Archive for June, 2010

Apartment Size

June 16, 2010

Many people have asked what my apartment is like. Locally, it is advertised as a “4.5 1K”. It’s small, really small by American standards, a little bigger than a 1 car garage. The system that is used in Japan for classifying apartments is kind of interesting, so I’ll detail it a bit.

The classification system lists the size (4.5), and the amenities (1K).

The size of a room is measured in tatami mats. This is a little strange since tatami mats do not have a standard size. Depending on the region of the country, the mats will be of slightly larger or smaller size. The good news is that, as far as I can tell, within a region, the mats are all the same size.

I measured my mats at 175 x 85 cm. It’s interesting to note that the mats are not twice as long as they are wide. Compare this to the typical red brick which is created so that the length of the long end is exactly two short ends long. This allows the bricks to be arranged in several geometric patterns. Tatami mats on the other hand are not regular, they are longer than twice their width. This means that the mats have to be trimmed to fit into the proper floor pattern (there are aesthetic rules about how the mats are arranged in a room).

The reason I bring this all up is that since the mats have to be trimmed, there is even less information about the size of the room. Assuming an honest broker, you could have at most full mats, and at least, trimmed mats. In a 4.5 mat room, this is a difference of 2 square feet.


Yukari shows off a tatami mat at the local hardware store.

Typically only bedroom floor space is measured, the other rooms, including the kitchen, bathrooms, and closets, are not specified. Because of this, all apartment listings have accompanying floor plans.

In addition to size, apartments are classified using a number and letter code. The number represents the quantity of bedrooms, while the letter describes the amenities. I’ve only really seen three letter codes: D, L, and K. These stand for Dining area, Living area, and Kitchen area, respectively. Thus, a 1K is a single bedroom with a kitchen, and a 2DLK has two bedrooms a dining area, a living area, and a kitchen. Note that the dining and living areas are not different rooms, but merely indicate that the space could plausibly be used for both a dining table and a living space (small couch and TV, etc.) To get an actual idea of the size of these spaces, one must consult the floor plan.

So, my apartment has a bedroom of about 70 square feet, and I’d guess another 70 square feet devoted to closet, bathrooms, and kitchen. The room is very roughly 7 x 10 feet, and that makes it a bit tight for two people. It’s kind of like living on a boat.

For this reason we decided to move to a bigger place. More news on that next time!

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Batman

June 14, 2010

Here is a story for all you story lovers. I was taking a mid-day nap after staying up far too late the night before when I was woken up by the frantic ringing of my doorbell.

Now usually, the only person who rings my doorbell is my neighbor and good friend Yukari, so I got up and answered the door. This sounds a lot easier than it was because the summer weather is rather hot, and I had taken my pants off before my nap. Actually, to tell the truth, I had taken my pants off the moment I had come inside, and switched on the air conditioner for good measure. Anyway, it was a good minute of solid doorbell ringing before I had found my clothes and put them back on. I wasn’t surprised at all to see Yukari standing there, but I did notice a bit of a wild, panicked, look in her eyes when she said: “Batman! Batman! Apart-o de Batman das-yo!” (I may have misremembered the Japanese bits, but basically she was saying that Batman was in her apartment.)

“I had no idea you were such a fan!” I thought it my head (lacking the ability to say so in Japanese). I really couldn’t understand why she was so excited, but she beckoned me inside, so I went in.

When she handed me a broom, I started to realize that this was not mere excitement over the release of a Japanese translation of the latest Batman movie, but rather an assassination I was to preform.

Looking around the apartment with apprehension, I felt the last bit of excitement drain from me about seeing the new Batman series. I never did see it, but a lot of people had relatively positive things to say about it. I hadn’t bothered watching the one with Mr. Freeze, and looking as cheesy as it did, I didn’t feel compelled to see any more. Besides, the latest retelling of Batman merely underscores the fact that the story is dead, and all we can hope for now is a new version with different actors playing the characters. As if I haven’t had my fill of overly rehearsed kong-fu-esq action scenes. …but I digress.

The room seemed devoid of bats, so I relaxed, and put down the broom. A terrified Yukari peered around from the door, unable to re-enter the apartment. She explained that she thought it was behind the TV, but as I approached that location, she began to get overwhelmed with fear. I stopped, put her in my apartment, and then returned to the task at hand.

As I peered around the back of the TV I was not greeted by a bat in the face, as you might be guessing, since I had left my weapon on the floor. Instead, there was the tiniest little bat, clearly at wit’s end, clinging to a laptop bag. I couldn’t decide who was more terrified, the bat or Yukari. I gently picked up the laptop bag, carried it outside, and placed it somewhere where the bat could fly away if it wanted to. Then I put Yukari back in her apartment, after snaping a photo with her iPhone to commemorate the experience.

The bat wasn’t on the laptop bag when I returned later that evening, so I assume that it flew off and is happily terrorizing the neighborhood bugs to this day.

I can only assume that the bat thought it had found a nice cool cave to live in when it entered Yukari’s open window.

I’ll leave you with this photo:

Sailing

June 7, 2010

This post has been a long time in coming, I finally found the time to sit down and type it all up. Sorry to have taken so long with it.

When I started preparing to move to Japan, I thought that it would be sad that I would not be able to go sailing for an entire year. However, I happened across a website of Japanese sailing clubs one day while trying to discover if Japan requires a boating license (they do) as countries in Europe do. This page led me to the websites of two clubs in Fukuoka, and, with the help of Google’s translation feature, I was able to find a club similar to the one I’m a member of back home.

The club members where a bit surprised when I arrived. The club isn’t easy to find on the web if you don’t read Japanese, and the marina is difficult to get to without a car, or an incredible knowledge of the bus system. After sorting out membership, and paying my dues (which was an adventure in itself), I was finally a member of the club.


Above is a photo of the marina dingy tarmac. This is where all the boats live, lashed to the ground, while not in the water. In the background, near the launching ramp, you can see the boats from the local university getting ready to sail.


These are the private boats of some of the club members. I was told that at least one of them is over 100 years old, and her owner is over 80 years old and a great sailor.

The median age of the club is pretty high, in my 30s, I’m one of the youngsters. Some of the members of the club have been on a high school or university sailing team, but just as many started sailing when they joined the club.

Back home, the sailing club is pretty disorganized, you can show up at any time, leave at any time, and checkout any boat you want. The club here (which I’ve been told is pretty laid back) is very organized.

The day starts at 9am, there is a meeting about the day’s activities, followed by assignments to boats. Then we rig the boats, change into our sailing gear, and then, before we put anything in the water, we have a group stretching session followed by a final briefing. The stretching part cracks me up, the Japanese love group stretching, if this was a track team, then I’d totally understand, but this is sailing. I play along because a little extra stretching doesn’t hurt. Of course, I should be thankful, in addition to stretching, both the high school and the university teams have group “whooping” sessions where the object seems to be to appear to be as excited as possible. The day concludes with yet another meeting before we all go home. It’s not bad, it’s just different.


Here, one of the members rigs a “Hopper”, which, as far as I can tell, is identical to a Laser.


Another type of boat here is rigged with one of two different cleats for the main halyard. This will probably only be of interest to sailors. The most common type (above) is just a small metal nugget which perches on its cleat. The slightest nudge will dislodge it, so it must be held in place with a short length of line.


Another similar halyard cleat, which is less common, is the slightly adjustable model shown here.

In both cases the halyard is steal cable cut to the length of the mast, ensuring a perfect fit when cleated in place.

The reason for this design is to facilitate quickly dropping the main sail. This is necessary when docking as it’s a down wind run to the launching ramp, and approaching with too much speed could mean running aground on concrete.

There is a lot more to tell about this club, but I’ll save that for another post.