David Chart's Japan Diary

October 12th 2003

Today's exciting new experience was... doing the laundry. Hey, everything is different over here, and deciphering a washing machine with Japanese instructions that they don't even think they've translated into English is not completely trivial. That's one of the reasons why I left my laundry until today -- I wanted to have enough time to figure the machine out. The other reason is that I have to hang my laundry on the balcony to dry, and it's a ground floor balcony. Not that there's really much risk; there can be very few Japanese who could wear my clothes.

The washing machine The washing machine, on the left, and the shelving I bought, on the right.
My laundry, hung out on Japanese laundry hanging out things. It's inside my balcony so it's covered if it rains.

The washing machine proved to be fairly simple in the end. It's a twin tub, with a slider for determining which side gets the water. On the washing side, I put the clothes in, fill it with water, add soap, and turn it on, waking up my neighbours. In the future, I think I'll start washing after 9am. (It wasn't much before, but still...) Then drain, refill, and rinse. Next, take the clothes out of that side and put them in the spin side. Switch the slider over, and run water through the spinner. Spin for about five minutes to thoroughly rinse. Turn the water off, and spin again for three minutes to dry the clothes. This is incredibly effective. Finally, hang the clothes out on various distinctively Japanese clothes-hanging-out things, and wait for them to dry completely. They should be dry by this evening.

(By the way, if anyone reading this realises that the way I am using my washing machine will void the warranty/damage my clothes/make it explode/bring an end to civilisation as we know it, please let me know. My Japanese reading is not yet perfect, by a long shot, so I may have something seriously wrong.)

Classes are going OK. I'm still struggling to keep up with the instructions, so I'm having to concentrate hard all through the lesson. I doubt I've made much progress in three days, but in three months of these sorts of classes, I believe I will make quite a lot of progress. At the vvery least, my listening comprehension should vastly improve.

Yesterday was all but entirely consumed with admin. I spent the morning continuing my efforts to fix my email, and I think I succeeded. However, I can't check until Tuesday (when this will be uploaded) to see whether I have. Here's hoping, anyway. After that, I had to withdraw some money from the Post Office ATM, which went very easily when I remembered to use the correct card and PIN combination. These ATMs are a fairly recent addition, and they're great -- they reliably take foreign-issued credit and debit cards, and will let you withdraw yen straight from your bank account.

Fortified with ready cash, I returned to my flat to pick up my big wheelie suitcase, which I then took back to Yamasa, and used to transport the second box shipped from the US back to my flat. It's pushing a mile, so I wanted wheels under a box full of books. Then I headed out again, this time to Seiyu, a shopping centre with a cheap furniture shop on the second floor. I bought some cheap furniture, and arranged to have it delivered here this afternoon.

I had dinner at Denny's, which serves a very Japanified menu, unsurprisingly, and isn't as cheap as some of the other places I've eaten. I probably won't be going back there any time soon, although it was more of a restaurant than the other places, and the service was correspondingly more obsequious.

I actually played Civilization III for a couple of hours in the evening, because my feet were sore and I felt a desperate need to unwind...

Oh yes, there was a party on Friday afternoon. Lots of loud people in a room where the only common language was Japanese... I didn't stay very long; I went up to the computer room to make further, ineffectual, attempts to get my email working.

I'm really hoping that next week there'll be some days when I don't need to go shopping. It takes about an hour, including time to walk to and from the shops, and assuming I know what I'm going for, so I can't afford to be doing that every day. I think I have just about everything I need for general supplies, so my shopping should be basically restricted to food from now on.

A Tour of My Flat

By popular demand, some photos of my flat, and a bit of description. These were taken just a few minutes ago, after all the new furniture had been delivered and I'd set it up, so this is the flat as I anticipate living in it for the next year. There isn't really space for more furniture, anyway.

My flat from the genkan A shot down the full length of my flat, taken standing in the genkan.
My flat from the balcony end Another shot down the full length of my flat, from the windows leading onto the balcony.

The shots of the whole flat give you some idea of its size. It's quite small, but not incredibly tiny by Japanese standards. The shot from the front door shows the edge of the washing machine, the shelving, the table, and the recycling centre on the left, before the doors through to the living room. The bathroom is just out of shot to the right, and the fridge and sink are in the alcove on the right. You can see the desk chair in the living room. I'm standing in the genkan, or entry way.

In the shot from the balcony windows you can see my bed and bookcase on the right, and the doors to my wardrobe on the left. The string in the middle of the picture is the pull cord for the light, setting it to off, four strips on, or two strips on. (It's a fluorescent light.) In the background, the bathroom door is slightly open so that you can see where it is, and the bright rectangle is part of the window over the front door.

The nicely organised genkan The genkan, with the shoe rack just visible behind the coat pole.

The genkan is now quite organised, with a rack for my shoes and a pole hanger for coats and bags. I bought both of these, because I was sick of coming home to loads of shoes crammed together on the floor of the genkan and bags and coats scattered on the floor of the flat. The first time I got home after putting these up, it felt so much nicer to walk into the flat.

My recycling centre The recycling centre in my flat, with my new table and chair on the left.

The kitchen has a fridge and sink, provided by Yamasa, on one side, and on the other, the washing machine, also provided by the school, a set of shelves, a table, and a recycling centre, the latter all bought by me from Nitori, upstairs in Seiyu. The recycling centre has four bins, two to a unit, with separate lids. From left to right, they are for 'kami' (packaging paper and light card), 'pura' (packaging plastics), 'moeru gomi' (combustible rubbish) and 'moenai gomi' (incombustible rubbish). There are various days for setting these out in different places for collection, and each kind of rubbish has its own special kind of bag, which must be used. I've now got the full set that I need. You can just see a couple of PET bottles by the bins; I'm not likely to generate any more of these, so I'm planning to just take them into school and drop them into the PET bins there. I'm also supposed to take corrugated cardboard, such as that from the bozes the furniture came in, to the local recycling scheme. However, I've not been told any details, and unless I can find them out quickly, I'm just going to fold the boxes flat and put them in moeru gomi.

The bathroom My bathroom. Fascinating, isn't it.

As you can see from this picture, the bathroom is very small. The toilet is just out of shot to the bottom left, but you can see almost all of the bath. It's a Japanese bath, designed for sitting rather than lying. So far, I've only used the shower. Despite its small size, the bathroom has proved to be very good. The only problem I've noticed is that it shows dirt very clearly, so I'm going to have to clean it lots. It's basically a single plastic unit, which I guess is a large part of the reason for that.

My desk and television The desk and television, both provided by Yamasa.

The desk, lamp, and television were all provided by Yamasa, but I bought the file trays myself. They came from the 100 yen shop, so it was 100 yen per tray. It's my day off today, so there isn't Japanese homework spread all over the desk.

So far, I like the flat. It's quite a walk to the school, and I still haven't decided whether I want to get a bike. On the other hand, it's generally fairly quiet, except when my upstairs neighbour is moving vigorously, and it's large enough. I still don't have the kitchen sorted out entirely to my satisfaction, but I think I will be able to manage that fairly easily, with perhaps a couple more things from the 100 yen shop. It isn't big enough to accommodate visitors, which is a shame but not really surprising, but if I buy some more (folding) chairs it is big enough to teach in, once I have my permission to work.

I bought a new compact flash card for the camera, and it seems to be working much more reliably now, so I'll take some pictures of the school and Okazaki in general and write up tours of those places in the next couple of weeks or so.