Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chapter 47–The Genkan ( Vestibule]

In the old place we rented the entry was typically a mountain of shoes, schools bags, coats, outdoor toys. Although, we still have the occasional shoe pile up, it’s definitely more manageable and we have plenty of storage for coats, miscellaneous items. Actually we have so much storage now that we’ve gotten away with not being the most organized.


As you can see, we typically leave out our daily footwear. I think we intended for them to be always out of sight, but practically speaking it’s simpler to create a little rack space for the most used shoes.


I still can’t figure out how to easily slip into my shoes the way the Japanese do, so we had a bench built, which gives us additional storage for toys, bags, picnic blankets. The de-cluttering process is also aided by the fact that the kids’ rooms are also on the first floor, so they have a “new” habit (instilled through copious parental nagging) of bringing their stuff straight into their rooms.

The sliding door has been useful in cutting down drafts.

Maybe one thing we’d re-think would be the color of the tiles. They are very light so dirt shows a little more easily. Not a huge deal but something to adjust to if you’re current place has darker tiles.


Under the storage units, we have a our cat door which our two cats, Cade and Ruby started to use almost immediately after we moved in. As you can see it gets a lot of use and one down side is that we’ve discovered we have a lot more animal life in the neighborhood than we thought, as both cats have been bringing us little gifts: birds, field mice, grasshoppers. Our two girls have been giving them a good talking-to and those events have reduced.


The low lighting was a nice little touch that was in our architect’s home, and it’s an elegant way to keep the genkan lit at a low cost. It also provides a little lighting for our bed room garden.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Chapter 46– 9 months later…

I wish I had a handy excuse such as being pregnant for being disconnected for the last few months, but I’ll just fess up and confess that I got a little lazy after reaching the major milestone of moving in.

Today Lara and I met a lovely couple and their kids who are off on their own adventure of building a home in the Tokyo area.  It’s great to see that my documented control-freak habits and panic attacks are actually useful for people. As we talked I felt nostalgic: Ah those feelings of “Wow that’s a big mortgage!”, “How will I get through all that paper work?”, “Where do I begin?”, “What if I mess up and I’m stuck with it till I’m 70?”, “I want to buy this plot now! and move no..must check if there’s something better…slow down”, etc. Yes stressful but looking back, plain old fun.


Now 9 months later, with hindsight the question is: Is there anything we would have done differently?”. For now I’ll answer that question at a macro level and zoom in to each area of the home over the next few weeks. I guess it’s report card time :)

Location: No regrets here. I still get weekly emails on properties in the area and in terms of location at the right price, I think we timed it perfectly.

Home Design: Our goal was to build a comfortable, functionally and energy efficient with good materials. We can go into the nit picky details a little later on. but very little that I would do over.

Garden: This is a hard one to rate, as our intention has always been to build over time and do it ourselves. Unfortunately our beautiful lawn died of some fungal disease which forced us into a redo of our front door landscaping. More on this later, but at this point we’ll have to wait until next spring for new grass.


So you’ll get all the grizzly details from the genkan to the loft in the next few weeks. Albeit on a tangent, tonight I roasted our first chicken in our Miele Convection oven/microwave and it was perfect!! All golden on all sides, with that beautiful and delicious crispy and salty skin crust. Yummmmm.


Feel free to ask questions by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chapter 45– Spring Time Gardening

April in Japan marks the beginning of new school and fiscal year. Despite all the tumult, we are getting on with it and continuing on our little projects around the house. For the past 6 weeks we had been treading on a muddy walk-through as we waited for the weather to warm up so we could start putting down a lawn. Not the picture perfect way to move in, but we wanted to save on landscaping fees by doing it ourselves. We had quotes between 12~20K$ and we’re willing to shell out.

I can’t claim any credit for this back breaking work. Lara spent 4 days literally tilling the clay earth and picking old debris and rocks from our soil. She filled about 5 boxes full which we gave back to our builders to dispose of.


Below Lara got some walkway tiles from J-mart which in retrospect we should have sourced ourselves since it was cheaper than what we got from the builders and of equal quality. Extra soil and sand was mixed in with the local earth since we had to make sure it was soft enough for the roots to take hold. You’ll find all sorts of resources online about this.


Thankfully, we had a neighborhood friend who is a certified Japanese landscaper to help us. He came at a very competitive price and Lara could not have done it without him. He even gave us a discount on the total bill because he felt he did not do a perfect job since it was his first time laying Western sod. The type of earnestness you only see in Japan.


The finished result! Some of the brown spots is just top finishing earth. So it’s now a matter of watering it twice a day and not stepping on it for a few weeks. By golden week I should be able to lie down on my own front lawn in Tokyo.

By the way this is where we got our sod. It was the best quality at the right price.


Monday, March 21, 2011

The Show Must Go On: Spring

The house is still standing. We are safe and healthy though a bit stressed. These past 10 days have been a mixture of fear, grief, worry and hope. I’m not going to rehash what’s already been written in the media (nor comment on it).

What I will write is that according to what I’ve experienced these past few days in Kichijoji, is that things are going back to normal. There is bread, bottled water, toilet paper in the stores. And I managed to get a full tank of gasoline for the car today. So it appears that a certain amount of calm has taken hold.

Photos below are from yesterday at a popular park near our that is popular with young families with toddlers. A beautiful day to take your first steps or play ball with Dad.



The usual clients at Starbucks were happy to soak in the sun, not appearing to worry about all the nuclear radiation reports.


These are good signs. Hopefully there will be better signs to come from the government and nuclear agencies in the coming days. I think people are starting to process the barrage of information and situations (earthquake, tremors, tsunami, power outages, daily supply shortages, etc.) and begin to adjust to the point where it’s become their “new normal”.

Lara and the kids went on early spring break on Wednesday to Fukuoka in Southern Japan, as the level of radiation increased in Tokyo and various incidents were happening simultaneously at the Fukushima nuclear plant. I have decided to stay for work as,according to government, levels are considered very low and do not pose a health risk.

The more I think about the past week, the more I think this is a lot about Faith. Faith in the government, faith in the media, faith in your family, faith in nuclear experts, faith in your employer, faith in your community. Who do you believe? Who is right? What happens if any is wrong? On Tuesday, Lara and I decided to take the kids out of the event risk equation until we knew more. Thus Fukuoka.

The initial plan are the family to come back this Wednesday. Better rested and better informed. After that, the next step is figuring out how we can help. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Nuclear reactors. We are undeterred. Kichijoji is our home. The show must go on.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chapter 44 - cats adjusting just fine

Cade and ruby, our two cats are finely settling into their new digs. I think last night was the first time we managed to sleep without cursing their meowing. To be fair to Cade, it's really Ruby who is most vocal.

As you can see Cade has found his favorite spot.

Some other views of the semi formal living area.

Below is the family living where all five of us can pile in. A more casual area.

Some of Lara's ikebana in the gallery.

And where I'm blogging from right at this moment. ;). Cats are still spending the night with us at the foot of the bed.

One more week and we'll introduce them to their cat door.

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone