I’ve been watching this really cool documentary called “Victorian Farm” recently. It’s about 3 people (two archeologists and one historian) who live on a Victorian era farm for one year as Victorian farmers. They can only wear the same clothes, eat the same food, and use the same tools and products, that Victorians used.
It’s really interesting watching them figure out how to plant a wheat crop using only Victorian machinery; raise chickens, pigs, sheep, and cows as the Victorians did; and my personal favorite, cook Victorian style food and make things like cheese, cider, and lip balm (all with the use of a coal burning stove).
It got me thinking about all the things I’ve learned to do while living in Japan.
There are things I do all the time now without thinking, that when I first moved into a Japanese apartment, I had no idea about. For example, I had no idea that Japanese bathtubs could re-heat the water in the tub, or that bathwater is usually used to wash laundry (the reason washing machines are always located really close to the bathtub). If that grosses you out, let me just add that in Japan, people always shower and completely clean themselves before they get in the bath. The bathtub isn’t where people wash themselves, it’s just for relaxing and getting warmed up after showering. Therefore, the water doesn’t really get that dirty, and it’s never soapy.
I had no clue that bathwater could be re-heated, re-used, and finally used to do the laundry. When my husband and I first moved into our apartment together, the very first night after taking a bath and getting dressed, I started to drain the water, and my husband came running in yelling, “Noooooooo!” and put the plug back in. Needless to say, I was very confused. Nowadays, I’m a Japanese bathtub pro!
Our bathtub with its cover on. This keeps the water hot and prevents water and soap from getting in the bath water while you’re showering next to it. Japanese bathtubs are often smaller than their American counterparts, but much deeper. The water is usually up to one’s neck. It’s wonderful. ♥
Another thing I had no clue about was sunning the futons. I knew Japanese people always hang out their laundry to dry (the reason apartments always have balconies and places to place poles for hanging laundry), and hanging laundry isn’t that hard to figure out, but I didn’t know that people like to hang their futons (Japanese people usually sleep on thick futons on the floor, although beds are also popular with some nowadays) over the balcony rail when it’s sunny and dry to sun them.
The sunlight kills any bacteria or mold that may want to grow on the futons do to lingering moisture. People also use a beating stick (think of the thing your grandma or great-grandma used to beat rugs, and that’s it) to beat both sides of the futons while their sunning. This gets rid of dust and any other lingering particles you don’t want on your futon, and makes them generally fluffy and nice.
A lot of futons and futon blankets hanging out and catching some sun. Photo credit.
People also usually put their futons into a futon closet (all bedrooms have very deep closets for storing their futons, blankets, and pillows) after they get up in the morning, and get them out again at night. This helps provide space during the day (rooms are quite small compared to the U.S.), and also leaving the futons out all the time isn’t good for the flooring underneath or the futons (it’s a very humid country, and this is just asking for mold problems).
There are so many other little things I’ve learned while living here, it’s hard to remember them all.
Major house cleaning isn’t done in the spring (ala spring cleaning) but done right before the new year (Jan. 1st).
Trash must always be separated into burnable, non-burnable, paper (including milk cartons), plastic bottles, metal cans, glass bottles, aerosol cans, oversize trash, etc. (because there are so many trash categories, every day is trash day). This used to confuse the heck out of me. I thought milk cartons were burnable, but no, they’re paper. I thought light bulbs were glass, but no, they have to be taken to stores that have receptacles for throwing away light bulbs as well as batteries. I thought electronic appliances were non-burnable, but no, they have to be taken to electronic stores, where you have to pay them to dispose of your electronics.
Due to the lack of central heating and air, windows should be opened every day to circulate the air. It used to make me extremely disgruntled when my husband would open the windows in the depths of winter first thing in the morning…. Actually, this one still makes me a little disgruntled (he could at least wait until after coffee when I’m more awake and a little warmer, right? Right?!).
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. It’s been an amazing four years, and needless to say, I’ve certainly learned a lot! It’ll be interesting to start living in an American home again, and probably there will be a bit of reverse culture shock that goes along with it. I, however, cannot wait to use an American dryer for the laundry!