Saturday, December 31, 2005

Our Japanese Apartment

Things that are the Same

Internet - Ah yes, the wonders of the internet are here in Japan. We have a high-speed connection at our apartment that allows us to do many things. One of these things is that we have a voice over ip (VOIP) phone. Our phone is plugged into a router that we bought from Vonage (a VOIP company). This is plugged into the internet line. Basically this means you can call us at a Virginia phone number and it rings here. Remember - Do not call in the middle of our night or early on our Saturday morning. We will be most unhappy. If you are on the East Coast of the US, remember to add 14 hours to your time. That is the time here in Japan.

One of the other awesome things that keep us connected to the United States is our Slingbox. The Slingbox lives in our Virginia condo with our TiVos and Daniel. By connecting the laptop here in Japan to the internet, we can launch the "Sling Player" program. This allows us to communicate with the Slingbox in Virginia and control one of our TiVos. We then feed the laptop picture and sound into our TV here. That's right, we don't sit around in the evening watching incomprehensible Japanese TV (except for the commercials which amuse us). We sit around and watch quality US shows such as "Joey."

Of course, we also occupy our TV time with other activities. For example, one Monday night after work, Dan had Rich over for pizza, beer, and Monday night football (previously recorded on Sunday). Yes, Japan has Domino's, they deliver, but no $5 pizza. More like $17 each, but well worth it.

Things that are Different

Refrigerator – Size is somewhere between a dorm fridge and a normal fridge. It’s ok.

Microwave – We were slightly confused at first about the large blue button on our microwave. Obviously, the upper right blue switch can be set to 'steaming coffee cup' for the purpose of heating things such as steamy beverages. But what in the world did the snowflake mean? Is this a special microwave that reverse heats? (Note: We eventually figured this one out, but were confused for a little while.)

Things that are Better

Better Windows, Better Curtains - At our Virginia condo we have 2 windows for our 971 square feet. We also have a balcony door. Here we have 2 windows, one fairly large, and a large balcony door for our 415 square feet. The curtains are also very nice. I plan on replacing our curtains at home with these type of curtains. Especially since it means we can get rid of our old, ugly balcony door vertical blinds.

38 Degree Programmable Water - Ok, you can actually program it for other temperatures. But 38 degrees is a great temperature for a shower. No crazy water temperature variation; just set it and it stays warm. We first experienced this pleasant consistent shower phenomenon when we were in Austria. Perhaps this is a phenomenon that only occurs in countries that use the Celsius scale.

Toilet – Like the toilet at the first Starbucks that we visited here in Tokyo, our toilet has a heated seat. I never knew that this was missing from my life until now. The toilet also has some crazy controls that are written in Japanese. It helped us learn the kanji symbols for less and more. Some of them include pictures so you can figure out which controls the bidet. Yes, our toilet is called the “Shower Toilet” which is very popular here in Japan.

Shower Room – The shower curtain is another feature of our current condo that may soon be replaced. Here, you don’t stand in the tub to shower; you have an entire bathing room. The room is approximately 1 meter by 2 meters. It has a deep soaking tub next to the area where you shower. The idea is that you soap up, shower off then soak in the tub when you are clean. While we don’t take the typical Japanese shower/soak, it is nice to have enough space to turn around in the shower. The picture here does not do it justice.

Washer/Dryer - It's awesome. You put clothes in, push some buttons, and wait. The clothes are washed then dried in the same device. No more asking, “Is it time to switch the laundry?” We totally need one of these at our condo.

Things that are Worse

39 square meters (worse? better?) – This is the smallest place Dan and I have ever lived. Well, maybe our college dorm rooms were smaller. Basically we have about 390 square feet. While this sounds super small, it is very well laid out. We have plenty of room to live. So far the biggest problem we have had is Dan getting used to the space. He has hit his hand on the ceiling of the closet, his head on the wall in the bathroom, his elbow on the shower wall, his arm on the bedroom wall, and his forehead on the cupboard (nasty bruise). However, his abuse of the apartment has decreased recently and he is living in more harmony with the small space.

Unconnected beds – For a week, we had 2 separate, twin beds. We knew from our experiences in Italy and at Dan’s parents’ house that we aren’t very good at deali
ng with this. We tend to be close sleepers. Every night, one of us ends up in the crack between the beds when we push them together. After investigating bed connector ideas here in Japan and abroad (Bed, Bath, and Beyond; Linens and Things), we finally came up with a solution. We folded an extra blanket into quarters, the long way, then we put that on the crack. We put our mattress pads in place to cover the edges of that. Then, we used a super giant sheet, provided by Kay’s mom (Kay's mom has sent us many useful things besides sheets, including tea cups, extra plates, bathroom towels, baking powder; very helpful stuff), to cover everything. It is much more comfortable, we barely notice the slight bump. And, after another week or so, we will have new memory foam to put on top. It will be very comfortable. MMMM, memory foam.

Instructions for Everything (Heater/Air Conditioner, Washing Machine, Bath Tub, Toilet) – All instructions are in Japanese. We had to get Kay to explain some of them to us. Some of them are still a mystery, including the rice cooker. However, the rice cooker will make us rice if we push enough buttons. Here is a picture of the controls for our shower room "Dry-Fan 24."

Overall Assessment

We love our Japanese apartment. It is helping us to realize our dream of owning and using less stuff in our lives. Every time we move, we wonder what we packed in the 35-45 boxes that are following us around. Now that we live in Tokyo and only brought 8 boxes/suitcases of stuff, mostly clothes, we think we are getting closer to minimizing stuff. We also love the fact that we live in a great neighborhood in a super-large-city. Everything is close and convenient. We don’t need a car and can take public transportation everywhere. While we can only invite a total of 7 people over for a party, including ourselves, that’s ok. Maybe when we get done with Dan’s work assignments we will move out of the suburbs and closer to a downtown area where we can walk to public transportation, grocery stores, and restaurants. That would be awesome!

A view from here on the 12th floor:


Angela Hines said...

Thanks for the details. Wait 'til Riker arrives though. If you can figure out how to still travel super light...let us know!!

Anonymous said...

What the heck is the snowflake for? Joanne and Kim

Dan said...


Anonymous said...

Oh, you guys crack me up!! I have only read one blog, and I am laughing until my stomach hurts. Thanks for sharing. Michelle & Calvin