SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan -- As Mamiko Takishima conducts housing occupancy inspections for U.S. Army Garrison Japan, she methodically checks everything, right down to the little handle on the back side of the laundry room door.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, about five years,” Takishima said during an inspection here March 12. “So I [know] where I’m supposed to check and make sure the water doesn’t leak, make sure the lights are working and the [air conditioning] is working.”
Takishima is one of four inspectors the garrison employs to ensure all on-post housing is safe, clean and comfortable, said Ben Ingram, a supervisory engineering technician who works for the garrison’s Housing Division within the Directorate of Public Works and is in charge of the inspection program.
Housing units undergo several inspections in between occupants, said Ingram, who also pitches in to conduct inspections when everyone else on the team is busy.
When occupants move out, inspectors do a preliminary inspection to see what occupants will have to fix before the final move-out, Ingram said, and then inspectors meet with occupants again for a final termination inspection.
Then, contractors who will fix up the unit meet with housing representatives to see what work they will have to do before someone new moves in, Ingram said.
“Even if you’ve taken as good care as you can, there’s still going to be wear and tear, and we owe it to the next [resident] to get it as close to new as we can,” Ingram said.
After contractors finish the work, inspectors return and do an occupancy inspection to make sure the contractors completed the work correctly, the unit is in good condition and someone can move in, Ingram said.
Finally, once customers have settled on a unit, customers walk through with inspectors to make sure everything is up to standard, Ingram said.
Takishima and her fellow inspectors, however, do their best to ensure everything is up to snuff before that final inspection with the customer.
During Takishima’s inspection to determine whether unit 132-08B was ready for a new occupant, she carefully checked, among other items, the unit’s lights, running water, appliances, heat and air conditioning and whether doors and screens worked.
Takishima also let the water in all the faucets run for several minutes to make sure none of the pipes leaked, and saw that not only was the storage area clean, but the trash and recycling bins inside were clean as well.
In addition, Takishima noted in a walk around the unit that workers had heeded her request to trim the tops of trees next to the unit so branches and other debris would not fall onto the roof and into the rain gutters.
Takishima said one of the most satisfying aspects of her job is move-in inspections, where she gets to meet customers and help them as they move into their new homes.
Tomoko Sako, a housing inspector for USAG Japan for seven months, said that is one of her favorite parts of the job as well.
“Seeing people happy, smiling [and] moving into a new house is a really great experience,” Sako said.
Sako said she also likes helping U.S. service members and other personnel feel comfortable in Japan.
“When you live in the [United States] or it’s your home country, you feel comfortable living there, but when you come overseas, you don’t know anybody, you don’t know the culture,” Sako said. “… We like to provide a nice, warm, comfortable environment.”
Ingram said the garrison’s inspection team conducts thorough inspections, but also keeps in mind that customers want to move in as soon as possible.
“The name of the game is to make people as comfortable when they get here as we can, as quickly as we can,” Ingram said.