Open House Pt. 2

August 19, 2009

Our bedroom, windows to the south and west.

Our bedroom, windows to the south and west.

This is the second part of the open house, which is all photos of our second story. I apologize that the photos aren’t that great, I was running out of steam and often got a terrible shot. I thought about reshooting everything. However, I know myself well enough that I’d never get around to it, so in the spirit of moving forward, here’s the last few areas of the house!

Upstairs, the largest room is our bedroom, which has a lower ceiling than our last bedroom, and although larger, feels smaller because of it. Since the windows face east, we don’t get hit with sun in the morning, and the room stays bright in the evening. There’s nothing remarkably Japanese about it, other than the large, deep oshiire closet.

This is our little reading chair.

This is our little reading chair.

This chair is rather hard, and more frequently becomes a clothing receptacle, and we often curl up in other parts of the house to read, rather than sit here. Darrel suggested I jump on the cushion to soften it up. I’m trying to find a small area table to put my hidden Big Ben Moon Beam clock, which is sitting on the floor. A reading nook tends to need a small table and a lamp in order to function properly, but I’ll have to hunt down just the right ones.

My wardrobe, and the door leading into the upstairs hall.

My wardrobe, and the door leading into the upstairs hall.

The bedroom receives a lot of light, but we don’t spend much time in it except to sleep. I used to spend a lot of time reading in my bedroom as a kid, but all my efforts to encourage this seem destined for failure, as I wander off to fiddle with something in another room. The computer is largely the culprit.

Our bedroom affords a lovely view into the Kogawa's carport.

Our bedroom affords a lovely view into the Kogawa's carport.

Here’s the view onto the street from our south window. The street below is where our front door faces into, and you can spy on door-bell ringers from this vantage point. Other ex-pats have commented on this, but during the day, the door bell rings frequently. My first experience with this was during our first week a woman rang and I hopped out, expecting it was someone related to the move-in, like Tokyo Gas, etc. She balked a little when she saw I was foreign, but smiled and said she was offering cleaning services, and indicated a flyer. She had a satchel full of them. I asked her to wait a minute, but by the time I’d returned with shoes on, she’d vanished. I was a little offended at first, mostly because I was very sensitive to the constant avoidance, but I realized she was simply making her rounds and wasn’t really there to do anything besides greet people and stick stuff in mailboxes. Anyway, these rings come frequently enough now I find them annoying. We don’t have a peephole on the door, so you have to come out of hiding in order to see who’s at the door. Normally not a big issue, but I’d unfortunately given false hope to two Japanese Jehovah’s Witnesses, who handed me a Watch Tower and said they’d come back. Which, to my surprise they did, and somehow managed to keep Darrel stuck at the door for at least 10 minutes, and loaded us up with more literature. I felt bad because I think I’d been a little too nice when they first came, whereas I think Americans would have picked up on the classic “I’m not interested, but I’m not offended by your offer” politeness. I’m still having a hard time mastering Japanese body language, and common custom.

The shoe-box sized upstairs bathroom.

The shoe-box sized upstairs bathroom.

This really is a water “closet.” It seems claustrophobically small at first, but later you begin to realize it’s plenty of space. Another thing I may have not mentioned is the sink on top of the tank. When I first saw this fixture, I was living with my host family in Yokohama in 1997. I had a small feeling of disgust at the concept. This was probably due to my not fully understanding where the water came from, or how toilets worked in general, but I didn’t like the idea much. I overcame the feeling, though, and once I’d sussed it out, began to use it (albeit with a feeling of trepidation). The water comes straight from the pipe in the wall, and when you flush, the fresh water comes out through the tap for you to rinse your hands with, then drains down into the tank. This water then is used for the next flush, and so on. I’m over my toilet-sink fear, but am hesitant to use soap (I don’t know how it might affect the plumbing), which sort of defeats the point of the sink. I need to ask someone about it.

These glossy blue tiles are common in Japan.

These glossy blue tiles are common in Japan.

There’s two small windows in the bathroom areas which look directly at the Ebihara’s house, and my childish first thought was “You could climb out onto the roof from here!” Except the tiles are so slick you’d probably slide straight down and be dumped onto the promenade path. I’ve always loved these blue roof tiles, you seem them all over the country adding a splash of blue to the greenery. Somehow, they’re definitively Japanese to me.

The upstairs sink fixture.

The upstairs sink fixture.

This is similar, but newer, than the hi-tech sink fixture downstairs. It also has a mirror defogger and two “konseputo” or outlets. There are fewer electrical outlets and more gas outlets (even in bedrooms) in this house, so the sink comes pre-made with outlets and built-in lights. The basin is really large, you could easily make a baby bath there. This one is mostly mine, and Darrel sort of owns the one downstairs. Behind the mirrors are shelves and drawers, which have a sort of modular “space station” feel to them. These funky sinks seems omnipresent in the houses we viewed, but this house had new, clean, hardly used ones.

The Don Quixote kao-moji cup.

The Don Quixote kao-moji cup.

This really is just to feature a mug I found at Don Quixote, the famous 100 yen store. The cup has a kao-moji or “face symbol” which is Japan’s equivalent of “emoticons,” but due to the different glyph sets, they are able to type out some fairly elaborate expressions. They far way beyond the obsequious smiley faces we pepper our emails with here, and are a little more “cutesy” than the staple ones we use. This is a common expression, which some people think looks like either a dog or a pig. I used these things a lot when I had some Japanese chat friends online, and they are still very much in vogue for phone mail messages.

The perilously steep staircase.

The perilously steep staircase.

I can’t express how much I feel I will probably end up killing myself on this staircase. We saw a lot of narrow stair cases, but this one was the steepest and narrowest of them all. It’s easier to climb it on all fours. I have terribly balance when I wake up (I often smack into door frames, for example) and this doozy is right around the corner from the bedroom. Another Japanese space-saving device, the stairs here are steep. In one house I visited overnight during my homestay, a somewhat affluent family had a wooden staircase that folded down from the ceiling, almost treehouse style. It was the coolest thing, and I wish I’d been able to go up it.

The upstairs study.

The upstairs study.

This is the other “washitsu” room, although again the tatami were removed. It has shoji screens which cover a small alcove, which leads out into the balcony, and the door is so small Darrel has to duck to come inside. He’s bonked his head on it a few times. It also has sliding fusuma doors covering the oshiire closet, and the same wall paper as the downstairs washitsu room has. Darrel intends this room as a guest room, but we haven’t purchased a mattress or sleeper sofa for it yet. We’re hoping to get rid of the old sofa and get one of the slick-looking sleeper sofas we’ve priced around town.

DSCN0241

My desk.

My desk is in the corner here, and two large book cases are hidden behind the screens. Yes, hidden. Because they contain lots of comics. This room, above the living room, receives a lot of light in the morning because it has an east-facing window, and the balcony doors to the south let in tons of light. It has a nice view of the garden and the Tougi’s house, and the other window has a view of, er, the Takahashi’s windows. I tend to keep the curtain closed, but I notice nearly all our neighbors keep their draped closed, and many of them keep their typhoon shutters closed. I would imagine it would make a room feel like a subterranean bunker, but I’ve been told they do it on account of the heat. My first thought was that it was a privacy thing, but we’ll see when it becomes winter. A majority of the neighborhood is retirees, and I know that elderly persons often become light-sensitive, so it could be that, too.

The laundry poles.

The laundry poles.

Last, but not least, are the laundry poles. It would seem most everyone here prefers to hang-dry laundry, as both a mildew-fighting technique and as an energy saver. We’re finding that these days, electricity is not that expensive as they might have you think. Since Americans are paying more than ever for electricity, the old “electricity in Japan is astronomically expensive” is a little outdated, prices have sort of titled the scales into balance. In fact, our first bill has led us to believe that we may be paying less than in Hawaii, where we forked over as much as $350 a month. There are many different laundry gadgets, including huge clips for hanging out rugs and futons, which you seem to see every day, draped over balconies. We just have a set of four poles, with little hanging clothes pins, and large blue clips to hold the poles in place in case of winds. There are also several hanging gadgets, which can dry socks or hold clothes hangers. The white clips can clip a hanger to the pole, but we chucked all our plastic hangers and replaced them with wood ones a while ago.

There’s still several more areas of the house, mainly the exterior I’d like to include here. Hopefully, I’ll have time to shoot a neighborhood section, in addition to smaller posts.

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