Friday, June 4, 2010

Kyotaku is Where the Kokoro Is

Welcome to our house!

Just inside the front door, we take off our shoes. House slippers are optional. The doorway on the left is to the tatami room, straight ahead is the living room, the hallway to the kitchen is to the right.

The tatami room can be used as a guest room, and it is where Japanese families keep the shrine to their ancestors, if they have one. There is an inset area in the wall for a scroll...we might get one, but it's a pretty low priority right now. The rice paper door leads to the back yard, and there is a sliding glass door as well. Also a storm door of sliding corrugated aluminum.

This room smells like hay. I don't mind at all, but I don't know what people do if they're allergic to the grass used in the mats.

Living room...when our household goods arrive, the computers and desks will be in that empty spot.

Around the corner to the left is the door to the wee back yard.


That sink is enormous, and there's tons of counter space, but the upper cabinets are very, very high.

I'm going to need a ladder to reach anything up there; the bottom of the cabinet is at forehead height.

Under the sink is some storage space and a rice dispenser. It wheels out on a track and you pour a big bag of rice inside, then choose how many servings you want and it dumps that amount into the drawer at the bottom.

The dishwasher is smaller than any I have seen before, but we have one.

This is our oven.
It's a fish griller; people typically don't have actual ovens.

Under the fish griller is storage space, presumably for pots and pans.

We're using this drawer as a spice rack and an I-don't-know-what-to-put-here-yet space. I don't know what it's intended for.

The picture came out sideways, but it's under-floor storage in the middle of the kitchen. Not sure yet what we're going to keep in it.

The upper box controls the hot water; we turn it on when we need it (before showering or washing dishes) and off when we don't. There are buttons to control the water temperature, draw a bath, disconnect this box with the temperature control next to the tub, adjust the volume of the disembodied voice that occasionally speaks to you (I don't know enough Japanese to know what it says), and one to reheat cold tub water.

The lower box is the video doorbell/intercom.

This is the utility room or airlock to the furoba.

We are also fortunate enough to have both a washer and dryer. Most Japanese have a washing machine but not a dryer, so every house has a balcony for air-drying clothes and linens.

Doing laundry is going to be interesting.

This is a timer dial for the heat/vent in the furoba. I'm told that it gets used more in the summer than other times of the year because the humidity is incredibly high and nobody likes mold.

Furoba literally means bathroom, but in the sense of the room with the bath, not the room with the toilet. On the left is the tub with a cover over it. The custom as I understand it is to shower and clean oneself outside the tub before soaking in the bath. Bathwater is also drawn once and each member of the household takes a turn. The cover is to keep the water warm and keep soap or dirt from getting in it while someone is showering.

Personal observation: it is really odd to take a shower next to a tub.

At convenient sitting-in-the-tub height is the other water temperature control box. This one has an override button (so someone in the kitchen can't decide the water temperature for you), the button to reheat the water, a volume control, and a button that has been described as the Get Me a Beer Button. If you press it, the kitchen intercom shouts out a message that is probably "someone in the bath needs something" but I don't know exactly what it says.

Returning to the front door (left), there is a downstairs toire and the staircase.

The lock has a neat little color bar that switches to red when it's locked. It's a silly little thing to get excited about, but I like having a visual indicator that it's occupied. This would be a really nice thing to have in the US, especially during (loud) parties (where alcohol is consumed).

The downstairs toilet (with robot friend, although not one of the more complicated ones).

One of the buttons is a mystery, the other controls the seat temperature, the dial controls how vigorous the bidet water flow is, and the lever is for activating the bidet.

There is a sink in the tank. I'm told it's for hand rinsing. I feel a little weird about washing my hands with no soap, but I don't know if installing a dispenser somewhere is a good idea or not. Would it cause problems for someone using the bidet? Would it muck up the inner workings of the toilet? I've never considered the potential consequences of soap in a toilet tank before.

Up the stairs we go!

There are a LOT of windows in this house. I love all the natural light.

The second floor.

Next to the stairs is a sink. I'm sure this will be handy, but I haven't figured out exactly why. All our getting-ready stuff make more sense in the downstairs sink, the one that is the most readily available after showering in the morning.

And to the left you can see the upstairs toire.

It looks like it used to have a window, but that can't possibly be the case. The master bedroom is on the other side of that wall.

We have a skylight, which is ultra cool because it is opened and closed by buttons on the wall. This will be very easy to open and forget about until it rains.

The master bedroom has more space between the foot of the bed and the closet than I know what to do with. I don't really want or need any furniture here, so I guess we'll just keep it open for a dance party or a yoga class or something.

The two doors on the left and the two doors on the right are regular closets, the two doors in the middle have shelves and slide-out baskets.

Big window looks directly across the street into the neighbor's upstairs.

Across the room from the big window is the balcony door.

The balcony.

The view from the balcony.
Just magical.

The attic! Yes, this is worth showing.

The stairs fold down like any other attic stairs, but this is the first top-of-house crawlspace I've ever been in that has been wallpapered, floored, and has a light switch to a functioning fluorescent light.

It's hot and stuffy, but it's actually quite a nice little space.

That bright spot is the skylight; I think it's kind of neat that the attic isn't completely enclosed.

This concludes our tour. Any questions?


  1. 1. Maybe it's because there aren't really any belongings in there yet, but it looks a lot bigger than I'd expected! I was expecting futuristic-tiny.
    2. I love that it came with a rice dispenser.
    3. I think it's entertaining that before you left you had post-its all over your house with words in Japanese, and now you have post-its with English on some things in your new place.
    4. So, if you don't stand in the tub, do you just stand in the middle of the bathroom to shower? Is there a drain in the floor or something? How do you keep from getting everything wet?
    5. I can't believe I *just* figured out how to comment here.

  2. I can't get over having no oven. I guess the Japanese don't make casseroles or cookies or meat loaf or roasts.(?)Will you miss it?

  3. Karen:
    1. It's a big house! It's about the size of the place we had in Arlington, and we have two empty bedrooms. I kind of feel bad for having too much space in a country where space is at a premium, but it's really hard to find a one or two bedroom house.

    2. I didn't know the rice dispenser until I asked someone what it was, so it was a pleasant surprise.

    3. Ha! I totally didn't realize that until you said it.

    4. There is a drain in the floor next to the tub, and yes, you just stand in the middle of the room to shower. Everything gets wet. Well, less so if you don't treat the shower head like a lasso like this one guy I know...I guess it depends how much fun you're having.

    We can make probably six cookies at a time, and the 100 yen shop sells trays for the fish grillers that I assume are cookie trays. I, personally, will not miss meatloaf.

    We have a slow cooker for roasts, and we're looking into getting a convection oven the size of our microwave, but we can only find toaster ovens. We still won't be able to do a Thanksgiving turkey, but I don't imagine that's a big holiday here.

  4. ElizabethJune 08, 2010

    The hard candies are lychee flavored. Had those before... :-)