Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Apartment

I am on the top floor of post-Soviet housing. The block could be a prison. It could be the projects. I half expect blood stains in the concrete corridors in the mornings. But, this is naive, I am in Japan, so the murderer would have mopped them up. And set up a shrine. And apologised to the parents, and the presiding mayor. Responsibility is not something that the Japanese avoid. The lift in my building goes up to floors 2, 6 and 1o and I live on the 11th. By the bright red `6` which signifies my block, for those of you who have accessed my FB photos. And I live under the crows. Come 4am (dawn in Japan) the crows awaken and caw to the sun. Given their position on my ceiling, they are also cawing to me in strangely human voices. I sleep with the windows closed despite the 30 degree heat, for fear of their hooked black beaks disembowelling me or stealing my GHD. I hear that they are oddly intelligent for birds, which makes me think of Deep Blue Sea crossed with The Birds. They do have an intense look in their small black eyes, and a way of cocking their heads that indicates introspection. Excellent possible idea for new Japanese horror.

So: my apartment. Basically, it`s really big. Positively shockingly big. For all I`ve heard about Japanese shoe-box apartments, I am rattling round like a tiny tiny shoe in a cavernous shoe-box. I have two bedrooms, a dining room, a lounge, a kitchen, a foyer, a laundry, a toilet room and a shower room. I have many doors and many lightswitches. I have tatami and tables and bookshelves coming out my ears. All of my windows have two panes that requiring sliding back in order to access air (to keep out the CROWS). I have no oven, which is terrible given my enduring pressing urge to bake cakes (LOL). I have not yet even used the gas stove. I have been living off Frosties and excellent chicken skewers that can be purchsed from the supermarket across the road for a mere 100 yen. My balcony looks out across said supermarket and a McDonalds (probably will never cook in Japan at this rate). Yesterday I grew tired of the sad empty space that was my fridge and quested to the supermarket to fill it. It now contains: 2 tomatoes, 2 avocados, a bag of carrots, 4 custard conconction, 10 octopus balls, 1 chicken skewer, 1 carton of milk, 1 carton of apple juice, 4 cans of beer and 2 cans of coke. Positively respectable. In deference to a healthy diet, my freezer contains fresh pork and edamame, which will probably never be defrosted. But I feel house-proud nonetheless.

Oh, on Saturday, I locked myself in my shower room. Naked, with no towel. I was TERRIFIED. Within ten minutes I had flashed through a dozen drowing scenarios and at least two dozen starvation episodes. It was all very Stephen King. The locking mechanism on the door had jammed, and within fifteen minutes I was prepared to initiate some serios gaijin shoulder-barging. But with a little jimmying of the hinges with a knife I found in the laundry basket (thank goodness for the predecessing oddball who used a knife during their ablutions), I managed to free my damp self. I now shower with the door open. But imagine the headlines in NZ, had I not freed myself! Am I worthy of a headline? Maybe actually I would occupy `Oddspot`. It certainly seemed appropriate as I paced around my tiny wet floor contemplating the nutritional value of conditioner.

The thing with JET is that though the apartments are cheap and convenient, they are also museums. Each departing JET is encouraged to do their best to clean the place, but nevertheless, moving into ones apartment feels like squatting in the abode of a stranger. Their photos and timetables remain on the walls. Their leftovers reside in the kitchen cupboards. Their bedding is on your bed. The strangest thing for me: having a spare hour to fill, looking for a book to fill it with (unsuprising) and finding, amongst their leftover texts, a David Lange biography. My predecessors were from Portland: why? Was this an attempt at a parting gift? Stranger still: I read it. I am better versed on 1980`s NZ political history than I ever was whilst in the country. Grand.

Also left for my enjoyment: a baffling array of ointments, creams and pills, all open and all in Japanese. At least 11 umbrellas. 4 pairs of slippers. 3 hiragana posters. An incredibly ancient toaster oven. 7 tins of tuna. Five million futons (Japanese apartments have admirable storage facilities). 2 pre-packaged bronze medals. A VHS labelled `Old Friends Episodes` (score). 2 unopened tubes of toothpaste.... the list goes on. I could survive purely on the contents of my apartment for at least 3 months.

In summary, apologies for this post. Its haphazard construction is indicative of the current haphazard nature of my life. I wake at four. I shower three times a day. I eat Frosties for breakfast and dinner. I consult my map incessantly. And my thoughts are occupied by David Lange. It is not an ordinary life I am living, nor is it an ordinary place in which I abide. My writing style can only reflect this for the time being. To those at home: I miss you very much. I miss the comfort and order you brought to my life in NZ. I am looking forward to discovering new friends in Japan who, though they cannot be your equals, will give me some of the same stability. In the meantime, at least I can say I have Friends in Japan.


  1. I have a sore throat from licking the ice sculpture at the ball (most likely The Swine). And spent 1000 hours at uni today. And sat my first patent test, which was horrific. And have only just got home - it's 9pm here (shame I win by, I wanna say 4 hours?). And my room is a post-outrageous-weekend bombsite.

    And yet, you still made me LOL. Lots. If you were to update regularly enough, SOTHISISWHEREJAPANIS would be my homepage.

    The highlight was the fact that Friends featured twice. OBV.

    But I also liked the naked story.

    We miss you in Wellington. It's about -2 degrees here.

  2. Style seems to capture your bizarre Japanese life perfectly. When will you be put to work educating teenagers? This will surely give you more structure. Perhaps you could write impressive debut horror novel about crows whilst in Japan? Missed you very much last night, as wanted someone to drink expensive ice wine with in celebratory fashion.