As may have been apparent in The move, Japanese government offices are generally not very pretty. In fact, if you spend enough time looking at the walls, another Dilbert strip comes to mind.
I don't remember why we started thinking about making the walls of our office nice, but one day it just started to happen. Our dreams of painting the walls were however initially thwarted, and we were told to try to clean them. So we did. Cleaning decades of cigarette tar of the walls (thankfully, the building is now largely no-smoking) did however seem quite tough, so our hanchō figured, "I'm getting transferred anyway, as my last act of kindness I'm approving some paint for you guys".
The great renovation began, and after painting, cleaning, rehanging pictures, and rewiring the office (looks like that PhD is useful ;)), things looked a lot better. We impressed our Japanese colleagues with our can-do DIY spirit—and knowing tricks like vacuuming while drilling—, but we also made them laugh at us for running to the hardware store as often as we did. So hey, maybe we're not as good at planning absolutely every detail in advance, but we also began and finished a renovation and cleaning in three days. So there.