A long hallway with blond wood floors and white walls leads from the entrance to a doorway which opens to the studio section of my furnished Tokyo home. From this hallway doors open to the shoe closet, the laundry area, the bath area and the toire room.
Honestly, this room designated for the toilet becomes my favourite room in the house for its Zen simplicity. It delights the eye every time I open the door. After I figure out how to turn off the heated seat function, that is. As the October temperatures have spiked to an abnormal, summer-like heat wave in the 30s and humidity levels hover around 90%, the last thing I need is to park my bottom on a heating pad. Of course, when November and December roll around and interior temperatures dip into the low-teens, that turns out to be a toasty welcome.
I’m lucky to have in suite laundry facilities on the opposite side of the hallway. The washing machine with a drying function, remains a mystery I fail to solve in the five months spent trying to follow the translated instructions contained in the hefty apartment user manual.
There is a quick wash option; however, the manual fails to explain it. No amount of button bashing enables me to find it. The regular wash/dry cycle takes hours during which I am not supposed to leave it unattended. Alas, I am stuck while the machine endlessly sloshes and then burps the clothes. Thank heaven for Post-It Notes I use to label the functions I have figured out.
Fortunately the machine is quiet. I’m on the ground floor and can’t disturb anyone below me. In order not to waste my whole day off waiting for the machine, I can start a load at 6 AM. By the time I have meditated, showered, dressed and had breakfast, the cycle is done before any stores have opened. Sweet.
The laundry room is housed in the same room as the sink and vanity which is next to the bath. Fortunately, the bath also has a dryer and hanging rack on which I can dry towels on a daily basis. Normally Japanese people hang their washing to dry on the balcony, but the apartment rules forbid it.
On opening the door to the studio which faces south, bright light streams in through the balcony curtains. The studio area contains a compact u-shaped kitchen with no overhead cupboard space or shelving. I have six inches of counter space on either side of the 2 burner glass-top stove. Thankfully it’s not gas and stands in for a work surface when I need to make coffee or assemble a salad compose or a charcuterie plate as I did on Christmas Eve.
Other than making oatmeal daily in the microwave, I don’t cook at home. I didn’t come to Tokyo in order to spend a third of the waking day in a shoe-box sized studio.
Occasionally, when I don’t go out to explore one of the numerous neighbourhood restaurants, attend a concert or visit an attraction; I purchase prepared salads, vegetables, meats, breads, cheeses and sushi available in portions for one at the local supermarket. The most ambitious thing I do in the kitchen is open a bottle of wine with a cork.
A small refrigerator with the microwave oven on top stands across from the sink. As there is no shelving or storage in the gaping space beside the refrigerator, I commandeer the ironing board which is doing absolutely no good in the closet to hold the kettle. At the other end I put my shopping bags and carry-all for my ikebana tools and books.
Since I must recycle very precisely on separate days but no containers are provided for me to do so, I have gathered all the waste baskets in the place and separated the liner in the step-on one to create two. These, along with a paper bag to hold paper waste, I line up under the ironing board. It’s not pretty, but it’s out of sight when I am not in the kitchen. It works efficiently enough.
To minimize clutter I stash a bar stool I am not using in the closet, shift the furniture around, and drop all the modems, routers, cords and such behind the entertainment console. I’d have jettisoned the TV as well if the cord connecting it to the DVD machine had been long enough. Instead, I shove it as far back as possible. Though they’re visible in the photo, before long I shove the phone/fax and clock into the space behind the console as well.
Then I throw the monstrous apartment user manual, half a dozen remotes and anything else using too much real estate on the console into one of the two drawers below. In addition to the two open shelves, the remaining drawer allows me to store books, journals, the laptop, and my own tech accessories.
During my stay I love to keep the glossy console surface clutter free. From time to time it’s a lovely reflective surface for candles or flowers I bring home five times a week. Some weeks I have so many that I must stuff every beer glass, kettle, empty milk carton, cooking pot and even the rice cooker full of flowers and ring the kitchen sink–a lovely problem to enjoy. To display them elsewhere would risk spillage on the computer, smart phone or books.
A narrow counter top with bar stools surrounds the sink area. In the corner away from the sink and possible water damage, I have created an office area & work station. Not the best situation ergonomically, but neither is the sagging couch. That leaves the bed as option three.
In any other circumstances, the only time I would use my bedroom during the day is if I were ill, but, a studio offers no other option. Occasionally I go out to a café or bar to write or edit photos. However, the Wi-Fi which is included with the apartment rent is more secure than anything available publicly; therefore, I prefer to do any extensive online research at home.
To make things cozier I’ve brought my own cushion covers to mask the garish orange cushions provided, and I hide the matching bed runner in the closet. The white pillow cases I cover with black ones to better tone in with the glossy headboard and toss a fake-fur throw I also brought with me across the bed. Not quite as far as I would go if my stay were permanent, though. With a few luxe touches and cabinetry, I could make this space both a more functional as well as elegant home.
Home. After a few simple touches are added, this 340 square foot apartment which is less than 1/3 the size of my present home in Victoria works its way into my heart. So much so that I notice I never use the words back home. I always say in Canada or in Victoria. Frankly, there are moments (when I am not cursing the washing machine) as I relax before bed with Netflix, read, or try to capture the many little raptures of the day in my journal, I lose all sense of being away. Rather, I am fully present in the cozy little corner of this vast city I call my own. Tadaima! I’m home.