Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Won't you be my neighbor?
This morning I stumbled out into the kitchen to make the elixir of wakefulness (aka coffee) and noticed that the screen covering the kitchen window was half open. This allows a whole host of unsavory crawling and flying creatures to infiltrate my apartment. My husband is particularly peeved about mosquitos getting in and quite rightfully so. He's spent the last 3 days with two bites prominently on display on his forehead causing students to peer quizzically at them or ask about what happened.
I pushed on the open screen to close it and it fell right out of the frame onto the ground outside. I figured someone had broken it carrying something awkward to the apartment next door. I was dissuaded from this notion by a note on the genkan from my landloard explaining that the screens in the front of the apartment were being cleaned today. I wondered why the screens in the back of the apartment, which are so dirty that they give off puffs of dust if you bump into them, never get cleaned as part of the 2,000 yen a month maintenance fee we pay.
I figured out the reason why when I stepped out to go grocery shopping and noticed the apartment above ours (pictured above) had been vacated and was now being cleaned. They were sprucing up the front of the building so it'd look better for propsective tenants. They don't bother with the back because it's gated off and inaccesible.
This reminded me of the often stated (by both foreigners and Japanese alike) that Japanese people are only concerned about cleanliness in as far as it personally concerns them and have little concern for how their actions affect the environment of others. In other words, my landlord doesn't care about how clean my screens are. He only cares about how dirty the ones a possible tenant might see are.
All that being said, my landlord is a very nice person who has been supportive and understanding. He communicates with us in meticulously written notes in English (see below) or speaks to us in English. If I asked him to clean the back screens, he'd probably do it. He just isn't going to do it spontaneously. In fact, the very act of taking a few pictures for this posting made him worry that I was upset about what was happening and he called to apologize for the inconvenience. He's just that considerate.