I’ve been living here in rural Nagano Prefecture for the last year and a half, so I have to say that I feel like I’ve adapted to quite a bit since I first came to Japan.
When I first arrived to Japan, in Tokyo, just the streets, cars, buildings, etc. were foreign enough to make me want to take pictures of basically everything I laid my eyes on. I’ve definitely gotten past that, at least. The mountains here still catch my eyes all the time though, so I’m glad to say that I haven’t gotten over them.
Like some of my other posts, here are some more things that I didn’t know I’d have to deal with when I moved to Japan.
1. Air Drying
Dryers aren’t very common in Japanese households. There are washing machines that also have a drying function, but I believe that it only works for small amounts of clothing, not a full load. I could be wrong about that. Basically, if you want a proper dryer, you typically have to go to a laundromat, which is typically called “coin laundry” here.
Dryers just aren’t very common. Instead, everyone pretty much hangs up their laundry outside. If you’re a fan of anime, I’m sure you’ve seen several that feature this. In fact, I’ve been playing Persona 4 recently, and even there Nanako brings up a few times having to bring the laundry inside before it rains.
Pretty much every apartment balcony contains some hooks that you can toss a long rod onto to hang your laundry from (except mine). And for homes, I believe most of them use clothes lines along the side or back of the house outside. Many shower rooms also have grooves in the wall so you can put up rods inside as well (not mine), so you can dry inside using the fan that’s also used to vent steam / humidity when you take a shower / bath.
Personally, as I don’t have a space to hang up my clothes proper outside, I dry all my clothes inside. I have three curtain rods in three different rooms that I hang my clothes from. Because I have paper doors in addition to the outer glass doors, I never really needed curtains anyways.
And in the winter (at least where I am), you basically have to hang your clothes inside anyways, for obvious reasons. Takes a lot longer for clothes to dry in the cold, but they do, eventually.
2. Living with Humidity
One common thing I’ve read people say about Japan is how wasteful the country is in regards to the packaging of many foods and snacks. If you buy a bag of kit kats, cookies, certain crackers, and so on, there’s more packaging, which can get down to the level individually wrapped. It certainly does lead to a lot of plastic.
But that’s not what I wanted to touch upon here, although it is a mini-point for any who didn’t know.
The reason I brought it up is because there’s a pretty good reason why things are so meticulously wrapped. Technically there are two, the first I typically hear being that the gift giving culture here in Japan favours individually wrapped goods. But the other reason is the humidity.
Back home, I could open a box of Ritz crackers, oreos, goldfish crackers, or whatever, and when I was done, just close the box, stick it in the cupboard, and come back some other time for more. But here, if you do that, you’ll come back to soggy crackers! Even if you sort of fold the plastic around to try and prevent air, the humidity will still somehow win in the end. You’d basically have to transplant your crackers into an airtight bag.
Some cookies and things are individually wrapped, but others are just segmented. So for example one box of Ritz crackers, or oreos will be segmented into three parts, each wrapped. But other things are individually wrapped, like Bourbon cookies.
It’s not really a big deal, but I’d never experienced soggy crackers because of humidity before so it was an interesting thing to experience.
The other thing that’s much more annoying is the mold. Back home, I could get away with cleaning my taps / sinks / spouts fairly infrequently. And typically the only dirt that really accumulated on them was calcium, dried toothpaste, and stuff like that. But here, you get mold pretty much anywhere there is moisture, and it just slowly accumulates until you scrub it off to start the process all over.
I guess the moisture in the air just really enables it. And I’m in Nagano, where it isn’t as humid. I have a friend who lived in Yokohama, and after going on a week long trip in the summer, he came back to mold growing on some of his wooden furniture because of the humidity. It’s a real menace.
It’s also why you want to lift up your futon and at the very least flip it up against the wall so both it and the floor can dry during the day. Because moisture will accumulate there, and if you leave a futon on the ground for many days, you’ll get mold. Many people hang them on their balcony, although I don’t due to the abundant rust on my balcony railing…
3. “Bento” Selection
When I first came to Japan, one of my friends who I was staying with at the time in Tokyo told me that Japan is a great place for single people to live when it comes to food. And one of the reasons for that is the popularity of bentos, or ready to eat meals at convenience stores and supermarkets.
I don’t know if Japanese people, or anyone really, calls them bentos. But I did hear someone call them that before I came here, and it’s stuck with me. A real bento is more like a packed lunch, but anyways, it’s what I call them.
Back home, you could expect to find some basic cold foods at a convenience store / gas station, like sandwiches. And at supermarkets, at least the larger ones, you can find a “ready to go” section that has a selection of salads, cooked foods like pastas and chicken, and other things. And here, you basically have the same thing, only on a larger, or at least, more frequent, scale.
Because here, you can find a decent or large selection of these foods at both convenience stores and super markets. Both hot and cold foods to choose from. For hot foots, just heat it up at home (or in store at a convenience store – the staff will offer to do it for you), and you’re in business. I’m not a fan of frying with a lot of oil, due to the mess, so it’s convenient that I can buy things like chicken katsu, takoyaki, et cetera, freshly made and just heat it up at home.
That, and I couldn’t be bothered to cook foods like this. Even things like spring rolls and gyouza, which I like from time to time. Or yakisoba. I don’t buy it, but you can even buy straight up cooked white rice, if you want, and pair it with something. The selection changes a little depending on the location, but in general they tend to stock the same dishes.
I won’t say I buy these things every day, but maybe once a week I like to pop in and pick something up. You can even buy hamburgers, which come wrapped in a plastic bag (bun and all), that you can heat up and eat. 7/11 has some pretty good ones. They’re better than you’d expect from a hamburger in a bag. There’s also other neat single meal foods / snacks you can check out both in convenience stores and supermarkets.
If anything, taking advantage of this has made me realize that I never really looked into the “ready to go” meals at grocery stores back home. Something I probably will, when I’m back on that side of the world.
We’ll just leave this one at three points, because I droned on quite a bit for each and I don’t want the post getting too long. Hopefully you found these interesting, and maybe you learned something new about Japan!
I’ll try to think of more things like this for a future post.
Thanks for reading.