19 September 2013

A Tour of Our Japanese Apartment

As I type this, I'm standing at my kitchen counter, and movers are bustling around me. Almost all our furniture is out of here, including my grandmother's 1940s sofa that barely fit out the hallway (it's so long -- eeps!). The relocation company estimated a day and a half to pack, but I'm betting they are done in under seven hours (UPDATE: It took 6). I have "Stay" stickers on my computer and on my shoes, just to make sure they don't get boxed up in the whirlwind. Our bags are packed for 45 days in hotel, and they also have "Stay" stickers on them, stacked up in the shower room. The transport company will be here to pick them up at noon, shuffling them up to Tokyo's Narita airport, where we fly out on Friday. We'll meet them there, right before we check in, so we can take the train carrying only small rolley-bags, nice and light. Japan does urban efficiency just so well.

our apartment building

People warned us that Japanese moving companies were unreal: so careful, so detailed oriented, so precise. They would cut boxes to fit your belongings, people said, and lay mats on the ground and tape cardboard to the walls before they even begin. All of this is totally true, but I just didn't expect them to be so fast on top of it all. We are flying, you guys.

With our sweet home all dismantled, I thought I'd give a tour of what it was like while we lived here. I'm always cautious around showing too much of our home to the world wide web, so while I've posted some photos here and there, I've held off on too many until we left. Since I snapped them hours before we began to dismantle, our home is oh-so-not staged. Food jars are empty but not washed, and the bed is kind of more wrinkled than I remember. I swear I thought I dusted. Judge not too harshly, internet.

Our apartment in Nagoya was about the same size as our place back in Seattle (700 sq. ft-ish). Only instead of a 1920s brick building, we moved into a 2008 high rise with all the latest technological advances for earthquakes and typhoons. Even with the speaker system and the camera that allowed you to see who was buzzing your apartment, I was mostly impressed with the way the drawers opened and shut so easily compared to our old kitchen. Charm and quirk are one thing, but I've since become a sucker for the straight lines and efficient insulation of new(er) construction.

Apartment buildings here do not have pools, workout rooms, or other amenities that places in the States sometimes have, but our place had sweet bike parking, and our location was killer, right next to a huge park and a 10-minute walk away from everything. If you find yourself moving to Nagoya, I would highly recommend the Fushimi & Sakae areas. You can't lose.

Apartments in Japan are specified as LDK + number of rooms (LDK means living, dining, & kitchen). We lived in a LDK + 1, which is basically a one-bedroom. Apartments are sized by the number of tatami mats that would cover the floor. These mats are the woven-grass flooring found in traditional houses. New houses often have a tatami room, but ours, unfortunately, did not. They're so comfortable to lounge in.

[Digression: My friend had a tatami room with a table hidden in the floor. You pressed a button, and the table would rise up about a foot and a half. You'd sit at it with your legs dangling down in the cutaway section (think of a sushi restaurant in the States). The table also had an heating element under the table, kotatsu-style, to keep you warm in the winter. If that's not badass, I don't know what is.]

While our place was LDK + 1, our dining room had retractable pocket doors, so we could close off the entire apartment into three rooms, or have it wide open so we could see our living room from our bedroom. It was a big square that we could break down into smaller areas should we need for guests, for privacy, for heating and cooling. This allowed us to use our dining room as a second bedroom when guests visited, or keep it more open concept when we were just hanging out. A fantastic use of space, and the only downside was the lack of noise and light blocking that pocket doors inherently have.

We had a large balcony, and like most in this country, it's pretty utilitarian -- meant for hanging laundry, not have dinner. The thick, high concrete walls prevented any viewing while you were sitting down, but I did love to have coffee or a glass of wine, standing up. As a bonus, if you were out at 8am, the workers at the all-glass-window office building across the street did their morning stretching routing, and you had a prime viewing spot. Floors of matching salarymen doing toe touches and arm crosses: I got a kick of out it for two years straight.

As I told you about before, our apartment was fairly western, but it did have the Japanese toilet and shower room. So efficient. My long ramble on toilets is still one of the most popular posts on Jackson Riley.

Our galley kitchen was semi-open, with a cut-out section above the sink. Kitchens in Japan come with one wall (at least) totally blank. You have to supply your own counter or storage unit, along with your own appliances. Yup, when we moved in, our place had no lights, no fridge, no air conditioner or heater, no washer dryer. It did have a fish grill about the size of a college textbook, which I had no idea what to do with. We furnished our kitchen with my favorite appliance, a fantastic Toshiba fridge, and a standalone IKEA kitchen storage cart that I could not be happier with (similar to this, but bigger and without wheels). Opting to maximize our counter space, I skipped the microwaved / oven combo and stuck it out with our toaster.

Why yes, our sponge IS in the shape of a frog.
I may not have ever really cleaned the outside of this sucker (in case that's not obvious). Sumimasen.

Overall, we loved our little apartment and found it the perfect size for two people. We would have liked a fully separate second bedroom, and a glass barrier on the balcony, instead of concrete, but there's not much else we would have changed. (Okay, okay, I would have sprung for a more powerful convection toaster oven). If we ever do a remodel or build a house, we really want incorporate some of the features we loved (Pocket doors! Separate WC! Shoe closet! Foyer! Kitchen drawers, not kitchen cupboards! Self-filling bathtub with an automatic temperature detector!)

So we're saying goodbye, which always is easier the more empty it becomes. We'll be checking in to the Marriott, our home away from home, soon. Then Tokyo. Then Seattle. さよなら, 日本,  especially to our dear, sweet home. We only will have fond memories.

Okay, maybe we won't miss the complicated trash system. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave a comment, unless you're a troll or a bully, in which case I will delete you so fast...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...