Sunday, September 30, 2007
Awhile back, I was asked in comments about the layout of our apartment. Most people either have a copy of their apartment's layout or would have had one at some time or another because you get a copy of it when you go to the real estate agency to inquire about a place. In our case, we had never actually seen the layout since our apartment was graciously handled for us before we came over by my husband's brother. This is no small deal in Japan, incidentally, and it was likely an even bigger deal 18 years ago when fewer places accepted foreign tenants. Needless to say, it can be time-consuming and frustrating to find a place and secure and agreement depending on how much you want to pay (cheaper places are harder to get) and where you want to live.
So, I certainly don't mean to imply that we aren't grateful for the effort he went to to find a place when I mention that we didn't get a layout diagram as part of the deal. Honestly, up until I started blogging, it never occurred to me that it'd be interesting to even have such a piece of paper around to show people the size and orientation of our place. Fortunately, and unsurprisingly, the landlord had the copy that they give to the real estate agent to advertise the place and graciously gave me a photocopy which I've scanned in. He also wrote the measurements in pencil at the top and sides. I added other notes in Photoshop to make it clearer.
One thing that the diagram made clear to me was that my impression that the apartment was nearly a perfect square is correct. This means that there is relatively little "wasted" space unlike most Japanese apartments which seem to have "tunnel" areas, particularly at the entrance which are only useful for limited storage areas and tend to make the place feel narrower. When all the access points between rooms in a square-shaped place like ours are open, the space feels relatively large and unified giving the illusion of a bigger place.
If you look at the other two places in the diagram which our neighbors occupy, you'll see that the place on our right is a perfect mirror image of ours. This apartment has been occupied by the same woman ever since we moved in. That's right, we're not the only ones who have remained here for nearly two decades! When we first moved in, I believe this woman was living with her sister but several years after we moved in, the sister moved out. This woman is quiet and never bothers us. She is mainly noteworthy as a neighbor because she seems to go to bed and rise extremely early. We know this because she is meticulous about closes the noisy metal shutters at her back windows (sliding glass doors leading to the balcony). We hear them scraping open between 4:00-5:00 am each morning and shut around 10:00 pm every night. When we are having problems sleeping, that dreaded sound always signals the time for us.
The apartment on the left is occupied at present by a single man. Up until I got this diagram 2 days ago, I didn't know that was a slightly bigger place than ours. This particular apartment has seen more of a rotation of tenants. At one point, a family with a 2-year old lived there. A couple also lived there at one time. The man that lives there now is notable for a variety of habits but primarily for smoking like a chimney. When our kitchen window is open and he come and goes, a breeze full of the odor of stale smoke wafts in. He carries the aroma of ashtray around him like Pig-pen's dust cloud. This fellow also is a bit odd in that he seems to be in and out of his apartment several times a day, everyday, at odd times as if he doesn't have a regular job. I've noticed he often is running in and out at 8:30, 10:00, 1:00, 3:00, etc. However, he must have a job because our apartment is 110,000 yen and his is bigger so it may be more expensive. Other than his odd hours and smoking, he sometimes plays music very loud but we can only hear it from the walkway in front of our place when we approach our front door. We never hear anything through the walls.
For those who don't know, the "DK" on the diagram is for "dining kitchen" and is supposed to indicate that room is to be used for both a kitchen and a dining room but our room is really too small for that considering there is so little built-in cabinet space. If we had overhead shelving built-in and didn't require extra cabinetry for dishes and food storage, we might be able to get a table in there. Doing so now though would require us to constantly walk around a smallish table in the middle of the room and it'd look awkward in addition to being a hassle to constantly circumnavigate.
Most apartments are advertised with "DK" as part of the information. Our apartment is a "2DK" meaning it is a "dining kitchen" plus 2 other rooms. When my husband lived in Kita-senju alone, he lived in a 1DK but it was also one of the aforementioned places with a tunnel-like hallway. In fact, it felt a bit like a barbell with two rectangular rooms at the end of a hall. His apartment there had what is called a "unit bath". It was a smallish western-style tub in the same room with his toilet and a sink. It's considered a "unit" because the plastic of the tub and the plastic floor were all from one huge molded piece of plastic.
Our apartment has a relatively old-style set-up with a water closet containing only a toilet and a separate Japanese-style tiled shower room with a very deep but completely square and short Japanese tub. You can immerse yourself up to nearly your shoulders but your legs are all cramped in. I guess it was designed for shorter people. We never use the tub but I do love the roomy shower area right next to it. I've watched some Japanese apartment tours on Youtube and our shower area is definitely one of the bigger ones among this particular style.
I've asked several of my students about what they believe a place like ours should cost and, since they are taking their lessons in the place, they can gauge its size, age, and amenities accurately. Most of them feel that it is appropriately priced for its size and location. A few said it's slightly expensive and a few said it's slightly cheap. I will note that our rent was 93,000 yen when we first moved in and progressively raised to the point where it is now though it hasn't been changed for at least the last ten years.