Our 14-year-old refrigerator has been sputtering for the last few years and, as of last night, we decided that it would be the height of imprudence not to retire it before it dies completely. In the summer, in particular, the motor tends to overheat in the un-airconditioned kitchen and it sometimes can't run long enough to keep the refrigerator cold enough. On occasion, the ice in the ice cube trays will start to melt when this sort of thing happens.
This morning, I noticed that the indentation in the handle to the mid-section of the fridge pictured above was full of water. The reason was that entire thing had stopped working overnight and water was dripping out from thawing food in the top. After a bout of complete panic at the notion of a large investment in frozen food dying a premature death, I got the refrigerator to start working again by a combination of shaking it up a bit and unplugging and re-plugging the power cord. Plugging and unplugging it caused it to start running each time the power was re-connected.
At the moment, it seems to be in good working order again without any intervention from me but the motor has made clunking noises on occasion and made some again today. Even if I was willing to try and string it out longer, I'm not sure it'll survive another summer in its current state. So, we're pretty much going to have to add the refrigerator to the list of aging appliances that we're going to have to replace.
While this may sound like a simple (albeit expensive) thing to do, like everything else in Japan, it's rather complicated. Our apartment is literally "full" of furniture and cannot accommodate anything else. The kitchen in particular is set up as efficiently as possible. There is absolutely no way to re-arrange any piece of furniture in order to fit in a larger one and there is nothing we can sacrifice to make space given that we have almost no built-in shelving.
The refrigerator we buy to replace the one we have must, therefore, be exactly the same size as the one we currently own. Unfortunately, my research has shown that the standard size for a relatively largish refrigerator in Japan is now around 60 cm. and our refrigerator is 54 cm. I think the actual usable space is up to 56 cm., but that'd be an incredibly tight squeeze. The main problem for us is that we need what might be considered a "big" refrigerator in Japan. Most of the 54 cm. models are the short type that are more often used in college dorm rooms in the U.S. or used for people who live alone in one-room apartments in Japan. For 2 people who buy a lot of fresh food, those short ones just won't suffice.
Of course, we also don't want to pay too much for a new fridge since our plans for remaining in Japan are fairly uncertain. We may leave relatively soon or may stay a bit longer but we are living each day with an eye toward departure, not an eye toward staying. However, we know from my brother-in-law's experience that a used refrigerator is not a good option. Also, I doubt very much that a used one would easily fit our size needs (narrow and tall).
This picture of our possible future fridge is stolen from Sharp's product page.
I did some research and think this model by Sharp may be the best option. It's 54 cm. wide but about 14 cm. (5.5 in.) shorter than our current model. Hopefully, the fact that it is 7 cm. (2.8 in.) deeper than our current one will make-up for a little of the capacity lost from the reduced height. It's also relatively cheap for a mid-size refrigerator at ¥54,800. I'm also attracted to the 2-section design more than our 3-segment design because the drawer at the bottom of ours has always been hard to dig into and unwieldy to clean.
My husband will look into this model and do some in-store research and hopefully we can get this resolved quickly in case the old one gives up for good this weekend. I can't say that I'm looking forward to the replacement in any way. It's bad enough that it's going to cost us but we also have to make special arrangments and pay to have the old model hauled away by the maker (Sanyo). In fact, I had hoped to buy another Sanyo so that this process would be done in one step (deliver the new one, remove the old one) but Sanyo does not make a model of the right size for us.