My first impression of our new Japanese home was not of overwhelming excitement. Walking through a small metal gate off the dark street, then down a driveway past some ugly white apartment buildings to the last set of stairs (yay-more stairs!) we dragged our suitcases up a level to our second-level apartment.
Turning the key first in the top lock then in the second bottom lock, The Professor pushed open the brown door. Inside the door was a small off-white room surrounded on all sides by more doors. This alcove room was not big enough for two people, let alone three 50-pound bags and three carry-ons—especially since we also needed to remove our shoes in this little alcove of about three feet by three feet before moving any further. I waited outside the apartment for The Professor to remove his shoes and to make room for me to enter.
During my grand two-minute tour of our tiny apartment I learn the layout. Upon entering the off-white alcove there is an off-white door on the right that requires a step up and opens into a small all off-white room containing the white bathroom sink and vanity as well as a small white washer/dryer combo. From this room there are two more all off-white rooms—one on the left for the beige shower and beige bathtub and the other on the right is for the beige magical toilet/sink combo. The magical toilet features a faucet on the top at the back of the commode that allows one to wash one’s hands after flushing this magical beast.
I refer to the toilet as the magical toilet because it features a seat that heats up when you sit on it as well as a bunch of bells and whistles (water features that I eye skeptically). The Professor loves the bells and whistles and I dare say may love the magical toilets of Japan more than he loves me. This love affair started during his first visit to Japan and has continued ever since. I, however, maintain a distant mistrust of the magic offered by the bells and whistles and have not succumbed. I have little interest and do not believe I’ll be swayed. But I digress.
Back to the exploration of the front entrance to the apartment where I learn that to the right of the door to the laundry room/bathroom area is a small closet with shelves. It is almost as tall as me and will be used to store hats/gloves, shoes, and umbrellas. DIrectly facing the front door is yet another bigger six-foot tall closet with shelves where we are currently building our earthquake kit (so we can grab it and run), and storing extra toiletries, towels, gym bag etc.
To the left of the entrance is an off-white door leading into the main room. The main room is pretty good size—approximately 15’ x 20’—and has off-white walls, off-white fake wood floors, and ugly beige curtains over two large floor-to-ceiling windows that take up most of the wall directly across from the doorway. To the left of the door there is a TV on a brown wall unit against the wall. In front of it, are a brown love seat, two black fake leather ottomans, and a brown coffee table. To the right of the door and against the wall, there are a silver metal desk, a silver table lamp, and black desk chair. Attached to the wall above the desk are remotes for the heating/AC unit, another remote, a phone receiver and another mystery device with a screen. These last two items look to be part of an elaborate security system. Next to this command center area is a white glass-fronted dish cabinet. At the far end of the room is the kitchen area consisting of a sink and tabletop range, and to the right of this is a small four-foot tall silver fridge with a white toaster oven atop. Above and below the sink/stove area are a few off-white laminated cabinets that hold our pots and pans and food. Stuck in a nook to the left of the sink/stove is another off-white laminated cabinet that houses the white microwave, white electric tea-maker and white rice cooker. In front of the sink/stove area and next to the love seat are a white table and four white chairs all with dark brown legs. Hanging above the table is a white UFO-looking frosted white light.
Continuing on through the living/kitchen area past the dish cabinet, is another off-white sliding door that houses the bedroom. This all off-white room is about 10’x12’ in size and to the right are two tiny beds pushed up next to each other, each covered with big white fluffy duvets. About twelve inches from their foot is a wall of white closet doors that takes up the whole left side of the room. Inside this huge closet is a brown tallboy dresser. To the right of the door is a tall white and brown dresser with 10 drawers and past it, next to the beds, is another good size walk-in closet. I claim this closet which also contains a small ironing board, a vacuum and a huge iron. To the left of the bedroom’s sliding door entrance is the remote for the AC/Heating unit and a skinny floor-length mirror that I can tell already will be my nemesis.
Facing the door is another floor-to-ceiling, ugly beige drape-covered window. The room is not bad and has lots of storage space. However, I will have to crawl in and out of the bed from the end since it butts up to the wall and next to the other bed—but there is just no where else for the second bed to go.
While the apartment is actually quite large by Tokyo (and New York) standards, it is bleak looking with all of its white, brown, beige and off-white colors and it is all confusing. Every remote control, security system, Internet connection (we have no Wi-Fi), stove knob, light switch, the magical toilet, shower area, the iron, and the washer/dryer combo are all elaborate and uniquely Japanese with special operating needs and will all need to be learned since none of the buttons are in English. I can barely figure out how to flush the magical toilet. It’s all very exhausting to think about when one has just spent the past day (or is it actually two days?) traveling through multiple time zones and into a totally different world.
I admit that when I crawled into bed that first night, exhausted, I was a bit depressed over the intricacy of this new Japanese adventure. After sleeping like a dead person, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that when the drapes are pulled back, the little white apartment is filled with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows and there is a symphony of birds from the surrounding trees off the alley. As the morning progresses, the bird songs are joined with children’s voices from the small school across from our building. Other than the sounds of birds and kids, the only other sounds we can hear of the city around us is the occasional foot steps up and down the stairs outside as well as the faint crying of a baby located somewhere in the apartment building. It is so quiet and peaceful.
Over the last day, I’ve mastered the magical toilet and sink combo, the stove, and the heating/AC remote control. We even had a delivery of blankets from the front office of our apartment building and I was able to work the elaborate security system.
Upon hearing the ring of the phone receiver by the door:
Delivery guy: ‘Yes. I will bring you your blankets in about 15 minutes. Is that okay?’
Me: ‘Yes. That is great.’
There is another ring from the mystery device with a screen and I answer it 15 minutes later.
Delivery guy: ‘I have the blankets.’
Me: ’Great. Do I have to buzz you in? What do I need to do? I’ve not worked this thing before.’
Delivery guy: ‘Just open the door.’
What sounded like an easy enough task quickly turned into a struggle. The door has two locks and a metal security bar across the top. As I attempted to turn the locks, they didn’t budge. Pushing and turning first one, then the other multiple times and failing, I finally realized that each lock had a little button on the side that you pushed in while turning each in opposite directions—success! Wrong. The metal security bar stopped the now open door with a loud twang as it caught at the end of its bar. Shutting the door again, I threw the metal bar back, but then had to redo the two locks. After much fumbling and aborted attempts, I flung the door open to the delivery guy standing there, sheepishly holding the blankets, waiting patiently for my learning curve to kick in.
I am happy to say I am now an expert door opener. Things are definitely looking up.