Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Itty Bitty Living Space.

SO, Japan:  Small country, big population.  This translates to a country that is great at mass transportation and organization, but not so great at 'spacious' living.  In short:

While we don't have a HUGE home here in the states, we do have a yard, and a semblance of private space.  We did our research - we knew there were some things we'd have to give up to make Japan a reality, and we were prepared.  That didn't mean that our home finding trip was any less amusing with some of the homes we were shown.

The Mister's company did a splendid job of pairing us up with a relocation firm, who specializes in helping Americans settle into Japanese life.  They were our guides during our home-finding trip, and they were very patient with us.  We didn't make their job easy... specifically, we are bringing not one, but two critters... and there aren't a whole lot of places that are like "sure, we'll rent to foreigners who have no credit history in our currency - and also we will allow their pets who could potentially destroy our property"  Still, we were shown... I think 7 different places (give or take, remember we're working with jet-lag memory here), and we decided on one that I hope will be a happy home to us for the next few years.

Because there isn't a whole lot of horizontal space, Japan does high-rises well.  And by well, I mean that the first apartment we looked at was on the 24th floor of a building, and I got vertigo so instantly upon walking onto the balcony that I immediately nixed it.  It was also only 450 square feet total, so that was a bit of a check in the minus column.  In any case, balconies are important, because the Japanese don't waste electricity on laundry drying machines - you're expected to wash your clothing then hang it on the balcony to dry.  If I can't walk into that space without feeling dizzy... well there's only so long you can hold out on clean underwear availability.

We looked at a few more places that were in the 500-600 square foot range.  To put that in perspective, we strongly feel that we fit "okay-ish" in our 1200 sq ft home between the Mister, Mac, Bub and I... plus all our stuff.  We knew our home would be smaller, but somehow it's much different to have that understanding than it is to actually see that reality.  I was pretty sure we weren't capable of narrowing our belongings down enough for a 500 sq ft home to not look like an international episode of HOARDERS: BURRIED ALIVE.  Our very patient relocation agent would spend the drive between each apartment reminding us that these were considered spacious places we were seeing.  And it almost sank in as our new reality... until she showed us the 950 sq ft place we eventually settled upon.
A dramatic reenactment of The Mister and I from the last few months as we decide what to bring.

Now, I feel pretty confident that our agent knew exactly what she was doing here.  Show us the first few tiny spaces to break our spirit, then bring us to this place: A place that in this culture, is A FLIPPING MANSION.  It is priced exactly at the right budget point, it has rented to other families, with pets, from The Mister's company.  It's in a area of the city that is well-positioned near a park for Mac, shopping/ groceries for me, mass transit for all of us, and has a reasonably large community of other expatriates nearby.  So she showed us that, then took us to two more rentals, which were okay in size, but both were WAY out in the boonies from any kind of convenience (and one was next to an actual rice paddy... hello mosquitoes... and malaria).

So anyway, this is the place we picked!  (click on any of these pictures to make 'em bigger)
Our front door.  This little gate is important because it means we're allowed to put
flowers or the Mister's bike outside our apartment.

Our very spacious living room and main balcony.
I really like that aside from the bedrooms it's a pretty open layout.
This picture has been taken from the dining room that opens to the kitchen
on one side and the living space you see on the other.

Here's the view from the main balcony.
You can see the park down there which is Mac-friendly.

Admittedly, there are still a few things I'm nervous about with this space:

  • this is my entire oven.  blargh. 

I am pretty sure I'm going to try making cookies the first week we're there
 just so I stop freaking out about this baking thing.

  • the balcony, while not on floor 24, is on floor 11, and the Mister is harboring a serious phobia that Bubba is going to escape the inside and take a flying leap.  I'd like to think he's smarter than this but... yeah.  So that's a thing.
    view of the actual balcony, and of one of the little retractable pole-holder
     that will eventually allow me to hang our landry out to dry.
  • because it's all (white) wallpaper, I can't hang anything up.  No photos, no paintings, no calendars, no clocks.  boring walls.  hmm.  
  • we're limited on items by the size of the one main doorway, which is smaller than a standard American door, obviously.  That means no bed larger than a double, a narrow fridge (really that's more about Japanese standards than the door size), and a smaller washing machine (see: fridge).  Also it means we won't be getting an elliptical as previously planned, but I think we'll be walking enough to make that okay.

All in all, though, this has some potential.  Which has lead to inspiration boards.  You know what inspiration boards are?  They're what silly bored people do to mimic the things they see on pinterest, outlining unrealistic decorating ideas they have for their home.  And because it calms me, I've made boards for our living/ dining room and both bedrooms.
We picked grey curtains, that exact couch and dining set pictured, and a lighter version of that TV stand. I'm going to add a pouf once I get there and teach myself how to make one, and hopefully at least a rug to separate out the living from the dining area.  I also found some "removable vinyl patterns" that I can't help but feel like play with fire a bit on the "no hanging crap on the walls" rule.  

The "Master Bedroom" will boast this actual wide-double bed (the biggest we can get!), those sheets, brown curtains (closest color to light-blocking we could get), and a colorful quilt that is *almost* the same as what's pictured.
I also bought this runner-rug in the bottom corner so we don't have to hear Mac's nails on the hardwood of the hallway every night while we try to sleep and he's all "I'ma walk around because you don't want me to."  I dream of a giant "removable" vinyl wall map and throw pillows.  We shall see.
This is for the side bedroom - aka where KpMcD will sleep on nights when the tiny "Master" bed feels too tiny for both of us.  We already have the desk, the bed, and the grey quilt, plus an awesome Starry Night blanket that my aunt made for me years ago.  As you may note from the dreamy throw pillows, I shall theme this room.  I will also probably paint in this room once I get my easel set back up.

Hopefully that helps with the white walls!  These have been a fun way to calmly feel productive when I'm not in a productive mood, but I can't wait to see now how it all actually comes together!
Less than a month until I actually know, I guess. (eek!)

Other interesting perks to this place?  Well, there's one that I can think of off the top of my head:
My butt is going to be so happy.

How do you start to make a home?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
私の 猫わ うるさいです。 わかります。 ごめんあさい!

watashi-no neko-wa u-ru-sai desu.  wa-ka-ri-masu.  go-men-na-sai!

My cat is very loud/ annoying.  I understand.  SORRY!  

I'm fairly certain we're going to end up using this a lot for our neighbors.  
Which is *kind of* amusing, because no one cared that we're bringing a cat, 
they're all worried about Mac.  Who as we all know, will be no big deal.


Kara said...

I'm in a 890 sq foot apartment after an actual house. Went from a king sized bed to a full. Giant L shaped couch to currently nothing (I'm cheap, hoping to get a love seat). It will make you wonder "do I really love this enough to allow it to take up space?" 11th floor isn't bad and you have built in stairs, so no need for an elliptical. Your butt will look fantastic!

Rob Oh said...

I'd love to have dinner or something the next time I'm in yr town (probably after you move there) and catch up! Also, I'm quite jealous about how big your place is... considering mine is not quite as big as a Trowbridge double... (on the older side)

Just make sure you are aware of the monthly elevator checks when they close the elevator down so you don't get surprised by the forced exercise (my ex lived on the 13th floor and found out the hard way...)

Also, I found a pretty decent sized and quite functional oven (about 2-3 times the size of a standard american toaster-oven, can fit a medium-ish pizza) at the Konan home center store (it's lind of like a home depot or lowes with furniture?) for about $70 and I've been using it almost daily for the last 4 years.

Good luck with the move! also I recommend bringing a stock of toothpaste and american deodorant as I STILL do not trust the Japanese versions of those 2 items

Deidre said...

I always feel like real estate agents are sneaky!

The place looks great.

I've always found it really hard to make a place 'a home' in Melbourne because we're not allowed to hang things on the walls. But for me it's all about the kitchen and having the ability to cook things with the things that I'm familiar with.

Good luck making cookies in that oven (eep!) you'll have to let us know how it goes!

Kathleen F said...

Lil slow on the uptake here. Remember how I baked cookies in my Korean toaster oven? You will learn so many new tricks! For walls: couldn't you drape fabrics of some sort? Or is that too juvenile/college dormy? Does this sweet mansion have heated floors?!