Open House Pt. 1

August 12, 2009

Okay, so here’s the virtual tour of our new house. It might take some time to load on slower connections, there’s a lot of photos. Enjoy!

Our Kitchen

Our Kitchen

Notice how the sink and counter is entirely metal, rather than plastic, tile, or stone. When house-viewing, we found every house had that feature. You can also barely see the little trap doors beneath the island, which is a floor pantry for dry goods. We put MREs in there for fun (okay, for typhoon season actually).

Cupboard

New cupboard... but we couldn't find the doors to go with it at Ikea...

My mismatched dishes are no longer hidden away in a cockroach-ridden cupboard, but on nice display and within easy reach. Having room is really nice.

The elaborate garbage sorting center

The elaborate garbage sorting center.

We’ve been pretty quick to get with the garbage sorting program, which is one of those touchy subjects when foreign neighbors move in. The reason, often overlooked, for this is because someone’s house has to be sacrificed as the garbage location for the block. Each block has its own trash cage and net, to keep raccoons and crows away. Someone also has to be the person to set up the cage and net. If you make a mistake, the garbage men put a label on your bag and leave. Imagine how you’d feel if you came home to find a sack of trash left in front of your house because someone was too lazy to wash it. Pretty steamed, I’d bet. A lot of foreigners complain about being scrutinized or reported as prejudicial behavior on the part of the neighbors, but it’s pretty easy to tell foreign trash, since it’s filled with stuff you can’t buy locally.

The garbage sorting calender alongside my kitchen calender. Yikes.

The garbage sorting calender alongside my kitchen calender. Yikes.

I still don’t have the days memorized, and the little piece of yellow paper is filled with a tiny list of what goes where. It’s sorted into burnables, non-burnables, bottles and cans, and plastics. The only stuff that goes to the landfill is non-burnables. So far, in two months we’ve only produced a bag of landfill trash the size of a soccer ball. That’s not a lot of landfill space, especially compared with how much recyclable waste I’ve had to throw out because there was no recycling program where I lived in NYC.

The little cactus family above my sink.

The little cactus family above my sink.

I have big plans for our decrepit-looking yard, but so far these are the only plants I have. Our yard is probably the shame of the neighborhood, heh.

Our tiny laundry room, complete with miniature washer and dryer.

Our tiny laundry room, complete with miniature washer and dryer.

The laundry room is actually one of my favorite rooms. The soft light that comes in is very peaceful, and it stays an even temperature.  It’s off camera, but to the right is a small door that leads to the back of the house, and has a small foot well in front of it. The back of our house actually faces the neighborhood garden promenade, so we seldom use this door, and do not store anything outside of it.

The would-be tatami room, complete with fusuma (sliding doors), shoji (paper door screens) and oshiire (futon closets).

The would-be washitsu (Japanese room), complete with fusuma (sliding doors), shoji (paper door screens) and oshiire (futon closets).

This room we don’t use a particularly great deal, the tatami floor had been removed because the previous tenants had dogs. They also had covered the brand-new wood flooring with carpet, which was so ugly that I didn’t want to take the house at first, until I discovered the carpets were essentially large rugs that could be pulled up, revealing beautiful wood flooring beneath. Lots of homes in Japan have one washitsu room, a few we saw had a couple. In fact, we have another washitsu room upstairs.

Hanging screens to add some texture to some blank wall space.

Hanging screens to add some texture to some blank wall space.

These screens were pretty inexpensive (although required some effort and planning to assemble). Ever since I gave up pinning band posters to walls after college as my only form of wall decoration, I’ve never really collected much in the way of framed pictures. I don’t like buying pictures of stuff that don’t have a personal meaning, like framed pictures of river rocks from a place I never went, etc. But these screens seemed fun, so we grabbed two.

A view out into our garden.

A view out into our garden.

You can see out into the garden, and although the sunlight is obscuring it, there is a small wooden ledge right outside of the doors which you can sit on. It’s a little weather-beaten (most of the outside of the house is a little worse for wear) but it still will be a nice little perch when the weather permits opening the windows. The étagère shelf in actually in what was probably the tokonoma, or display alcove. The raised ledge was probably removed when the house was remodeled, but it’s very clear what it was for. I’d like to add a light above the shelf to help re-establish the space as a display space. The idea the previous tenants may have used the space to put a dresser bugs me a little, but it also bugs me when a fish knife is used instead of a fruit knife. Frank Lloyd Wright compared the tokonoma to the fireplace in Western homes, and that thought is comforting to me for some reason.

Our living room, which is connected to the kitchen.

Our living room, which is connected to the kitchen.

One thing I always hated about our old place was that the kitchen was tiny, dark, and filthy. Plus, it was blocked off from the living room by a low partition wall, meaning you could not see the other person, or watch the TV. It made cooking sort of like a chore rather than a social activity. I really enjoy being able to watch the goings-on in the living from this kitchen.

A sad portion of my library; most of my books at in storage at my Mom's.

A sad portion of my library; most of my books are in storage at my Mom's.

I think I have something like 30 (or was it 60?) boxes of books back at my Mom’s in New Mexico. One of these days, we’ll have enough space to shelve them, but I always worry they’re going to be terribly damaged by the time I get them out of storage. I have a lot of trash reading, but I swear there’s a respectable library packed away (this is actually a source of embarrassment and guilt for me).

More of the living room, which I am hoping to get a rug for.

More of the living room, which I am hoping to get a rug for.

Just the entertainment center. There is a Wii Fit stashed under the couch. I sort of don’t like to spend time in this room because it feels too “open.” I think an area rug and some floor pillows would warm it up immensely. Darrel’s shot down all my rug choices so far, darn him. I also tried to get a funny picture on the TV, but no luck. I don’t know about Darrel, but I really enjoy Japanese TV. I watch a lot of Space Shower, which is a satellite music video channel that, gasp, actually plays music videos.

This is the biggest room in the house, Darrel's desk is also here.

This is the biggest room in the house, Darrel's desk is also here.

The washitsu room is actually right next to the living room, but you have to go into the hall to get inside. It’d be cool if they were connected, but they aren’t. I think Darrel likes having his desk down here because he can rock out on Guitar Hero with total abandon, and I can hide from the racket upstairs.

If you look outside this door...

If you look outside this door...

I should have moved the Guitar Hero junk, but I already did quite a bit of “interior design magazine” tidying up. Normally our house is way more strewn with magazines and dirty pajama pants.

...you can see our tiny little box car.

...you can see our tiny little box car.

Yes, this is our ridiculous little Nissan Cube.  I should also mention squeezing this already-tiny car into this tiny parking space requires a co-pilot, two air traffic controllers, and a guy with a pair of light sticks. Once you get it in past the gate, there’s room to move around it.

This the entraceway, or genkan.

This the entrance way, or genkan.

Although this picture is flattering, our genkan isn’t one of the more attractive ones I’ve seen. The shoe cupboard is in dire need of replacement, and made horrible squeaking noises until I used a bar of soap to wax down the doors (an old trick my Mom taught me for squeaky wood drawers). So far we haven’t run into the house with shoes on, but we do run out the front door in bare feet, and also put on our shoes in a sloppy fashion. Japanese folks are really careful not to touch the floor with socks or bare feet at all, and do this sort of shuffling back-up to the ledge, slip the shoes off and then carefully hop up onto the floor. Darrel and I never wear shoes at home, so this wasn’t much of an adaptation. I just hate cleaning dirty floors. Another odd development is that Darrel loves house slippers and I tend not to.

The shoe cupboard, or getabako.

The shoe cupboard, or getabako.

I had to Photoshop most of these photos, but none so much as this one. The color of the wood is really garish and ugly, so I fiddled with the hue and saturation until it was the color I wished it was.  On the other hand, this shoe box is really a nice way to keep shoes from piling up in a heap at the corner of the door, like we used to do.

Our not-so-fancy toilet. As funky as this thing gets is a seat warmer.

Our not-so-fancy toilet. As funky as this thing gets is a seat warmer.

Here's the sink, which is a sort of neat contraption. The mirrors have defoggers.

Here's the sink, which is a sort of neat contraption. The mirrors have defoggers.

The bathroom is the last room downstairs, and is actually a really nice area. It’s super new and clean, so that even areas behind the  toilet (which were nightmare zones in our last place) are sparkling. It gets a lot of natural light, similar to the laundry room, and it faces north onto the garden promenade, and shaded by the trees growing along the path.

Our bathroom! This is another room which gets really nice natural light.

Our bathroom! This is another room which gets really nice natural light.

I’ve actually only taken one or two baths in here, I mostly use the hand shower. It’s really nice being able to just sit down and leisurely clean your face, shave, scrub, etc. The shower stool and basin are actually from MUJI.

The tub is a newer model, which is not only big enough for two people, but it's deep.

The tub is a newer model, which is big enough for two people, and it's deep.

Here you can see how deep it is, there's a little seat too.

Here you can see how deep it is, there's a little seat too.

Yes, the lovely tub! One evening I actually found Darrel in here with the lights off, and he said he’d suddenly become paranoid people could see him through the window, so I had to go outside and check (you totally can’t see anything)! I have some little cherry blossom decorations on the window, which are sort of hard to see here, but look really cute up close.

This bizarre little control panel runs the bath tub.

This bizarre little control panel runs the bath tub.

It’s blurry, I know. I’m having a hard time with my new camera. This panel, and one almost exactly like it in the kitchen, controls the hot water level and temperature for the house. It also automatically fills the tub, and an automated woman’s voice announces when the tub is ready. You can turn her off, but I enjoy yelling at her. Some people have tubs that they can fill from work or the car on their cellphones. I’m sure to be using the tub more in winter.

Yes, everything is in Japanese, even the TV guide.

Yes, everything is in Japanese, even the TV guide. Argh.

So, this is all for now! I’ll be doing our upstairs next, but this post has already taken me three hours to complete because of the amount of time I have to take in Photoshop correcting all these too-dark photos. It’s bright as the dickens in here, so I was appalled my 60-some photos made the place look like a dark rat’s nest. At any rate, the next set should be up in a day or two.

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5 Responses to “Open House Pt. 1”

  1. Mommy said

    Oh. My. God. Your place is so beautiful! This is just about the coolest first-real-house-for-a-young-couple that I’ve ever seen, in or out of a magazine. Can’t wait to see the upstairs!

    P.S. This is really an interesting blog. Hope you are OK after the most recent earthquake, heard one person was killed.

    Love you very much, Mommy

    • ellydishes said

      Heh heh! Well, it’s mostly due to Photoshop (oh, how I love thee, Adobe) but I am so tickled you think it’s funky. Some of the shots don’t really capture how comforting and airy some of the spaces are, and other do the ugly parts too much justice… Next time I’ll be posting about the neighborhood, if I can just manage to take photos without looking like I’m casing the neighborhood for a heist…

  2. Kate said

    Elly! I love it! The post was very informative; I don’t know much about Japanese housing. I didn’t know they were that obsessive about trash but it makes sense.

    Sounds like a world of difference from your last place, I’m so happy for you and Darryl.

    • ellydishes said

      It’s really heaven. It’s the first place since I moved away from Tuscon that I’ve really been happy in, and it’s super-cool being back in Japan.

  3. Darrel said

    My pajama pants are not dirty!

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