Laundry day.


This was a good laundry day in Tokyo… The sky is clear, the sun is bright and the wind is brisk. Before I came to live here in Tokyo, I never considered the weather when I needed to do laundry. I always had access to a clothes dryer. My mother had a clothes dryer… at least from the time I was a young child. I never had the experience of hanging clothes out to dry… until now.

Most Japanese — at least in this urban area where we live — hang their clothes out to dry. It is almost a universal practice from the looks of the balconies around where we live. In fact, one would assume that clothes drying is the only reason apartments have balconies. I never see anyone using their balcony for anything else except clothes drying. True enough this balcony we have is very narrow… one could hardly fit any patio furniture on it. And… so I am told… our balcony is too high up (30th floor), and the risk of high winds is too great to leave anything out on the balcony for very long. Laundry… ok. Anything else? Too dangerous.

My washer, as I have mentioned before, is a combination washer/dryer. It does have a drying function, but from frustrated experience, it is nearly worthless. It is a top load machine, and the drum does not tumble. I think it spends most of the drying time drying out the machine. The clothes all end up a damp, wrinkled, twisted mass at the bottom of the machine. The only practical use I have come up for it, is to soften clothes that have dried stiff on the balcony on a windless day. Yes… I have learned ( in 4 short months) the ins and outs of laundry in Japan, and the importance of having a nice breeze to help the clothes dry soft. Lol… this has been an unexpected learning experience.

It isn’t that clothes dryers don’t exist here. We actually did look at one apartment that had a clothes dryer. And… I would expect that many homes do have clothes dryers. Also… our apartment would have plenty of space for a stacked apartment-size washer and dryer. But, for some reason here in Japan, I think that having a clothes dryer is considered a frivolous use of electricity and resources. Who needs a clothes dryer when you have free use of the sun and wind outside, after all.

Convenience aside, I have found that I don’t really mind hanging the clothes out. On a day like today they have dried quickly. I can generally do a small load first thing in the morning, and everything is done and dry by noon. We will see how it goes during the coming “rainy season” — during June and July. I may not like it so much then.  I will have to hang my laundry in the bathroom under the room dryer. But for now… let the wind blow!

Eigo ga wakarimasu ka?

We recently signed up for Amazon Prime –Japan. We are Prime members at home in the US, and it seemed like a good thing to do here.  We use Amazon all the time back home… it is just so convenient shopping online and having things delivered right to the door. We have used it before here, but had always been home when they brought a package. They buzz from downstairs and we let them in and they ride the elevator up to the 30th floor and walk the package to our door here.

So — when you are not home when they deliver a package, they can leave it in a secure drop-off locker downstairs in the lobby of our building. There is a magnetic card you are supposed to use to open the appropriate locker to retrieve the package. This all sounds like a great system, but we have never had to use it until today. I was not home when the package was delivered, and when I checked the mailbox upon returning, I found this delivery notice.

2016-05-11(1)Prominently displayed on the notice was the phone number. So… I assumed I needed to call them to have the package redelivered. I used Google translate to translate the Japanese associated with the phone number, and found that it was the driver’s direct number. So… I called it. I even told him my name and address in Japanese. We actually communicated…  He understood what I said. But… that is where the productive communication stopped. I didn’t know how to say the things I needed to say to ask him to redeliver my package. I finally asked him: Eigo ga wakarimasu ka. Which means “do you know English?” He said “Hai, Hai” (yes, yes), but continued to speak to me in Japanese. We were getting nowhere. It wasn’t his fault…  It wasn’t my fault. It was just another instance of Japanese-American non-communication. It happens all the time. So, finally…  I thanked him (in Japanese) and hung up.

Not-so-prominantly displayed on the notice is the number 4 — I circled it. As I thought about it, I began to wonder about the locker downstairs. The man kept saying “4, 4” when I talked to him.  Hmm…  I dug around for the previously unused locker card, and decided to see if the package was downstairs after all. Unfortunately…  when I went to the locker, all the instructions were in — yes — Japanese. I played with it for awhile… The screen actually displayed our apartment number (3001), so I knew I was on the right track, but, for the life of me, I could not figure out how it worked. Fail.

That evening we showed the notice to the concierge (she is only here in the evenings) and she showed us which button to push to activate the card to open the locker. “Click”… the door opened,and there was our package. Simple. Sort of. If you know the language.

Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka. (Do you know Japanese?) No… Yes… but not much. Watashi wa Nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu. (I know a little bit of Japanese.) Still not enough to communicate effectively, but more than I knew 4 months ago! Progress!

Where is “Home”?

Where is “Home?”
We are on the way back from a week in Georgia. For the last 20 years, Georgia was our home. We raised four children there. We have adopted the trees, the hills, the Big Chicken, and even the awful Atlanta traffic as our own.

But now, strangely, I have to pause when I think about what is “home.”

This was our first trip back since mid-February. Since then, one of our daughters has moved into our house. She is doing a fine job keeping it up, and we are glad she is staying there.

That said, it is a very strange experience coming back to our house as a “guest.” The house is ours…all the things inside are ours…and yet, it isn’t now our “home.” It is something different.

After we moved to Tokyo, it took a long time to think of our apartment as our “home.” I had a hard time referring to it as “home.” I called it our apartment…our place…just about anything else.

But as time has moved on, I find myself more and more thinking of our tiny apartment in Tokyo as “home.” It doesn’t have much of our stuff there. It certainly lacks many of the comforts of our house in Atlanta. And when we walk down the street, we have trouble communicating with 90 percent of the people we see.
And yet, this little place on the 30th floor in a building on Shibaura Island now feels like home. It is where we live. Where we are together.

Maybe that’s one of the lessons we’re supposed to learn from this experience. Home is, as the saying goes, where you make it. We have a lot of things and a really nice house in Atlanta. But for now, that isn’t “home.” Our home now is in a foreign land, thousands of miles from where we were born and in a place that is very, very different from what we are accustomed to.

Our home is now in Tokyo, Japan. In a couple of years, that will probably change. But today, we are going home. And that, strangely, seems to be the right thing to do.