When in the mansions of Tokyo what do you do when you have a rogue neighbour who you just can not get along with? One that annoys you with their mannerisms, one that complains about your kids, one that gives you the shiroime (white eye) look in the elevator when you try to aisatsu (make small talk), or one that is all of the above (and just plain crazy). This, is what I have. Is it simply time to move? Do you guts it out and pretend it does not exist? Or do you confront the a-hole directly and try to rectify whatever it is that bugs you? Apparently my family gets on his nerves so much, that words such as “korosu-zou!” (I’m going to kill you!) being yelled from the window below has now become commonplace.
The perpetrator – my neighbour of five years – completely freaked me out a few years back by coming to my door and letting rip on me about my toddlers (they were 3 and 1 at the time) and the incessant noise they made. I was in the doorway and it was a very very intense moment as the guys mother (with whom he lives) came to the door to calm him down. The guy is in his mid-late 30′s and clearly something was not right – especially as on this occasion the kids had only been home a few minutes before he was dinging on the intercom. To my recollection we came in (after shopping for dinner), they washed their hands and went to the lounge to play. I was making dinner not far away and the noise was fine. The neighbour complained to the Kanrinin-san (caretaker) and he passed it on to the landlord (or at least to the agency that looks after the property). They came to us and dealt with the situation. The flooring was regulation thickness, we even had a thick carpet on top of most of it. We are not a loud family, and the whole situation did not make much sense. They went down to see the neighbour and came back to report that he suffers from some ailment of some kind. We were not sure but it started to sound like schizophrenia or something kind of “scary” to the uninformed (like us).
We agreed that should there be problems in the future we and he would go through the agent to communicate the issue. Of course we would try our best to keep our children quiet. This failed when on the next occasion the neighbour complained that it was me who was at fault for stomping around the house. As the father of two and wife of one, I had been at particular pains to keep quiet yet somehow my walking around in socks was noisy? Again, it did not make sense.
This type of thing carried on for years, with the occasional outburst from the man downstairs. We would get the call, “byonin ga imasu” (there is a sick person down here) every few months and we would be on high alert for a while to keep the noise down. It was not as if we were even all that noisy but with two small kids playing I can not guarantee that there were not at least some “bangs” and “thuds”. We have the same noise issues with the folks upstairs but we tend to understand, and get over it pretty easily. We have foot steps, knife on cutting boards and early morning alarm clocks but we don’t make any fuss. The noise is so slight that it really would be lame (or weird) to make a fuss.
Cue July 2009 – I was at the office and my wife was at home with our youngest son and three of his girlfriends (and their mummies) from kindergarten. Lucky little tyke, you may think but on this occasion – a warm, humid day – the window was opened and whatever noise those naughty little kids were making travelled south to the byonin downstairs. With no warning the ladies in the living room – three in all – heard an extremely loud and scary “Korosuzou! Kono Osutoraria-jin yarou!” (Going to kill you! F*ckin Aussie!). Needless to say the other ladies and their kids all left in a rush, probably thinking WTF is it with this wacko woman and her Aussie husband? What do they do to make their neighbours so angry? Well, as a matter of fact, ah… nothing, as far as we can tell. A week or so before this particular incident the byounin called the O-ya-son (landlord) and they sent a team around to investigate. They got to the door to find a very quiet household – the kids were playing Wii after all. Generally they are just glued to the TV when doing that. But it was clear that the byonin underneath us was reaching a peak.
He went nuts again just last week during the typhoon. For some reason he was paranoid that my home office (corner room) windows being open would cause major damage to his apartment. He asked the kanrinin-san to visit us, and make us close the windows. My wife explained (as I was on a call) that I had no air-conditioning in the room and there was no water coming in, other than the odd droplet that landed on my desk (with a newspaper strategically placed). The kanrinin understood and didn’t really see the issue.
Next thing – as I had not closed the windows – we had more of the yelling from downstairs. One of the neighbours and friends from upstairs called us to see if everything was okay (as this guy was now legendary in his own right). Being on the council (or whatever you call it) for our mansion they suggested that we call the cops. My wife was quite freaked out at this stage and duly did so.
Within minutes we had a copper asking about the trouble and also the real estate agent. We got some handy advice from the young policeman who was concerned about the potential for this issue to worsen and he went down stairs to talk with our byonin neighbour. He came back later to say that he gave the guy a warning to keep the noise down. Surely the man downstairs felt the irony in this, but we are already looking to move and buy our own place! The guy’s a psycho.
So. What would you do in this situation? We are thinking that after having “I will kill you Aussie!” yelled at our family, our chances at an amicable resolution are pretty low. Especially when you consider that I am not a bloody Australian but a Kiwi. (What an arsehole!) But we think that we need to vacate the premises and make the landlord pay for our new key money and gift money, seeing as we have paid that up so cheerily every 2 years.
Feel free to share your advice, or even better, your “crazy Japanese neighbour” story below in the coments.