Living Space

My apartment in Japan consists of a hallway, in which there is a washing machine, a small refrigerator (it comes up to about my waist), a microwave, a sink, and a range. There is no oven, and no counter space of any kind. There’s a separate room which has my bed, two chairs, a small table, a closet, and a small tv. This is my bedroom and main living area, meaning if I had people over, I’d be entertaining them in my bedroom. Most Japanese apartments have separate rooms for these things, with thin, sliding doors  in between. I’m just lucky I guess. The fortunate thing is that my apartment is smaller and thus cheaper to heat and cool, and seems to be better insulated. There’s a WC (watercloset…British, meaning, a room with just a toilet) and a bathroom.

The bathroom contains a tub which is deeper but shorter in length than western tubs, and a shower head that can be placed low or high. “High” here meaning that if I was 5’10” instead of 5’8”, I’d need to do a back bend to wash my hair. The entire bathroom is designed to get wet. There’s a drain in the tub and on the floor, and traditionally, no shower curtain is used. I bought a shower curtain, but because the shower area is quite small, it seems to just get in the way. I’ll probably end up throwing it out.

People don’t use dryers in Japan. In fact, the concept seems to be a bit alien. When I told Hiromi, a native Japanese woman, that in the US everyone uses dryers, she was very surprised. This means that they’ve come up with…laundry mobiles, essentially. Which allow them to hang many pieces of laundry out to dry in a small space. Also, my bathroom fan has a normal “vent” mode, but it also has a heater mode, a cool air mode, a whole house circulation mode, and a dryer mode. So if it’s raining, I can hang my wet laundry on my shower rod, turn on “dryer mode” and dry my clothes in my bathroom. There’s also a timer on the fan in the bathroom which allows me to set if for 30 minutes, 1, 2, or 3 hours.

The walls are made of paper. Thick layers of pressed paper hodge-podged (or…something) together. I bought a shelf at the 100 yen shop which is designed to be held up with push pins…I set it up, and it can hold a surprising amount of weight. Something in grams or kilograms, according to the package…but that meant fuck all to me. I can’t tell you in metric or pounds, but I certify that this shelf can hold a decent amount of make-up, a substantial glass perfume bottle, and some earrings. And yes, that’s an official unit of measurement.

Oddly enough, even though the walls are paper-thin (HA. GET IT.) I barely hear my neighbors at all…only when they turn on the shower or something like that. I’m not sure if this is because the sound insulation is actually decent…or because the Japanese are so quiet and considerate.

Futon mats or mattresses….ungodly uncomfortable. The mat which was given to me was about 2 inches thick. Luckily it was coupled with a mattress topper that was about an inch and a half thick. So my first nights…after 18 consecutive hours of neck cramping, I slept on a piece of hard wood with 3.5 inches of fabric on top of it. NOT. COMFORTABLE. Americans are used to ten inch mattresses on top of ten inch  boxsprings on top of 20 inch tall bed frames. Meaning YOU are 40 inches from a piece of solid, hard wood. I am 3.5 inches. So I bought a second futon mattress…giving me a squishy 5.5 inches before solid wood. Still takes adjusting.

You have to take off your shoes entering any home in Japan, and some other spaces too (for instance, some classrooms). My floors are not tatami (finely woven bamboo[?] mats), but they’re really nicely finished wood, so it’s still a socks or barefoot only rule. So far it seems like you keep your shoes on when you go into stores or malls, and sometimes when you go into restaurants. The elementary school I went to today required you to take off your shoes when you entered the building, and it provided slippers for you to wear around the school instead.


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