In the previous post, I talked about the foyer (genkan), kitchen, and dining room of my apartment. In this post, I’ll tell you about the bathroom, laundry room, and bedroom. Unfortunately, I don’t have images of the bathroom or laundry room, so bear with me.
At least in the United States, when someone mentions the bathroom in their home, we picture a room with a sink, toilet, and shower or bathtub (sometimes both). Perhaps we think of a half-bath, with just a toilet and sink. In Japan, this combination only happens sometimes. Even then, the toilet is often separated from the rest of the bathroom. I’ll explain.
In my apartment, just like in my host family’s home, the toilet had its own small room. Though I don’t have an image of the room itself, you can see the door to it in the following picture. It sat in the corner of the main room, beside the tall bookcase. In this room was the toilet and then a small sink for washing hands. (I just used another sink because that one splashed me with water all the time.)
In my friend’s apartment in the city two hours away, he had a combined bathroom. However, his toilet was stepped up from the bathroom floor and it had a door to further separate it from the rest of the bathroom. It didn’t have a small sink there.
His bathroom was different from mine in another way, too. His had a tile floor, and the sink and bathtub were on the same level. If water overflowed from the bathtub, it went onto the tile floor and down the drain that was there. I imagine that slippers were an important thing to have around so he didn’t step on the water as the floors dried. I saw a similar set-up in my hostel in Korea, where the shower (no bathtub) shared a floor with the toilet and sink. It made for easy cleaning but was annoying for me when I only wanted to go to the bathroom and had to be careful about wet floors and slippers.
My bathroom you can catch the barest of glimpses from in the image above. It was on the other side of the tall bookcase. When you walked into the sliding door, you were face-to-face with the sink. To the left was the shower/tub area. It was a nice step up from the main floor, and it had a door to close it off from the rest of the room. In Japan, you shower outside of the tub, and if you’re getting a bath, you shower first then sit in the bathtub once you’re clean. (No, I didn’t always do this.) The water from the tub overflowed onto the shower floor where the drain was.
There was a control panel outside the bathroom/laundry room where I could control water temperature and such (I think), but I never really touched it since I didn’t know what I was doing. I had hot and cold handles in the bathroom itself, so I adjusted the water temperature that way.
To the right of the bathroom sink was my washing machine. It had a towel rack above it where I kept–you guessed it–my towels. Also my laundry detergent. I had no dryer, which is perfectly common in Japan. (In fact, my supervisor had studied in America a few years prior, and she told my co-teachers about how fluffy the towels were after they were dried in a dryer. My co-teachers wanted to experience that.)
To work around this lack of a dryer, I went through a couple methods. First, I took a long bit of twine and strung it up as best as I could through my main room. The clothes weighed it down too much, though, so I abandoned it after a month or so. In the end, I got a clothes rack that folded out like a tree. I kept it in my bedroom or out on the tiiiiiny back porch. I also had clothes lines out there, so I hung up items outside as well. There was a small yellow clothes rack that I hung stuff up with as well. You can see it in the image below.
The second room in the apartment was my bedroom/living room. You can see about half of the floor in the image above, but here are other images for more of an idea.
The room came with the TV and cabinet, the kotatsu (the table with a heater underneath it), and the futon (not pictured).
In the corner closet I found among other things a small Christmas tree, the fan you see in the image, and supplies for lessons. I rarely used that closet. The sliding doors were my main closet. I stored suitcases at the top and my futon on the bottom, and there was a middle section I could also store something on. I had plastic drawers for undergarments and pants, which shared the bottom level with my futon. Underneath the top level there was a pole on which I could hang up clothes. However, the pole occasionally slid down and needed to be fixed; but even at it’s highest point, some of my longer clothes (like dresses) sat bunched up on the flat space provided mid-level. All in all, it sufficed.
My futon was a thin mattress, and I had a foam mattress (I don’t know what else to call it) that folded out and upon which I laid the futon. My neighbor had a bed, which was nice for her on the one hand because it gave her storage underneath and she didn’t have to put the futon away like I did at first. (I got lazy later on and left it out constantly.) However, since I could put my futon away, I gained more floor space when I needed it, which wasn’t an option she had.
My friend’s apartment in the city had a third room: kitchen first, living room space separated by a sliding door, then his bedroom behind another set of sliding doors. My apartment didn’t have this, so my living room space was also the bedroom space. I rarely used my TV, though, or had guests over, so I always called it my bedroom.
Heating and Cooling
Japanese buildings are not insulated. At least older ones aren’t. The schools leave windows open for air flow, even in the winter, and they use gas stoves to heat rooms. Very few of my schools ever used the heating/cooling units, if they even had them to begin with.
My apartment had a heating/cooling unit, which you can see in the top corner of the second image above. At first I didn’t want to use it much, but the summers were hot and humid, and the winters were rather cold. (Since my curtains didn’t reach the floor, I had to shove tables and blankets against them to keep the light and cold out.) Pretty quickly I ended up using the heater as well as the fans.
Because the A/C unit was in the back corner of my room, I had trouble getting the front part of my apartment warm or cool quickly. I had to leave the sliding doors open different ways to try and help direct the air where I wanted it to go. However, it did heat and cool the apartment well and was, in my opinion, worth the extra money on my electric bill each month. I don’t think I ever used my kotatsu—-the small table you see in the above left image—-except maybe once or twice. In fact, it took me a long time to realize that’s what it was. So I used it mainly as another table to eat at or to block the light and cold coming in through the back door. I hear kotatsu are great, and my friend used hers all the time, so give it a try if you ever have the chance.
That’s my apartment in two nutshells. It’s not the most exciting topic, perhaps, but for the curious or the desperately-in-need-of-information-about-Japanese-apartments, I hope this was interesting and helpful.