Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Japan Trip, Part IV: The House

To cut a long story short, I recommend just getting a hotel if you're visiting Japan. It's probably not cheap, but there are a number of comforts that a hotel provides that make it worth the price.

That said, we attempted to save money by renting a house for the week.

First, let's talk about the cool things about the house:

There was plenty of room for everyone, and all of the toilets had the neato Japanese toilet seats. (They're pretty much everywhere except a few lower-end public restrooms and places that feature the squatty potty.) On a related note, the toilets were separate from the bathroom, which was convenient in case someone needs a toilet while someone else is in the shower. I don't know if that's standard in Japan or if this was just an odd house, though.

The architecture was interesting, and on a particularly clear morning you can maybe see Mt. Fuji from the windows of the upstairs bedrooms. Although we didn't have a car, there was a garage under the house, under the yard since the house was in a hilly area.

The house had only one sliding door, but it was used to open up the living room tot he dining room, allowing our largish group to gather without being stuffed in a small room. The living room was also pretty cozy.

Also, the standard of taking your shoes off before entering the house was enforced. There were slippers available, but most of us just stuck with socks. This is particularly useful, so that you didn't hear people clomping about in their shoes all over the house.

Which was kind of the first problem: the floors and wall were thin and squeaky, and you could pretty much hear what was going on in any part of the house at any time. Likewise, those thin wall contained no insulation, so when it was cold outside (as it was when we first arrived) the whole house basically felt like a refrigerator. In fact, as the week went on, I actually found it warmer and more comfortable outside than in.

There was one decent heater in the house, which was in the living room. However, this was a gas heater, s while it was pretty effective, it was also kind of dangerous. One of the first rules I learned was that the heater could only stay on for about two hours, then the room needs to be aired out.

There were a lot of rules, and I don't think our host conveyed them all. She was very particular about a lot of things, which is fine since it's her house. However, she often came across as condescending and passive aggressive to me, which I don't think is a terribly good attitude to have if you're in the business of renting houses.

More awkward was the fact that she spent the first and last nights int he house with us, which felt intrusive to me. Again, I'm not going to entirely blame her for this--we kind of sprung this on her a bit, so she was a bit put out. That only made it all more tense and awkward while she was around.

Luckily, we were pretty much only there to sleep, so we didn't spend enough time there to make a huge mess or break anything. Often we would end up stumbling into the house past midnight, wanting only to find our futons and crawl under the covers. There were beds and such, but they were all kinda small, so Laura and I took the cushions and made a mega futon on the floor. It was pretty comfy.

Beyond the insulation, heating, privacy, and service, one more reason to get a hotel rather than a rental home is the location: the house was out in the Yokohama suburbs, a long walk/short bus ride from the nearest train station, and a decent-length train ride to most sights. I imagine most affordable hotels are a decent distance away from, say, Shibuya, but I imagine most of them are located conveniently near one major train station or another.

I think, altogether, it was worth experiencing the rental home to get a feel for Japanese housing and the feel of Japanese suburbia. It was an experiment, and I appreciate experimentation.

That said, next time I think I'll stick to hotels.

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