September 1, 2010


Living in our Japanese house has been interesting, exciting, and sometimes frustrating. We are so happy to finally be settled so that we can get into a routine. Since the boys started school things have started to feel a little more normal. Our life here is anything but normal though. But we knew it would be different living out in town. Although we have tried to make it feel normal there have been things we have had to overcome. The biggest hurdles have been the oven, the dryer, the dishwasher and the AC situations. We have a typical small Japanese oven. It can only fit a pan the size of a 9x9 dish and since all of the buttons are in Japanese I have my handy paper translated into English for me. The first time I used it I was confused as to why it would not turn on. Oh, it wasn't plugged in. It is a gas oven but the buttons run on electricity. You would think that it would already be plugged in behind the oven. We soon realized there was a plug behind the foot plate of the oven. Now when I want to use it I pull the footplate off and plug in the oven across the room. It is not ideal but it is not a huge deal. It sort of makes me chuckle. I have cooked many things in this oven already: lasagna, pizza, breaded chicken, rolls, and cookies. My next mission is to figure out how to cook my bread in there. Since it is a small oven it cooks a lot faster so I have to adjust all of my times and I have to convert my baking temp from F to C. To get from F to C you have to minus 32 and multiply by 5/9. Sounds complicated but after a few times it is easy to remember what to set the oven to.

The next hurdle has been the dryer situation. We have a good washing machine that is actually a washer/dryer in one. The biggest problem with dryers in Japan is that they don't have exhaust tubes from the back to blow the hot air anywhere. This renders the dryer pretty useless as it would take FOREVER to dry anything and then we would just be racking up the utility bill. So, I have come up with a method that seems to be working so far. I decide when I need to go onto the base for groceries or other errands and then I do all of my wash at home in the morning. When I am done I drive to base with my clean but wet clothes and throw them in the big dryers at the laundromat on base. Luckily the laundromat is in between the commissary and the NEX. It's not such a bad deal though. I get multiple loads of laundry dried and folded all within one hour and that includes any other errands I do in between. All it takes is a little organization. I love being able to come home and just put my laundry away. That is huge. Anyone who knows me also knows that I hate folding laundry and I have been known to keep piles a little too long in the basket. Mike will attest to this I'm sure. This keeps me on track with the folding.

So we have a small dishwasher that sits on top of the counter and I use it sometimes for silverware, cups and glasses but that is about it. It doesn't fit plates or big bowls. I have pretty much become the main dishwasher in the house. I wash all the dishes after every meal. It does take a little longer than sticking them in the dishwasher but in the end I hardly leave dirty dishes in the sink just because I can't afford to let things pile up. Mike has been great at taking over the dishes sometimes.

Last but not least is the issue of the AC units. Luckily all of the AC units work well. We have AC units in each of the major rooms (no hallways or bathrooms though) and we only use them when we are in the room. Utilities here are out of control expensive so we are very careful about what lights are on and what appliances we use throughout the day. This has created a very interesting dilemna as we have had the hottest summer in 113 years. I have gotten used to being a little bit hot in between rooms. It has made me realize how good we have it in the US.

So why do we even bother dealing with all of these things when we could live on base and have an American oven, dishwasher, dryer, and use our AC whenever we wanted? There are many reasons but the main ones are the experience, the location and the layout of our house. We live in a HOUSE in a great neighborhood next to great Japanese neighbors. We get to see and talk with our neighbors everyday and we get to use our Japanese. We get to learn how to recycle REALLY WELL. There are so many recycling rules here and a different section of trash is taken out everyday. Since there is no disposal in the sink we have all of our scraps in the burnable trash and thank goodness that goes out twice a week. We don't have to have trash cans because there is no limit to the amount of trash you put out. You just stick your trash in the designated location near your house underneath a green net (to keep out the birds and animals).

We live in a beautiful neighborhood with lots of trees and two parks within view of our house. They are both literally right across the street in both directions from our house (front and back). The one park actually has a zip line. There are lots of hills here so that makes running interesting and also exciting. We live in a 2000 sq ft house instead of a 1400 sq ft townhouse or a 1300 sq foot apt in a tower. We have 4 main bedrooms, a storage room, two bathrooms, a family room, a kitchen dining aream, a separate laundry room, and a fairly large kitchen for a Japanese house. Oh and we have lots of cabinet space and a small room off of the kitchen that we have turned into a pantry. We bought shelves at IKEA and have been able to fit all of our #10 cans plus many other smaller cans. It is GREAT! There is also a quaint little side yard off of the family room. We have our own little rock garden and a little grassy area that needs a little work. We might even be able to fit a trampoline over there. Our friends got a trampoline here at the Air Force Base so that is good news. Oh, and I LOVE the Japanese shower area. It is right off of our AWESOME entry way that is lined with cabinets for our shoes. Most Japanese homes have a shower/bath room on the main level. You sit on a stool and wash off with the shower head and then you can soak in the tub. We have bought stools for all of the kids and they love just sitting there and playing in the shower or the faucet (whatever they choose). There is not the issue of water getting all over the floor because the floor is sunk down in the shower room and it can all get wet. I LOVE THAT. I can let the girls sit in there forever knowing they are playing and not drowning. The best part is that if the kids feet are dirty from playing at the park they can go in and wash their feet off without getting everything wet or dirty. LOVE that too.

I do love the inside of our house. It is quaint and fun and there is plenty of space for everyone. We are only about 15 minutes from the base (going south) and 15 minutes from Costco (going north). It only takes about 10-12 min walk to the closest train station. Mike takes the train to work everyday and he just runs to the train station, catches the express, and then runs from his destination station to work. It only takes him about 30 min total trip time door to door.

There have been some funny things about living here. Our washing machine sings to us when it starts and when it finishes. Our upstairs toilet has lots of buttons that will spray your bum if you like. There is one button with a picture of a lady and it looks like she is shooting up into space. It is hilarious. I am not sure I am brave enough to try that one yet. Everyday at 5:00pm a nice song is played outside through the speakers. The speakers are there for emergency announcements. Last but not least there is the bug issue. I have already killed a couple of cochroaches and spiders. We have two pet gecko's that we keep around to kill the bugs. Emma has named them Sparkle #1 and Sparkle #2. Abby just calls them snakes. They kind of freak me out when I see them because they blend into everything. I almost stepped on one of them the other day. I am learning to deal with things I am not comfortable with. If we can make it here we can make it anywhere!!

Here are some photos of the inside of our house:

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