many years ago and remarried other people. When my grandmother remarried, she had the engagement ring from her first marriage remade so she could continue to wear it without offending her new husband. When I received it, it was a white-gold band set with a diamond surrounded by sapphires to look like a flower. My father and I took the ring to the jewler's and had it re-made again. We took the diamond (the only original part of the ring from my grandparents' engagement) out and had it reset in a gold band, to match the gold bands Kazu and I were planning all along to get for our wedding rings. Of course I discussed all of this with Kazu and he agreed completely, so I've been wearing the ring ever since returning to Japan. Of course I wanted to receive an engagement ring from Kazu in a grand romantic gesture like a fairytale princess, but this way we managed to save almost $2000.
Moving: We've been talking about it for a while, and I've been scheming for even longer (if you've ever lived in a Leopalace, you'll understand my haste to move out of mine) but we're finally moving. Kazu's parents are semi against it because they want him to change jobs to a better paying job with a bigger, well-established company. If we move now, he can only change jobs to places within commuting distance of our new apartment, whereas if he waited to move, he could get a job anywhere at all and we could drop everything and move there. However, my lease on my current apartment renews automatically in April, and if I don't move out before then I have to pay as much as $1200 in cancellation fees for leaving mid-contract. No, thank you! We also have no idea when or even if he'll be able to get a job he wants, and I'm really not good at waiting for things without knowing exactly how long I'll have to wait. If there's an end in sight, I can look forward to that and bear with it, but I can't stand waiting indefinitely.
Although I said that Kazu's parents are somewhat against our move, they aren't entirely opposed to it, just hesitant about the timing. Still, they've very generously agreed to be the guarantor for our apartment. For those of you know don't know, a "guarantor" (保証人 - hoshounin) is a co-signer who agrees to be responsible for any expenses you fail to pay (unpaid rent, damages, etc). Recently there are companies that you can pay a few hundred dollars to be your guarantor, but because Kazu's parents are Japanese citizens with a house and decent jobs, we were able to save a nice little bit of money by having them sign for us instead. If it were my own parents, I would just say thanks and forget about it, but it means a LOT to me that his parents did this despite not being totally convinced about me or our moving.
Our new apartment is a 2LDK (2 bedrooms and a large room that is a combination kitchen, dining and living room) and the rent is just under 65,000 ($650) a month total. The rent itself is only 50,000 yen ($500) but we also have to pay 3000 yen ($30) for 共益費 (a maintenance fee for the grounds and other common areas), a 500 yen ($5) fee to the community association (a group of neighbors who do activities for the good of the local community, such as crime prevention and public awareness campaigns) and 10,800 yen ($108) for parking for two cars. Even with all of this, it's only about $100 more than I'm paying for rent now, and if either of us were to lose our job, the other could afford to pay for it until the fired partner found a new job. This was one of our goals when moving. Also, since we'll be splitting the cost of one apartment, instead of each renting our own apartments, we should be able to put some decent money into savings. I'm just happy that we'll have a spare bedroom for when my friends and family come to visit. I majored in Japanese in the US and also studied abroad at a Japanese university, so my university friends are spread all over Japan, and we often travel for cheap by staying at eachothers' houses.
Thanks for reading all of this! I'll be sure not to let another 9 months lapse between posts!