Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Apartments ( 2 )

It took me more than a few months before I’d made a Japanese friend good enough to be invited directly by a Japanese person into a Japanese house. During my second month in Japan, I was privileged to be invited by an American friend (who I had known for years) to his Japanese friend’s house for Nabe. It was my first time to go into a Japanese person’s house. Hiro, like many young Japanese, had come to Tokyo to study at university.
When in public, it’s easy to notice that the Japanese put on their best face, be highly considerate of others and act in a way that promotes harmony, even with good friends. The flip side of this is that Japanese people need their privacy to relax and be themselves. Almost all young Japanese coming to Tokyo choose to live alone.
There was a time, about 10 to 15 years ago, when land prices in Tokyo were the highest in the world. They’ve steadily dropped every year since, but they are still high. Because of the high population density and high land prices Tokyo accommodation is mostly apartment buildings with small rooms for single people who have come to Tokyo by themselves, like Hiro. It’s rare to hear of Japanese living with friends. They usually stay with their family or live alone until they get married.
I followed the two into Hiro’s apartment. With no room to sit down, I slipped off my shoes without untying my laces and passed from the small entrance, between the shower/toilet room and the narrow kitchen into the main room. There was also a loft the size of his mattress, to sleep on. In his room there were only the essentials - tv, stereo, computer and a bookcase with CDs and books-No room for unnecessary items. With rooms this size, I realize why the Japanese need to invent things which are creatively space saving.
Since apartments are small and private, Japanese people in Tokyo seem to prefer to go out to meet their friends and eat out. I feel it’s an honor to get invited to a Japanese person house for some playstation or to taste their cooking. Like Hiro, they all seem to have great hospitality and most know how to prepare delicious food. If you ever get the chance to visits somebody's house or apartment in Tokyo (or anywhere in Japan), treasure the experience.

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