Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

And Now...The Moment You've All Been Waiting For:

(Well, okay, maybe some of you have been waiting for this, but anyway...

I will begin with a little bit of background.

foundation kids2

This is what the front of our house used to look like. When my in-laws had it built 36 years ago they never really intended to live in it apart from the upstairs bedrooms. The house had a very traditional Japanese design, i.e. most of the outer walls were sliding glass doors that open into an outer hallway ringing the living areas. However, although there was a porch, there was never a proper front door, let alone a genkan (entry vestibule), so we had to keep our shoes outside. In this picture, taken in March of last year, you can see where we laid down the foundation. That can give you an idea of how far we extended the front of the house.


This is what the front of the house looks like now. As you can see, all of the sliding glass doors are gone, and we now have a real front door. We also have a big bay window in front. (Both the front door and window were shipped down from Hokkaido by my uncle-in-law the carpenter, who was dissatisfied with all the locally-made models he saw.)


Pulling back a little bit, you can see the front window on my son's new bedroom to the left. You may also note the skylight over the living room. It is also obvious from this pic that our upper floor was untouched, so it is still the original size (and the aluminum siding is horizontal, whereas it is vertical...the usual way it's done here...on the ground floor).


Now we are looking in through the front door into the genkan (vestibule, which is longer than it appears in this picture) and the foyer behind it. This is perhaps my only disappointment with our rebuild (other than the mismatched aluminum siding), the fact that the enormous shoe cabinet on the right, which can hold 100 pairs, makes the entry so narrow. It sure didn't look that big in the catalog when we decided to order it! Oh, well. At least we have room for all my wife's shoes now. I also like the fact that we have lots of real doors inside...doors that LATCH!


Here's a view of the genkan and front door from the inside, giving a better idea of its layout. (Tora couldn't resist getting into the shot.)

old lvgroom

Please don't look at this picture too long. This is a shot taken last January (on my birthday) to show you what our "living room" USED to look like. As you can see, it was surrounded by traditional Japanese shoji (sliding wall partitions made of framed paper). It was also tiny. The kotatsu (electric, foot-warming table) and surrounding sofas pretty much filled it up. If you were to turn around, the TV would be right in front of your face, with the doorways to the kitchen and study on either side. (Any guesses as to which one is me?)


This is a picture taken today from the same corner, but turned a bit more to the right. As you can see, things are completely different now. The shoji and outer hallway are gone, and we now have a "real" living room...more than twice as large as it used to be. The space occupied by the old "living room", which is just out of the picture on the left, is now a dining area with a table, chairs, pantries, and a piano(?). Space is no longer at a premium. Also, with the bay window, skylight, and light-colored wallpaper and ceiling, things look much brighter!


The light from the bay window wiped out this pic, but I included it anyway so you can see the ceiling fan (I'd always wanted one of those!) and the beautiful windowsill and chest of drawers my uncle-in-law built under the bay window. The latter is a combination of sugi, hinoki, and maple, and it's just beautiful. (The drawers were a bit hard to open until I gave them a shot of silicone spray, but that's cool.)


Looking to the right at our new TV/stereo setup (the flat-screen TV is brand new...a birthday present for my wife) and the door to my son's new bedroom..with a real, latching door. (He is tickled pink finally to have a room of his own rather than share with his sister!) You can also see where we now keep our fax/phone...and that damned phone line from our satellite TV tuner! (I'm gonna tack it to the door frame eventually...just haven't gotten around to it yet.)


Alright, just for good measure I decided to throw this in. I don't have any pictures of our old bathroom (thank God), but the toilet was a Japanese-style "squattie" tucked back under the stairs (and I was always banging my head!). Now we have a brand new, separate water closet with a Western-style toilet...and what a machine it is! We knew it had a heated seat and a bidet when we ordered it, but it is fully automated! In other words, it opens for you when you enter the room, flushes automatically (or when you push buttons on a control panel over the toilet paper dispenser), and closes again when you leave. It also plays music from mp3 files on an SD card. (Right now it has a selection of light classical, nature sounds, and Japanese koto music, but I'm thinking of torturing everyone by popping in a card full of...something else...he he...)

And that, my friends, should give you a basic idea of what we've done with the house. For a number of reasons I haven't shown you the new bathroom sink/mirror, which is huge and has a detachable, extendable multi-nozzle spigot. I also haven't included pics of the kitchen, which has been widened and now has more than twice as much walking space, and the study, which also has a much better layout than it used to. We also refloored my daughter's room and put her bed up on a cabinet frame to give her storage space underneath. Yes, we've been busy, and there's still quite a bit left to do. We also dumped a bundle, but nowhere near what a whole, new house would have cost...and that's what it seems like! (Now, what to tackle next...the garden or the upper floor...?)


  • Those are great pictures! I'm sure Snabby would be keen to see the differences since his last visit. Space is always a good thing to have, otherwise folks can get what I like to call "Factory Farm Chicken-itis" - basically when you feel like you're living on top of one another and you hen-peck your housemates (not to the death, as some real-life counterparts do in factory chicken farms).

    Probably more a product of Western society, not least of which are the Scandinavians - the ultimate loners at times.

    By Blogger ladybug, at 2:54 AM  

  • YES!!! Definitely what we have been waiting for!!!

    Thanks for sharing...

    So it's changing from japanese style to western style... both are nice... :)

    Oh.. the cute tora is there! :)

    Wah... *can't stop starring from the b'day pic* Let me guess.. uhmmm... are you the one in the middle with the white long t-shirt coz' that one looks so adorableeeeee and cuteeeeeee, hehehe

    Now.. I'm wondering how your toilet used to look before, is it the squad model?

    By Blogger Selba, at 10:15 AM  

  • Wow! What a lot of work you put in. I hope it all works well for your family, but not that good that you never want to leave home! The toilet is humungus indeed!

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 7:01 PM  

  • Now I get what you were talking about when you posted about being cramped. Looks great! I'm sure the family is much happier now.

    Hey, now you can start working on the ultra modern recording studio... right?

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 1:23 AM  

  • A toilet with an Mp3 player! That is just too rich! OMG, I thought you were kidding there for a sec, but clearly you are not.

    It was cool to see pictures of your house.

    By Blogger DewKid, at 6:11 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous human book, at 6:29 AM  

  • How do those spammers get past the security code?

    Those improvements look great, they must feel even greater to live with!

    I wonder why you need a foot warmer in the dining room? Does eating with warm feet promote good digestion? It sounds like something a Chinese health practitioner might say, doesn't it?

    So before latching doors, did they all slide? Were they all like shoji?

    You daughter must be thrilled to be sleeping high, there is always something attractive about that. I like those bunk beds that actually a desk and shelving built in to the bottom. I was an only child but had a bunk bed, and of course slept on the top.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 9:40 AM  

  • Congratulations! Very nice improvements indeed, and worth the wait. So fortunate to have a carpenter in the family.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 9:47 AM  

  • Ladybug
    It would be even better if he could come and see the changes first hand! (hint hint...)

    Definitely more Western style now, though the upper floor is still Japanese style.

    Sorry...that's my son.

    Yes, the old toilet was a "squattie".

    Well, I haven't been able to leave home yet! There is still too much to do.

    Don't...tempt me, Frodo!

    We were pretty surprised, too, since we didn't notice that feature in the catalog. Still, it's kind of fun.

    Whether the spam has a legitimate cause or not, it has no place here, so I see no reason to put up with it.

    The kotatsu (electric foot-warming table) is a common feature of Japanese life. Remember that traditional Japanese houses have neither insulation not central heating. Many if not most rely on oil-burning stoves for heat, but those foul up the air really fast. A pleasant supplement/alternative is the kotatsu. During the winter it is usually equipped with a blanket so you can sit huddled next to it, and it really does help keep you warm.

    I really like them.

    Yes, my uncle-in-law has really proven to bee a boon for us!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:30 AM  

  • Hmmmm. Suggestions for your tPod:

    "De Doo Doo Doo" - The Police
    "The Stroke" - Billy Squier
    "Brown Sugar" - The Rolling Stones
    "Tush" - ZZ Top
    "My Humps" - Black Eyed Peas
    "Praying Hands" - DEVO
    "Velvet Green" - Jethro Tull

    By the way, your toilet ranked as the #2 Strangest MP3 player, beat out only by a Pez dispenser. (Can you tell I'm jealous?)

    By Blogger DewKid, at 4:19 AM  

  • Dear Alec Baldwin, Love the photo of you and your kin living in Japan.

    WELL HEY!! You do kinda look like him now, expescially with that haircut.

    Kinda looks pretty cool. You could do a submarine movie with Sean Connery and noone would know the difference.

    Cool toilet. Love the house. Glad you have done so well on it money wise.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 AM  

  • wow..a lot of changes..looks amazing esp the living room.. i would be scared to use your toilet looks like it could get mad at me or something.. (reminded me of Marvin from hitch hikers guide to the galaxy).

    By Blogger memo, at 1:38 PM  

  • Woaaah... did those renovations cost you a bomb? Japanese style tatami and shoji are actually quite comfy, but we did away with them as well... and you had me rolling on the floor with your 'and I was always banging my head! comment...

    By Blogger Lrong, at 4:09 PM  

  • Dewkid
    I'm sending you the hospital bill for my splitting sides.

    Well, recently I haven't been moussing my hair (partly because it's the Golden Week holidays but mainly because I needed a break), so I look a bit more like I used to...albeit a bit sweat-soaked on account of all the garden work I've been doing.

    Would it get mad at you, or would it (even worse) start making suggestive comments? I don't blame you for feeling that way, though. It was kind of scary at first to have my toilet open itself for me and start playing Bach...

    Yes, they did cost a bomb (quite a bit more than the original estimate, actually), but a new house would have cost a lot more. It hasn't been quite as devastating to our budget as I feared, which is a very good thing.

    That's right, I remember you talking about your doing the renovation thing, too. We still have shoji and tatami upstairs, and they'll probably remain, but downstairs is now almost totally Westernized.

    Well, banging my head on those damned stairs wasn't so funny!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:44 PM  

  • Father-in-law looks like a real Samurai. Has that expression on his face.

    Lovely kids!

    By Blogger shlemazl, at 12:51 AM  

  • I seriously could not live without central heating, warm ambient air.

    One january my mother and I went to stay with an aunt by the coast who didn't use central heating, and kept her kitchen window open. For 3 days I was huddled by the gas fire in the living room, which she turned up higher just for me, while complaining it made her feel hot!

    We cut our one-week holiday short and escaped on day 4...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 4:33 AM  

  • Shlemazl
    He is descended from a samurai clan. His family has a samurai crest (which he's only too keen to show to anyone who may or may not be interested).

    The trouble is that he thinks he IS a samurai...still living in the Edo Era.

    Well, at least now our house has real insulation...finally. Still no central heating, though, but those modern, computerized room heaters do a pretty good job.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:30 PM  

  • Nice make-over of the house!

    I like the toilet!Mwahahaaaa!!!I mean the automated thing abt it!Seems cool =P

    By Anonymous angele, at 9:57 PM  

  • you know, i always wondered what it would be like to live in a japanese style house. i've always liked those type of walls and such, but i'm sure it affords no privacy.

    the new additons are great. i'd LOVE to have a shoe close like that. many in this culture leave their shoes at the front door or even outside. there are houses on our street that do such and my in-laws have a closet under the stairs for all the shoes. we keep ours in the bedroom. more western i guess.

    i think all the things your uncle did are great. the cabinet he built under the bay window... very nice. and the fact that he shipped you the bay window... very nice of him.

    i love your MILs smile. your FIL looks very serious. and your kids are just adorable!!

    By Blogger tooners, at 2:57 AM  

  • i almost forgot... aaahhh, a piano in the dining room?!! how wonderful. hashim would love to have such... i'll have to tell him! :)

    By Blogger tooners, at 2:58 AM  

  • MM, Wow!! Congratulations!! Nice. I could use space for a hundred shoes. lol

    What's the material used for the shoji? Is it sound-proof, I've always wondered.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 6:38 PM  

  • Angele
    Yes, R2-Dtoilet is a funky thing, innit? It's kind of fun!

    The lack of privacy is one of the drawbacks of a traditional Japanese home, though I do like the style and am happy the upstairs is still "wafu".

    We're thankful for all the things uncle-in-law did, too. Most carpenters in Japan would never make a windowsill/cabinet like that, let alone box-shelf loft mounts for the kids' beds! It's ironic, too, considering all the crap he's taken (including from us) about the way he originally built our house...back when he was 19 years old, apparently. He didn't have as much skill or experience back then, obviously, and since the in-laws never intended to live in the house it didn't really matter till now anyway!

    The piano in the dining room was my wife's idea, probably so she could clear more space in the study. Still, I like having it there, too. It lends a certain...atmosphere?

    The space for 100 shoes doesn't seem to be enough! >:-(

    No, shoji aren't soundproof at all. They're just paper in a wood frame. They provide just enough wall to hold heat in winter and absorb moisture in summer. They were an important form of environmental control before air conditioning became standard.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:18 AM  

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