We still use and dearly love our sofa, with its dual recliners and soft leather, and it has survived two moves with minimal damage (the thing is beastly heavy and awkward). Yet often when I sit back on that sofa and rest my head I think about the chair that got away. Yes, the ladies'-size, straight-back reclining chair tautly covered in a smooth, rich, red leather that I fell in love with at the Recliner Land. (Similar to this.) At the time, our apartment was too small for any additional furniture so I had to walk away. But I have not forgotten.
Finally now we have a living room large enough for a television viewing area with the sofa and a sitting area for armchairs, so I made sure to request a chair when selecting our temporary furniture. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered the armchair was incredibly uncomfortable and unsuitable for curling up with a book. So shortly after we settled in I began a low-level search for an armchair, not actively looking but paying attention.
Last week, while planning some free or cheap local activities, I decided to go back to the Yamato station area and browse a craft store I had come across last summer. When Google mapping my route I saw a little star on the map, without a description, that I did not remember placing. I figured it was some place I read about and wanted to check out, so I added it to my itinerary. Boy, was I ever happy I did.
It turned out that little gold star was Smile Company, a three-story recycle shop, the largest second-hand store I have found here so far. I slowly looked around the first floor, with clothing and accessories; then the second floor, with housewares and electronics; and finally the third floor, with furniture. At the far end of the large room, among tightly-packed rows of chairs, I found my armchair.
Everything about this chair was perfect, the (surprisingly neutral) versatile teal leather, the low arm rests, deep seat, and a style resembling mid-century modern but with softer lines. It is almost timeless and can safely be placed the styles of many past decades without strictly adhering to one. On top of all this the price was unbeatable, ¥4800 less 10% because of a sale. That works out to be about $42. Wow! I had to have it.
Since I was travelling on foot that Monday I planned on returning the following morning with our car hoping the chair would fit. I had not measured it at the store so I prepared best I could and measured the hatch opening at the back of the car. At one meter wide inside I had hopes of it fitting but realistically knew it was doubtful because the opening itself was not that wide and or tall.
The drive to Smile Company on Tuesday morning was a bit stressful -- I do not drive on local Japanese roads very often and especially not very far. The transit system here is incredible and I love it, why drive? Using Google navigation I arrived successfully in about 40 minutes and as soon as the doors opened at 10:30 I was skipping up those steps, yen in hand, for my chair. It was still there! I found a store employee nearby to help me. He spoke very little English, matching my extremely limited Japanese, but with photos on my phone and metric measurements written down we concluded that the chair would not fit. I was sad but still hopeful that I could find someone with a bigger vehicle to help me. So I left the store with a few small items I had seen the previous day and crossed my fingers on the ride home.
By evening it was obvious that I, alone, would have to accomplish the mission and I was motivated. I scheduled a rental van for the following morning for two hours at $10 an hour with no fuel charge. The timing was tight, no doubt. I arrived on Wednesday morning to pick up the van a little ahead of my scheduled time so I could take advantage of every minute. First off, I measured and took a photo of the rear opening of the van.
Oh, it was going to fit all right but was I ever nervous about driving a van on the tiny roads in Japan. I have driven large vehicles before, full-size vans and moving trucks included, but on wide roads in the States. Local roads here are entirely different and don't forget that in Japan the driver's seat is on the right and we use the left side of the road. But I figured if other people could do it, I certainly could too, and I did. In order to not totally freak out I divided the mission into manageable parts. First was to drive there, which I did successfully and safely with lots of deep breathing. Then I had to purchase the chair, which included showing photos and measurements, and asking for help getting it to the van. This was all accomplished with some flipping through an English-Japanese translation book and many smiles and arrigatos. Step two done, the chair was mine!
At this point I had only an hour remaining and time was more nerve-wracking than driving. After making it though many traffic slow-downs (local "Utility Repair Day"?) I finally made it to the house. Step three done. I backed the van right up to the front porch, which required jumping the curb and driving over a lot of grass, and hefted the chair onto the porch. Step four done. Then I got back in the van, and drove to return it. Step five done!
At this point I relaxed a little, knowing the hard part was over. Once I drove back home in our car I struggled a bit getting the big chair to angle through the doorway, at one point thinking it wasn't going to fit. But I did it, all by myself. You should have seen my happy dance after I shut the front door.
Since it was barely after noon I had plenty of time to enjoy the set-up process. Aided by some loud music, I cleared the living room, cleaned the floors, and put it all back together, making some adjustments for the new chair, which I also cleaned and conditioned. By the time I was done, pleased with the results, it was time to leave for a meeting.
It wasn't until Thursday morning that I first got to really use the chair and it was fabulous! I am so lucky that I found it and so happy that I overcame every obstacle to get it. I will use it every day I live in this house and I will be thankful that this wasn't another chair that got away.