My Home Away From Home

I’ve been getting some requests lately from people who want to see where I’m living here in Japan, so I thought I’d share a few images of my cozy apartment. I’m living in a sort of mother-in-law apartment, a totally renovated and independent section of what must be a fairly large house. By Tokyo standards, my apartment itself is pretty spacious, measuring about 800 square feet. It’s actually being rented out as a “sabbatical apartment,” meaning that it belongs to an academic who is currently away from Japan. It came furnished and equipped with all of the essentials, and everything is nice and new and super clean, which I love. The main house seems to be divided into two halves, with a little passageway linking the two sides on the second floor. My apartment, however, is through the little middle gate. When you walk through, you enter a pleasant little courtyard that houses the entryway to my apartment:

I’ve thought of starting a little herb garden or something out there, but given that I probably won’t be in this place for long, it probably isn’t a good investment. For now, the area just houses my bicycle, which I don’t know how to ride. But it might be convenient for visitors, so it’s great to have around. Through this first door lies another entryway, the genkan, where you’re supposed to leave your shoes.

You’ll notice that my door is bright blue. The door to the main house is bright red, which has led my landlord to nickname the dwellings “red house” and “blue house,” which I find amusing. Anyway, my apartment is what’s known as a 1LDK in Japan. The “1” means that it has one room, while the “LDK” stands for “living” (room), “dining” (room), and “kitchen.” It’s a pretty spacious 1LDK though. Stepping through the door, you find yourself in the living room:

A bit spartan at the moment, perhaps, but great space. The little couch folds out into a double bed. It’s set up to face the TV, which you can kind of see poking out in the bottom-right corner. The left-hand side of the room, which you can’t see, is currently home to my extra futon mattresses (for visitors) and my currently empty suitcases. At the rear of the room, you can see into the kitchen. I particularly like the little breakfast nook on the left, which has a stool (currently obscured by my winter coat).

Moving into the kitchen, I have a good amount of space for cooking and eating. And again, everything is new and clean, which makes me really happy:

Again, the apartment came with basic dishes and appliances (microwave, rice cooker, hot water machine, and coffee machine). I added a few things on a recent trip to Ikea, so I’m basically all set. You’ll notice that the stove lacks an oven, which again, is pretty standard in Japan. If you think about it, Japanese food doesn’t really make use of ovens. Most of the space underneath the stove top is occupied by huge drawers to keep pots and pans and things. The thing that you see immediately under the stovetop is actually a “fish oven” or grill:

Basically, you put some water in the pan at the bottom and grill the fish on top. It’s all gas, both the stove and the grill. I actually haven’t tried this one out yet, but a friend recently sent me a care package with some yummy-looking salmon rub, so I may be firing the grill up in the near future. Anyway, there’s also a table, with chairs and space for friends:

If you go back through the living room, you find yourself in my bedroom:

I love the huge skylight—it makes for a nice, bright, cheerful atmosphere. I also love the huge desk, on which I’ve set up a great workspace:

I have a small ultra-portable laptop, so I really enjoy having a big monitor, external keyboard, etc. to work with when I’m at home. The 11-inch screen on my laptop makes it easy to carry around, but when you’re trying to work with multiple programs or enter data into huge spreadsheets, you need something a little bigger. Anyway, I feel like I’ve been working on cramped little desks forever, so this is a welcome change of pace. Although the bedroom appears to lack any doors, it actually has a huge heavy curtain that you can pull across the entryway, to separate it from the living room for purposes of either privacy or heating efficiency. (Apartments in Japan lack central heating, and my place is no exception.)

I’ll spare you the picture of the bathroom, etc., but rest assured that they are present (and have huge skylights). I also have one of those nifty doorbell things that comes with a camera monitor and speaker so that you can see and talk to whomever is outside. As things go, this is a pretty Western-style apartment—I don’t have a tatami room or rice paper doors, etc. But these types of apartments are fairly common in Tokyo and other parts of the country. This should give you a pretty good idea of where I’m living (you’re welcome, Mom and Dad!). Eventually, I plan to write about the neighborhood and about my “work away from work” setup at the university where I’m affiliated.