April 07, 2012

Welcome to the Mansion!

After living in hotels for nearly 3 weeks, we finally have what is called in Japanese our own 'mansion'. I really enjoy telling people that I live in a mansion. Except that, in Japan, this is what a mansion looks like:

It takes two steps to cross the room. I could sneeze further than this.
One room, size 5 tatami mats. Even though we don't actually have tatami mats, Japan uses tatami as a form of measurement for rooms. 5 tatami equals about 7.65 square metres. Very cozy!

The genkan (entrance), where shoes are taken off.
Getting a room was a bit of a process, and we had to visit two different real estate agencies. We were lucky enough to have a bit of help from another exchange student, who speaks far better Japanese than we do - if you want to be thrown in the deep end with your Japanese, a real estate agency is the place to do it. So many technical legal terms, and you are spoken to in keigo, which is extremely polite but quite difficult to understand. The main problem seemed to be the fact that we wanted to share a room. We were told 'two people, two rooms'. But we were all, 'hell no, we want cheap rent'. So we went to another real estate agent, who was a bit of a cool dude and found a mansion for us where 'the landlord never comes and visits, so you can share one room and keep it a secret.' Dodgy dealings, indeed.

One thing that getting an apartment has taught me about Japan is that, for all the technological swagger and fast paced lifestyles, when it comes to paperwork, the country is stuck in the 1970s. Instead of computers, they use file cabinets. Pencils and paper. Photocopying is a huge deal - every document has to be photocopied at least four times; one copy for each party, one to be stored in a time capsule, and one to be sent to the Emperor for divine acceptance. (Just kidding - I think). Everything takes about three times longer than it would if it were being done electronically. And there is so much detail. I had to sign every document. But before I could sign, the real estate agent had to use a compass to draw a little circle in which I could sign. Then I had to draw a circle around my signature within the original circle to prove that I had signed in the circle. Got it? Yeah, it makes no sense to me either.
The bathroom - it's like being in a spaceship.
It also came completely unfurnished - not even curtains - which is typical for apartments in Japan, I think. Naturally, my first instinct was to rush to the 100 yen store and begin decorating. Which I did. You have to be very creative with your use of space. Lots of cute little collapsible boxes for storing clothes and books, and lots of hangers and tension rods for drying washing - we currently have clothes hanging off our window in place of curtains, and have a rod set up in the entrance way with coat hangers hanging off it.

Clothes drying: A thankless task.
Because we've been going to convenience stores and restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past three weeks (and getting progressively fatter, refer to Melon Pan post), we decided that we'd better start doing some of our own cooking. Easier said than done, when you have the smallest 'kitchen' in the world. We went to an awesome second hand shop in Suita, owned by the sweetest lady ever. There was everything you could ever want (and then some), and we managed to get a rice cooker, frying pan, toaster, kettle and table all for 7500 Yen (about 100 NZD). There's only one plug in the actual kitchen, so we have to use all the appliances in our room, which is fantastic when you feel too lazy to get up - you can make toast from within a hand's reach of your futon!

The 'kitchen'.
Futon, squeezed in around our unpacked bags on the first night.
If I haven't used the word 'lazy' enough, did I mention that our mansion is just a 1 minute walk away from Kansai University? Yep. It's awesome.


  1. Wow it's so tiny! But I bet you're happy to finally have a more permanent dwelling. Keep decorating!

  2. Haha, seems perfect for students on a budget. I hear the wether has been terrible in that area lately, so that must have been fun moving in with that going on overhead. I would not call that a kitchen... more of a utility closet, but I'm sure it will get the job done for you guys. I myself lived a minute walk to my college last year, and it was totally worth it, and made the experience so much easier.

    Looking forward to more updates, they are quite enjoyable to read.

    1. Hehe cheers! We were quite lucky coz we moved in the day after the Japan-wide storm/typhoon... and the weather was pretty good by then!

  3. Wow I would feel so uncomfortable/lost moving into a house and having nothing!

    Who is the lease-holder, and who will hide under the futon when the landlord comes to visit?

    1. I am the lease-holder, which has confused everyone in Japan so far, because they expect it to be the male in charge (nerr nerr patriarchal society nerr nerr...)
      On our first night someone rang the doorbell and Ryan literally jumped into the closet. I have never seen him move so fast. Turned out it was a survey person, so the panic was for nothing. Lol.

  4. Hello! Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog!! I'm so happy I found yours now!! Reading it makes me nostalgic for my Osaka days, and your pictures are GREAT!! I'll be looking forward to updates, I love Osaka so much, and your blog is really interesting! Nice to meet you! xx

    1. Aw, thanks heaps for reading! =) And likewise, nice to meet you too!