As most of you know by now, when I taught in Japan, I lived in a small rural town. My apartment wasn’t new, but it was small and comfortable enough for one person. Unfortunately, I don’t have as many pictures of the apartment as I would like if only because I procrastinated and then forgot all about taking photos of the rooms. So you’ll have to use your imagination for some of the descriptions I provide.
Stepping Into the Apartment
In the image above, you can see half of my apartment. The box on the door held whatever mail was delivered through my mail slot, but I also had a small mailbox at the front of the apartment. The cupboards beside the door were probably meant to hold shoes and such, but I stored large cookware, empty boxes, and so on inside of them.
You might be able to make out the tops of my tennis shoes. That area is called the genkan in Japanese, and you can think of it as a miniature foyer. Its tile floor a step down from the wooden floor of the apartment, and it is where all shoes are put on and taken off. The Japanese make a clear distinction between “inside” and “outside”, so outside shoes are traded for indoor ones, typically slippers. Those slippers could be kept in the cupboard or on the apartment floor near the genkan for use inside the house. However, as I wasn’t a stickler for this genkan culture in my own apartment and didn’t even own slippers, I often wore socks, went barefoot, or even walked on the apartment floors with my shoes. (Shh. Tell no one.)
In the above image, the kitchen is on the left. You can see the short fridge/freezer and the microwave on top of it. Hidden behind that is a kitchenette. I was woefully disappointed when I first saw this. I like to cook, but the counter space was nonexistent–just room for a dish rack for when I did dishes. I wasn’t used to this, but I soon learned to prep there or on the “dining room” table.
There was no oven, only a two-burner gas stove, which I had never used before. The gas stove had a small broiler as well, just a bit longer and wider than my hand with my fingers outstretched. I successfully baked a couple of desserts in there, but the rest didn’t turn out, so I quit trying. My friend bought a toaster oven, but I never broke down and did that. My microwave claimed to have all sorts of similar functions, but I didn’t dare try it.
Other features: drawers and cupboards for storage, but no dishwasher, which was fine with me. You can see in the image that there are two trash bins. They were for recycling plastics and white styrofoam. I also had a bin for regular “burnable” trash. Japan recycles differently than in the United States. Here, it’s optional, but my family recycles anyway (cans, glass, and plastic, primarily). In Japan, if I didn’t recycle properly, they wouldn’t pick up the items. They had clearly marked bags for different recyclables, and I had to break down milk cartons and tie them a certain way, just as I had to tie cardboard boxes and newspapers a certain way. As each town does recycling differently, I won’t go into it any further.
This will be the final “room” I’ll talk about in this post. I’ll save the rest of the apartment for next time.
I call it the “dining room” only because it has the single table in the apartment and is beside the kitchen. In the image, you can see the table right at the front, and all the floor space is the “dining room”.
All my main furniture and appliances were provided with the apartment or left behind by the previous tenants. This included the table, bookcase, fridge, microwave, and futon (mattress, basically, which I’ll talk about next time). Everything else, like my rice cooker I bought on my own or with my friend. (We shared a printer, which stayed in my apartment.) I opted to leave my rice cooker there for the next person to use, but my friend took hers back to the States with her.
I rearranged the furniture (the table and the bookcases) a couple of times. At one point, I had the table sticking out into the room so I could sit on either side, but ultimately the table ended up pushed against the wall. It took up less space there, and as I rarely had company, losing a side of seating wasn’t an issue. The tall bookcase ended up where you see it in the picture. I kept important documents, textbooks, and my printer there. The small bookcase never moved, and there I kept things like bug spray. (We had large fly-like insects getting into our apartments all the time.)
At the right of the image, you can see the sliding door that separated the “dining room” from my bedroom. You can also see the doorway to the bathroom. I’ll talk about both of those in the next post.