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Monday, November 10, 2008

A peek inside our mansion

A few people have been asking to see our house - and today I finally got around to taking a few shots.

The view from the front door.

himonya house tour_0587

Our flat is basically comprised of two rooms: a kitchen / dining room, and a living / bedroom. There's also a tiny bathroom, and a separate loo, oh, and a balcony. The two rooms are divided by glass-panelled sliding doors, which we've only now started to close at night to keep the heat in the bedroom.

The table is an IKEA job, heroically carted back by my sister's-in-law's partner, Morris, when they they lived here. It's also a wedding gift, for which we are very grateful!

The kitchen is basically everything along the left-hand side of the room.

The kitchen in all it's glory.

himonya house tour_0576

I spent quite a long time re-organising all this. Improvements include the removal of heavy / lethal plates from the cupboards above the sink, which *Twinkle* had to stand on a chair in order to reach! It's now home to things like dish cloths, stores of spaghetti, and granny's best china.

On the left is the gas stove, which we only use when our main hotplate (the induction range, to the right of the sink) is otherwise engaged. The induction range also serves as rice cooker, kettle, and oven (in conjunction with a saucepan of course!) and costs far less to run than regular hotplates (I took some meter readings last year). Why they are not more common I don't know, such a fantastic technology. There's a couple of companies that make them - ours is Sharp, distributed by Amway.

I'm particularly happy with the rack to the left of the sink, which in this action shot is stacked with stuff. This is our third attempt at getting the draining board sorted, having experimented with non-purpose built metal racks we had around the place. The purchase of this £10 basket thing from our local supermarket dramatically changed my emotional relationship with the kitchen.

The gas heater above the sink is unfortunately common in Japan. With no proper flu outlet the sticker on it instructs you to always have the fan on when using it - people have been known to die from carbon monoxide poisoning from these things. Because of this, we never use it for hot water, and have turned off the gas supply. Instead it's just used for washing up with cold water (which for some reason doesn't bother me in the slightest. Now, using hot water for washing up strikes me as being a bit wasteful!).

To the right of the induction range is the food mixer and water filter, and below them six plastic baskets which serve as our pantry. Each one has a theme: Baking, liquids, packs of mysterious Japanese ingredients I don't understand, pasta etc, jams and hot drink supplies. To the right of that we have our sexy fridge, inherited from *Twinkle*s family. It now sports an Apple Sticker to help convince people it is cool.

himonya house tour_0580

The latest and final bit of furniture I purchased from the local department store was this wooden shelving unit. I'd realised that the space in front of the glass door was 'dead space', something I don't feel we can afford in this tiny place. This unit has turned out to be ideal. It's nice to have the fruit on display, and to have the saucepans ready to hand - encourages me to cook!

One thing I find frustrating is not being able to put things into the wall. Like screws to attach racks and so forth. I try and make do though - here's my homemade utensil rack.

himonya house tour_0577
himonya house tour_0581

Looking back towards the entrance you can see the door to the loo (pictured below), which just about allows me to sit down without having to cut my legs off. The sticky-out-bit on the left is the bathroom.

himonya house tour_0584

It's a typical Japanese toilet in that when you flush it the water to fill the cistern first comes out of a pipe on top into a mini-sink (lid of the cistern) - a great way to save water as you can wash your hands with water destined for the loo.

himonya house tour_0583

Typical Japanese bathrooms of this size are sealed units - one big piece of moulded plastic. Our water heater is traditional too. You have to turn the handle to get it started (to light the pilot), then wait forever for it to fill the narrow but deep tub (ours takes about half an hour to reach the half-full mark). The bath has two holes in the side: when full, the water is continuously drawn back into the boiler, reheated, and pumped back into the tub, to maintain a constant temperature. In Japan one washes outside of the bath using the shower, and then just uses the tub for soaking and warming (hhm, that phrase sounds a bit familiar... it's one of the answers on the tests that my English students take) - the whole family take it in turns, thus it makes sense to keep it warm.

The big round thing with the pipes coming out the top is our bathroom water filter - our non-filtered tap water is quite heavily chlorinated, and tends to leave me feeling like I need a shower after I've had a shower, not to mention gives me real bad dandruff (and smells!). When I first heard that such a filter existed I thought it was utterly ridiculous and a complete waste of money, but now wonder how we managed without. (disclaimer: that too is distributed by Amway, in which we have a stake :-)

himonya house tour_0585

The ugliness of the space below the sink beside the door left me feeling pretty negative towards that whole part of the house. I resolved to fix it by hiding the sealed up-air vent and waste pipe by buying some white cotton and double sided fabric tape - hey presto, a lovely little curtain!

The other area I set out to improve was the rubbish bins, located to the right of the door.

himonya house_0610

I bought a new bin for raw-rubbish, and then divided the bin to the right into two (one for plastics, the other for non-burnables). Note that below the bin on the left is a little space - this is actually another mini-bin on its side which I use for putting in recyclables like cans and glass jars. Recyclable paper is kept in the bag on the right.

I'm a bit shocked by how much pleasure sorting out the bins gave me.

The other side of the kitchen / living room is *Twinkle*s office. When working there she uses an IKEA chair as a desk, and sits on a cushion on the floor. Having said that, recently she has been using my Mac more and more, so often uses my desk in the next room instead.

himonya house tour_0582

The bookshelf is from IKEA. The curtains are all handmade by *Twinkle*s sister, a designer by trade.

Welcome to my office

himonya house tour_0593

This then is where it all happens. My office / our bedroom.

The table is from IKEA again, only about 2500 yen. The additional LCD (a generous gift from my other sister-in-law and her husband) is used for looking sexy, watching movies and when I'm attempting to multitask.

himonya house tour_0598

It looks a bit of mess from this angle, but usually I don't notice the cables. The printer is kept out of site below the table - possible due to it being front-feed. This was left to me by dear John John. There's also a flatbed scanner there, but it's only used now and then so doesn't warrant a permanent position on top of anything.

To the left are my six little stationary drawers, bought from the local supermarket. They just happen to fit perfectly in the wooden bookshelf that is on it's side.

himonya house tour_0591

Our second IKEA bookshelf is used for all my documents / household records etc. The files were only 250 yen for a pack of five from IKEA.

The opposite side of the room is taken up with traditional built-in cupboards.

himonya house tour_0600

himonya house tour_0601

This is where the futons live during the day. I've also bought a load of plastic drawers, each one labelled with what's in it so *Twinkle* can find stuff after I tidy up. Whilst most have (homemade) purple inserts, I've given a couple of them different colours to help *Twinkle* find what she's looking for quickly :-) (the 'Temp Capsule' is for those clothes which have been worn once, but are not dirty enough for washing, but not brand-spanking clean either. Separate from the laundry basket, it's kind of temporary storage, gets sorted through when I do the laundry).

himonya house tour_0602

Our hanging space is limited - just that in the top-left cupboard, but that's OK as my suit a few shirts are the only things that can't be left in a drawer.

himonya house tour_0604

The shoe-rack, which was by the front door, is now in the cupboard. Whilst this may seem like a waste of space, it's actually helped a lot as we can now use all the space above it (up to the ceiling) and behind it to store things like my rucksack and extra bedding for guests - space that would otherwise go unused.

himonya house tour_0595

Finally, meet our washing machine (also a gift from Y & M). As is often the case in small apartments, it's outside, on the balcony. It doesn't seem to mind. It's cold-water only, and works a treat. After living in Japan the first time, I was left wondering why we waste all that electricity back home by using hot water to wash clothes.

And that's it.

Guests always welcome. Bring clothing suitable for expedition to north pole.

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14 Comments:

Blogger Megane~kun said...

Oh wow that looks so awesome! It's very cozy and just shouts "comfy home" all over.

I wish my computer table has a fantastic window behind it like that. The natural lighting of the whole place is just... just... Let's just say you're very fortunate to have an awesome place you could proudly call your home.

And I agree with the sticking things into the wall. I sometimes wake up at the middle of the night whenever one of the "rubber holders" looses its grip on the wall and things come crashing down.

10/11/08 17:28  
Blogger Joseph said...

I think we're quite lucky really ...except that the view out of the window behind my desk will be gone soon - they're due to start building another mansion next door any day!

10/11/08 17:53  
Anonymous Mike said...

Nice shots. Looks like you have a pretty spacious house for living in Tokyo!

I was just wondering, and it may be my lack of long-time readership, but why do you always refer to your darling wife as *Twinkle* and not by her real name..?

10/11/08 18:49  
Blogger Joseph said...

You should see it when it hasn't been tidied up... then it looks tiny!

*Twinkle*s real name? What do you mean...?

Ok ok, so she *Does* have another name, but it has to be kept top secret as if people found out they would start contacting her via facebook to make offers to buy me, the ideal husband, off her.

:-p

10/11/08 18:57  
Blogger Orchid64 said...

Awesome organization. :-) Now, I want to know what's in all those drawers! ;-) Incidentally, I'm almost inspired to break out my plethora of Apple stickers. They do add class to your folders. However, I'm not much of a sticker person. I should probably send you some of my big supply of logo stickers when I start sending reports back and forth to the office in December. You'd probably enjoy them more and employ them to better ends than I.

I envy your your table and chairs and having the space for them, but I guess you don't have a big old bed taking up a huge chunk of space like we do so you've got some spare area. However, I'd take the bed over the dining set. ;-)

I also love your floors and carpets as well as your windows. I can see why you're reluctant to move.

Regarding hot water and washing (both clothes and dishes), in the winter, the water is painfully cold and will cause your hands to dry out and crack. Also, I don't know how you remove oil from dishes without hot water, but you may have some magic Amway product that can manage (I'm not being sarcastic there, despite how that may sound). No one in Japan does laundry in hot water save a rare few, but dishes are another matter.

Thanks for the pictures. Believe it or not, I would have been happier to see more!

10/11/08 22:28  
Blogger Joseph said...

Orchid64 - Glad you enjoyed having a look round! You can claim to have been a part of the organisation as you provided some of the inspiration required!

I knew you'd want to know what was in the drawers! I thought about photographing them to but decided that they weren't organised enough yet!

Oooh yes Apple stickers would make my day. *Twinkle* is resigned to having them all over the place.

Yes, it is good having a table - but it's a pain having to deal with the futon every day! One day we'll have a bed too...!

We are fortunate to have so much light coming in. I'm wondering how close the new mansion will be next door when it's built (watch out for photos in the future as the nice bit of green land next door slowly turns into concrete) - it's hard to tell from the plans we've been sent.

The two white carpets came from a department store, about 5000 yen each I think. I need to wash them really, but need guaranteed good weather for drying them.

The one in front of my desk is a heated carpet, which I think we'll have to use at some point as this place is bloomin freezing already - and it's only November! Trying not to use the aircon as it's so old I have little faith in its efficiency.

I was wondering how cold the water will get in winter. I guess we might end up using the gas heater, but we'll put it off for as long as possible.

...And I suppose the Amway washing up liquid must be magic as it removes all grease with cold water without a problem, but I thought that was what all washing-up liquids did? I've never tried any other stuff with cold water so am not quite sure. I should buy some and see, could be a sales point - although I can't see too many being being thrilled at the prospect of washing up with cold water for the sake of not using gas!

10/11/08 22:56  
Blogger Granny Williams said...

Hi Joseph and Twinkle,
I'm SO pleased to see pictures of your home ... thought you'd never get around to doing some for all your blog-fans to see !
Do all Japanese homes have a wash-hand basin just inside the front door ? Why ?
And where do visitors sleep (just in case I want to visit !)
And a more personal question ... how do you stop the underneath futon getting damp and sweaty ? I slept on one for a few months, and found it was never really dry ...
Great lot of pics !
Love from Granny Williams !
XX

10/11/08 23:12  
Blogger Joseph said...

Hello Granny,

I knew I'd have to do it sooner or later, or I wouldn't get any peace from the likes of you!

The hand-basin is inside the door because, er, there's nowhere else for it to go! It's the equivalent of the bathroom sink. Not exactly common to have it just inside the front door though.

Visitors sleep in Twinkle's office, in front of the long mirror.

Ah, the futon's a bit of a pain. Our old ones went mouldy the year before last year as I never looked after it properly (couldn't be bothered to heave it up and down between the loft-bedroom and the main room).

Basically, we air them nearly every day. If the weather's OK they go over the balcony railing, but more often than not they get draped over the chairs whilst we're out.

10/11/08 23:18  
Blogger lehcyfer said...

I remember from some time ago an TV advertisement of some hanging system using hot-glue based squares of plastic mounted to the wall using a little device which heated them causing the glue on the back to adhere to the wall surface. Then one could put a hanger on the square to hang pictures and stuff. The squares were able to hold several kg of weight.

What I found most interesting was the fact that using the same little heating device one could remove them without a trace on the wall (the excess of the glue was wiped out with a cloth), and they could be placed on any surface including papercloth, glass etc.

Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the product, but possibly you can find similar stuff by asking in some proper places.

Your house look spacy and tidy - how often is it in such top condition? :D

13/11/08 18:32  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks for your comment lehcyfer. I can't say I've ever heard of that technology, but will ask around about it.

13/11/08 22:55  
Blogger Dateline Osaka said...

Oooh, I envy you! It looks so bright and airy in there! I've got to have natural light where I live. Our kitchen has no window and is completely depressing to have to cook in, as a result!

17/11/08 17:26  
Blogger Joseph said...

We are lucky with the light. remains to be seen how much light we'll have in a few months when the new building next door is up the 4th floor!

17/11/08 22:56  
Blogger lehcyfer said...

Hi Joseph!

I tried to locate this technology, but without success.

The comparable thing you may use are 3M adhesive assortment, like the hooks here:

http://cableorganizer.com/hooks/

The 3M comes in many assortments - maybe you'll find sth that will fit to your needs

Cheers!
Leszek Cyfer

24/11/08 22:27  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks for that that Leszek!

I've actually resorted to using nails! Let's hope the landlord doesn't notice when we move out!

24/11/08 22:54  

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