Since I have a little less than a month left in my babushka’s Soviet apartment in Moscow, I’ve been reminiscing about my typical Japanese apartment in Kurashiki. It’s making me wonder what kind of apartment I’ll end up having in Canada.
My Leo Palace apartment, my first home in Japan, is not a typical Japanese apartment. Businesses/big companies commonly rent these small apartments for their employees who are only going to live there temporarily while on assignment in another city, but I lived there for nearly 3 years.
By the end of it, I was dying to get out. Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t not a dump or anything remotely like the dump I had to put up with in Moscow, but there is absolutely nothing palacey about Leo Palace. My new place, which was a typical Japanese apartment, was heaven – a palace – compared to Leo Palace. It was more than twice the size; I was able to do cartwheels! 😀
It’s good to get out of your comfort zone, but it’s important to know what you can and can’t handle for a long period of time. It’s one thing to be out of your comfort zone temporarily while on an adventure, but it’s another thing when you’re looking at your place to live – your sanctuary. My first apartment, although acceptable, didn’t feel like a sanctuary. It didn’t feel like a home.
Let me show you
my typical Japanese apartment. 😀
When I first saw the apartment, it was these two views that had me sold because of the size for the price. ↓
Having a balcony is standard in Japan, and with that balcony comes holders for your rods to hang up your laundry. I don’t think I saw a dryer once in Japan, but maybe that’s different up north in Hokkaido.
Something you’ll definitely be using your balcony for is letting your bedding air out and roast in the sun. Japan is so humid, and if you keep your bedding inside all the time, mould will quickly grow on it. The black spots are hard to miss. You also have to air out your bedding in your apartment (pretty much) every day to prevent mould. That’s one thing I really don’t miss about living in Japan; it wasn’t difficult, but it was an annoying new daily routine, but you have to let the sun do its job on your bedding for a few hours at least once a week. ↓
Showers and bath tubs are typically like this with the shower head outside the short, deep tub.
The reason for this is that in Japan, you’re supposed to shower before you get into the tub so that everyone can share the bath water. A lot of people have heated bath tubs, and you can adjust the temperature.
I only had a bath once when I was in Japan, and it was at a friend’s house in Yokohama because she actually had a long tub! 😀 I don’t like just sitting in the tub…lol!
Note the drain, though. I don’t know how/why, but the shower drains are different. You have to clean them out regularly; it’s a good scrub job that takes a few solid minutes.
With the exception of hotel rooms, toilets are always separate from the bath/shower and vanity.
I was really surprised to see that my throne came with a butt shower, which means that it automatically comes with a bun warmer. My Leo Palace apartment didn’t come with a special toilet…not that I was expecting anything like that.
Come to think of it, a no-frills toilet isn’t the norm in Japan. Like I mentioned in my post about doing your business using Japan’s public toilets, it’s standard for toilets to have butt warmers and showers. Unlike public toilets though, I’ve never seen a private toilet with optional sound effects to mask your human sounds of struggle and relief.
This was directly across from the toilet cell, and the shower door is next to the towel hanger that you see to the left. You can actually see it in the mirror.
I was surprised to see the light bulbs above the sink because apartments in Japan, except for Leo Palace (as far as I know), don’t come with lights. I had to buy ceiling lights the day I moved in so that I could see after the sun went down.
Next to the vanity is the hook-up for the washing machine. They’re all like this, and like with the lights, you have to buy your own washing machine unless you move into a Leo Palace apartment.
I don’t what’s standard when it comes to a closet, but this had twice as much space as in the so-called palace. Because of the insane humidity, it’s best to leave your closet doors open to keep the air circulating, which prevents mould. ↓
Most stoves in Japan are gas, not electric. I noticed quite a difference in my gas bill after I moved into this place. The Leo Palace stove was electric, but the gas bill was high because you need the gas for hot water.
At my Leo Palace apartment, you had no control over the gas, but at this place, you had a small electric control panel. You can juuuust see it on the right-side wall just when you enter the kitchen. If you forgot to turn it off after you were done with the hot water, you’d notice the difference in your gas bill.
Let’s go outside.
There are also characteristics about the exterior of apartment buildings that are typically different in Japan. The most obvious is probably the motel-like façade. A lot of apartment buildings are like this with no main entrance or entry security, but I’ve never felt unsafe at all about it; Japan’s so safe.
However, what I found most interesting was the apartment numbers. Some buildings don’t have numbers ending in 4, and some do. I guess it depends on whether or not the company or landlord is superstitious. Like I and another blogger mentioned in my second World Superstitions collaborative post, the word for the number 4 sounds a lot like death in Japanese as well as in Mandarin, Korean, and likely some other East Asian countries.
In the case of this building, called Soreiyu Mizue, there are no unit numbers ending in four, so on my level, you had 201, 202, 203, 205, and 206. I lived in two different Leo Palace buildings, and they both had units ending with fours. In fact, my second Leo Palace apartment was number 104. The realtor didn’t mention it to me when I was signing the lease, so either superstition wasn’t a topic of discussion or he assumed that it didn’t matter to me.
Every apartment building, and most businesses too, have a designated parking area for bikes. 😀 Apartment building bike parking is always sheltered in some way, and I really miss that. The bike shelter is behind the post-office motorcycle. ↓
I rode my bike every day to the train station, to do my errands, and everything else. I’m so glad I didn’t buy a car! I used that money to travel instead. 😀
Anyway, I can’t imagine life in Japan without a bike, and unlike a car, parking it at home is free and never a problem. Once in a while, it’s hard to find space for your bike, but it’s not a problem to manage to squeeze yours in.
All bikes in Japan come with a basket in front and a little bell. I got a bigger basket in front as well as an extra basket put onto the back. This made bringing groceries home much easier, but I couldn’t have been happier when I found an umbrella holder – one of the greatest inventions ever! The sun in Japan is powerful, and it rains a lot, even in my home prefecture, Okayama, the sunniest part of Japan. 😀
This is the other side of my building. ↓
If you have a car, parking isn’t free. You need to pay monthly and you’ll be assigned a space. It seems fine when you don’t have a car, but it can be a problem if you have friends visit. If you can, find out which spaces aren’t occupied when you move in.
It’s not in the photo, but there is (what I like to call) a garbage cage at the end of the lot close to the street. You have to divide your garbage and only bring it out the day before pick-up.
Can you see yourself living comfortably in a typical Japanese apartment?