Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Home Sweet Hell

Not that I'm a great Japanese scholar (...yet...), but from what I understand, the original meaning of the word otaku was something like, "homebody."  Of course now, it has far wider reaching implications, but I found it an apropos factoid, because the last few weeks before vacation I was working on my apartment, and the more I got done, the more I wanted to stay at home.  This is, of course, not unrelated to the colloquial usage of the word otaku.  While it is possible to decorate your apartment without setting off the nerd alert, it's not much fun, especially if part of the reason you wanted to live in Japan was the opportunity to life the life.  However, being a classy grown-ass woman, I was determined to have a classy, grown-ass apartment.  This meant putting my mad art skillz to good use.
It all started one Saturday when I painted an Edo furin.  I'd gone to Asakusa with a friend, and after visiting Senso-ji and the shrines, wandering around eating ice cream we stumbled across an alley where several arts and crafts activities were set up...and they were free.  There were several options, but the glass windchime was the winner, and it only took me about two seconds to decide I would try to paint a pattern of Chinese lanterns - my favorite character's namesake.

While I'd already thought about planting some Chinese lanterns, I had yet to actually find them.  I've had pretty good luck with plants since moving to Mongolia, but green thumb or black, it's too late in the year.  Apparently Asakusa hosts a festival centered around them in early July, but that's still a long way off.  Instead I bought Christmas lights and used washi paper to make the bulb part of the plant.  I used a lantern and yet more washi paper to make my own goldfish plant.  These "flowers" are another part of Hozuki no Reitetsu, and although they don't (obviously) grow IRL, a crafty girl like me laughs at the constraints of so-called "reality."  I had paper lotus petals I got the last time I visited Jogyesa in Korea that I knew would be perfect for scales, but I was going to need something to build the body on.  I thought a paper lantern would do the trick, but it was challenging finding a plain, white round one.  In the end Daiso saved the day - their round, white lantern wasn't as sturdy as I would have liked, but I managed it, since I wasn't willing to wait around to find a better one.  When I had it finished, it turned out to be the perfect size to balance on the top of my floor lamp, once I'd taken the lampshade off.
At this point I had to admit that I was turning my bedroom into my (not-so) secret otaku hideaway.  I chose to rein in my mania in the rest of the apartment.  For starters, I had Mongolian art that had to go up.  I'd also put a few little Ghibli touches in when I first arrived, and since it had been too long since I'd sewn anything, I made a Totoro throw pillow for my chair.  One thing I really appreciated about my apartment when I got here was the fact that for a few more yen every month, my landlord provided me with some furnishings and appliances.  Most of what you see is what came with the place.  The closet space is really nice - it was one of my worries with the other apartments I was interested in.  For about $600 per month, I've got a pretty decently furnished place of 32m square (and no, I don't know what that is in tatami mats anymore than I could tell you how many pyeong my Korean apartments were).
Most of my plants stay in the kitchen, although I've thought a little about making a nice sitting area on my balcony (which I probably wouldn't ever sit in...there will be way too many mosquitoes come summer).  One of my ongoing goals for the year is to be better at adulting, which means I've cooked slightly more since coming back from the holidays.  I also set up my "art station" in the kitchen.  After a couple of weeks of my painting class last fall, I got tired of hunching over the coffee table in the living room, and bought a table and chair from IKEA.  I haven't actually used it much since finishing the course, because it's too darn cold in the kitchen - I keep the door shut so the living room stays warm - but it's waiting for warmer weather.
My place has a few Japanese bits, too.  For starters, there's the handwash station.  To one side of the kitchen there's a little vanity with a sink, shelves, and cabinets - mostly I use this to get ready in the morning...because my toilet has its own sink, just not the kind you would recognize.  When Five and I went to Kansai last spring, our first guesthouse had this kind of toilet - the water is released above the tank so that you can wash your hands with the water that fills it.  It also has a small or large flush function, so that saves a little more water.  Mine also has a fancy toilet seat, with a warmer and a bidet (which most of the time I don't use, but once a month I absolutely love it.  Girls, you know what I mean).


My bath is separate from the toilet, and it's fancy, too.  I put the plug in and press a button, and it beeps at me when it's full.  It's awesome.  One thing that is a pain, though, is that it doesn't dry out very well, especially in the winter.  I had just been leaving the fan on, but I was getting mildewy areas, so I've started squeegeeing the whole thing, then using my "mop" (an IKEA find - something like a Swiffer but with a reusable pad) to wipe up the water afterwards.  My laundry facilities are in the same closet, which is a little too convenient as most of the time I don't bother to put away my underwear.

So anyways, there's your grand tour.  Although there are things I miss about my place in Mongolia (aka, the radiators and the fact that I was never too cold), I feel like I got really lucky with my new apartment.  The only thing I could really wish for is being closer to a train station, or at least a bus stop, but since there's a vending machine that has cans of coke just two blocks away in each direction, I can live with that.

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