My apartment is located right next to the city center. City Hall, the train station, and many shops and restaurants are all within walking distance. This is especially nice when I have office days at the Board of Education (BOE) because I am able to walk to work in about five minutes.
My apartment is partially subsidized by my Contracting Organization (CO), therefore I am only paying ¥20,000 (which is the equivalent to $176 according to the currency exchange rate the day I wrote this blog entry) out of the total ¥30,000 (or $264). The real question is: what kind of apartment will $264 get you in a small Japanese city?
The building was constructed in 1989. Because there are so many very old buildings in Japan, my apartment complex is still considered to be "newer". With that being said, there is a new housing development just down the street that recently opened or will be open in the near future.
The lobby of my building is definitely sad looking. At one time the tile that lines the floor and the walls was white. There is also a large floor to ceiling window that had a small rock display, but unfortunately has not been maintained. The lobby is where all of the mailboxes are located. These mailboxes are not locked. This still surprises me two months into my stay, because if this type of system existed in the United States, your mail would not be safe. Important mail (such as official documents) and packages are delivered to your door directly. In the instance of your absence, you will be left a note that gives you directions on how to schedule for another delivery.
There is an elevator in the lobby that also looks very dated. It could use a deep cleaning, but it also looks like it is about to give up at any given second. The first day I rode in it, I immediately thought of the elevator from The Grudge. If you haven't seen it, it is a horror movie that originated in Japan (called Ju-on). I do live on the fifth floor, but I often take the stairs to avoid the elevator. I tend to only take the elevator when I am extra lazy or carrying a lot of things. Taking the stairs is not without risk either. The stairs are covered, but are outside. The issue with that is the spider webs. There are HUGE spiders in Japan. So huge that they tend to just hang out right in the open because they know nothing will hurt them. Because of this, the spider webs are also big. So, there is a chance running into a surprise web.
When you enter my apartment you immediately step onto the genkan. The genkan is a tiled floor that is a few centimeters below the flooring of the rest of the apartment. This is where you take off your shoes. There is a whole storage unit to the right where you can leave all of your shoes (because I am the only person living here, I also leave a lot of my cleaning supplies and an extra umbrella in this area).
The genken connects to the hallway. Once you step onto the wood floors, there is a room immediately to the right that contains the sink, washing machine and shower/bathtub room. The first time I attempted to use the washing machine it took me over an hour to figure out how to operate it correctly. The washing machine is so small that I have to do a load of laundry at least twice a week.
Immediately to the of the hallway is my kitchen. The area is big enough to fit a table with two chairs. The kitchen has so much storage space. In addition to the cabinets and pantry, there are a few shelving units that were left behind by my predecessor. I am not quite sure how I am going to utilize everything. But I do plan on replacing the table, which is extremely damaged and has an unfortunate looking table cloth. Additionally, I plan on using some wall stickers to somewhat hide the yellow cabinets. The kitchen has two burners and a fish grill, but no oven. There is also a very old microwave left by from my predecessor (and probably his predecessor) and I was also gifted an old rice cooker from a coworker. I am hoping to get an air fryer in the near future so that I can at least have a little oven.
The kitchen opens up to the tatami room. For over two months, my tatami room was completely empty minus the kotatsu. A kotatsu is a low sitting table with a heater. A thick blanket covers the kotatsu to contain the heat which keeps your lower body warm during winter. It is now my favorite thing about my apartment! I find myself laying underneath it most evenings while I watch Netflix. The United States needs to start selling them.
The balcony is attached to the tatami room. This is where I hang my clothes to dry (I know very exciting stuff). What is really awesome about my balcony is the view. Tall buildings in my city are uncommon so my view is pretty cool during sunrise and sunset, I am able to overlook a lot of different buildings and houses. I can even see City Hall (where I work on office days) from the balcony! I would love to get a few plants for the balcony as well as a chair to enjoy cool spring and fall evenings.
Heading back to the hallway from the tatami and kitchen area the next room is the toilet room. I was hoping for a bidet, since my building is "newer" and bidets are very common in public restrooms in Japan, but unfortunately I did not get one. I do have a toilet unit that has a sink on top. This is also a very common toilet in Japanese toilets. Clean water comes out from the top to wash your hands and then drains into the toilet bowl to conserve water.
Finally, at the end of the hall is my bedroom! I am fortunate that my predecessor left me a very comfy queen bed. The closet has a lot of room and there is a nice amount of storage space above the closet as well. Which is where I'll put things that I don't need often since I am too short to easily access the space. There is some space at the foot of my bed where I am thinking about putting a very simple desk and chair so that I have designated space to work on my pictures. This space is next to a floor to ceiling window that would be nice to look out while working.