Daily life for kids in Japan.
September 24, 2016 8:13 AM   Subscribe

 
That waterproof bathing room is ideal.
posted by Taft at 8:56 AM on September 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I still miss a few things from my years-ago trip to Japan, and one of them is bathrooms. Whole-room drainage and sliding doors separating different parts of the bathroom is unambiguously better than the North American standard issue, I tell you what.
posted by mhoye at 8:57 AM on September 24, 2016 [24 favorites]


I thought I was already suffused with Japanese bathroom envy, but I didn't even know about the bathtub greywater intake hose for the washing machine.

Also I have lived some places where that bathroom dehumidifier would have been so, so nice.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:03 AM on September 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is awesome! For those who worry about the bathwater, clothes washing water, there is also the rinse cycle. Amazing, hand washing sink behind the toilet. Then that gray water also flushes the toilet. That is something that could become a plumbing thing everywhere, where there are drop toilets anyway.
posted by Oyéah at 9:06 AM on September 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


When I visited one thing that everyone complained about was the labyrinthine recycling rules in Tokyo. But when you multiply it by the 28 million people that live in Tokyo prefecture you can imagine that little things like reusing gray water and separating out and reusing your food trays really makes a difference.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:19 AM on September 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I was terribly impressed by public bathrooms in Japan. I have no idea how Japan is for accessibility generally, but I kept seeing bathrooms with signage accounting for all kinds of needs. You also found little high chairs fixed to the side of stalls in the men's bathroom for stashing your kid while you used the toilet. Because not only had it occurred to somewhere that having a place for a toddler to sit was a good idea, but they'd also not simply assumed that all child supervision fell to women.
posted by hoyland at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


So a lot of that was just really cool, but it's interesting to me how all that plastic makes everything just look kinda cheap to me.

Also, I wonder about reusing the bath water when you've done thinks like add the "bath kaboom" stuff to it.

On the other hand, that wand in the sink for washing babies is simple and brilliant. I know people do something similar here in the states w/ kitchen sinks, and I've seen attachments in bathrooms, but just having that as a standard feature is great.
posted by KirTakat at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2016


I think the "bath kaboom" is just hot springs bath salts. You probably would need to add a bit of extra soap to your laundry.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2016


Breakfast: my Japanese housemate used to talk about how her mother wanted her to have a traditional breakfast, but she really just wanted to have corn flakes. She also kind of shamefacedly admitted age really didn't care for miso soup.
posted by happyroach at 10:18 AM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bathtub thermostat is awesome.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have no idea how Japan is for accessibility generally, but I kept seeing bathrooms with signage accounting for all kinds of needs.

Japan's population is aging; something like 35% of their population is over sixty, and a longstanding trend of below-parity birth rates means building out accessible infrastructure for the elderly has been a national priority for quite a while now.
posted by mhoye at 10:44 AM on September 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


This entire series is great. It's like a video form of what I was looking for with this recent AskMe question. I have friends who have lived in Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, the Philippines, etc., and I love seeing photos and video of their everyday lives on Facebook. Collecting various things (ponies, pins) has also been awesome for this sort of glimpse of other cultures, as I've been getting a lot of mail from around the world with various stamps, stickers, postmarks, etc. When I visit new places, the thing I'm most interested in isn't attractions, but rather what the rhythm, look, feel, taste, scent, and sound of everyday life is like. đź’–
posted by limeonaire at 11:08 AM on September 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


My three year old on seeing the natto: "Cheesy and beany!" I didn't have the heart to disappoint her.

(I mean, sure, she's got the bean part right, but....)

(I sense a mother-daughter trip to H-Mart is in order.)
posted by offalark at 11:49 AM on September 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


The waterproof bathrooms are generally found in cheaper apartments and condos. Not that our townhouse in Japan is particularly ritzy, but we have an actual bathroom, and a separate "toilet room". Our bathroom is actually two rooms: a change room, where we have our washing machine, and a bath+shower room. This room is pretty typical, and has a small washing area, and a deep bath with a reheater, to keep the bathwater warm over the course of the evening (useful in winter).

This is pretty common in suburban areas (I must admit I've never lived in a Tokyo tower block) and every house I've ever been in, from the Noto Peninsula to Nagasaki, has this set up (most Japanese people outside of Tokyo don't live in tower blocks or condominiums).

Our "toilet room" features a tiled floor, a urinal, and a toilet stall. There's also a handwashing sink. We store toilet paper and cleaning supplies in the toilet room.

The thing I hate about bathrooms in North American (or small bathrooms in Japanese hotels, or like the ones in the video) is that the toilet is in the same room as the toothbrushes.
posted by My Dad at 12:18 PM on September 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Can someone explain the little wooden slats that cover the bathtub? It doesn't look like you sit on top of it to wash, since there was a separate plastic stool for that, so what is it for?
posted by MsMolly at 12:18 PM on September 24, 2016


> Can someone explain the little wooden slats that cover the bathtub

Insulation, isn't it?

> it's interesting to me how all that plastic makes everything just look kinda cheap to me

I thought the same thing. I wonder how my kitchen would look to the mom from the video.

These were great, thanks! I watched them with my daughter, who's around the same age as the girl in the videos.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:22 PM on September 24, 2016


They share the bathwater, the slats is a cover probably to keep down the evaporation between different uses of the room. When they dry clothes over the tub, but want to save the water, and the warmth of the water.
posted by Oyéah at 12:22 PM on September 24, 2016


Everything was a little beat up in the apartment and way beyond minimal, the couch had a split in it too. No art on the walls, or plants. There were school aids over the bathtub, that might be a winner, for long soaks.
posted by Oyéah at 12:23 PM on September 24, 2016


There were school aids over the bathtub

Pretty common for fathers to have baths with the kids (I took baths with mine until they were 6 or 7, and of course we go to the municipal hot spring together on weekends), so the bath is a good time to practice hiragana or math or whatever.
posted by My Dad at 12:32 PM on September 24, 2016


Bathtub thermostat is awesome.

And note the temperature: C°41. That's over F°105, almost F°106. Wimpy Americans think that's too hot -- in fact, a friend in San Diego has a hot tub. I was amused and a little distressed to note its digital thermostat could only be set as high as F°105, no hotter. In Japan, the water in public baths is required by law to be at least C°41.
posted by Rash at 2:43 PM on September 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


There were school aids over the bathtub

That's hilarious, we've had ours up for so long that I forgot it wasn't a normal American thing to do. Our son totally learned his hiragana from bath time.

More than any part of the house, I covet Japanese bathroom setup. The toilet separate from the bath, the fully tiled room, the thermostat controlled deeeep bathtub (seriously, I hate American bathtubs). And even though bath-with-the-kids sounds weird in the US, it's really fun! Damn, I'm making myself jealous.

We do have a washlet. My husband flatly refuses to live without one. Although it does result in an odd refrain to the kids: "Doooon't push the potty buttons."
posted by telepanda at 2:55 PM on September 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Man, so tiny. Super cute kids, though!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:35 PM on September 24, 2016


For what it's worth, waterproof bathrooms aren't unheard-of in America either. My company did one recently, where the shower had to be a curbless unit and with a curtain instead of a door (so water gets everywhere, but then rolls back along a very slight slant to a trench drain at the back of the room) because one of the residents was in a wheelchair and needed a lot of assistance with bathing. The tilesetter who did it said that she'd actually been getting a lot of call for that kind of setup on some high-end jobs she'd done recently for wealthy clients, and that it's not really hard to do or even much more expensive in terms of time and materials—just a bit different.

Anyway, if you like that idea and you're contemplating a bathroom renovation, just ask your contractor for it. You'd be surprised how little it adds to the cost.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:55 PM on September 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Japanese bathrooms are bloody amazing. One day I'll have enough money to buy a washlet for my house here in the USA. And I wouldn't mind a Japanese style tub either.
posted by sotonohito at 5:01 PM on September 24, 2016


The apartment was way bigger than I was expecting! That excellent bathroom could eat mine for breakfast.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:38 PM on September 24, 2016


Washlets, deep tubs, and temperature-controlled tubs are also available in the US, they just cost more because they're more complex. (Or in the case of deep tubs, bigger.) And you could absolutely have a bathroom where the different functions are separated from each other by doors, but it would take up a lot more space in the house/apartment and again it would run up the cost. You can also have pocket doors anywhere that you currently have a swing door (as long as there's not wiring or plumbing in the way) but, again, they're more costly because the framing is more labor-intensive—and also they have poor sound isolation compared to swing doors.

A lot of what I see in this video is just that Japanese bathrooms put more of a premium on features than finishes compared to here in the US. That bathroom is packed with features but to my eye it's ugly as hell. There's tons of chintzy white plastic, the tiling is very utilitarian, the trim is bare-minimum (and is that carpet in the toilet room? gross) and overall it just looks cheap, as others have pointed out.

You couldn't sell a bathroom like that here. A lot of the money in American bathrooms goes into elaborate tiling, granite vanity tops, things like that. The Japanese bathroom shown in the video has high-end features and low-end finishes. American bathrooms tend to have high-end finishes and basic features; unless you're rich, in which case you get everything (I imagine that's the same in Japan).

But you could definitely get all of those features in the US, if you wanted them. Intercom system, big sink with a sprayer attachment, greywater reclamation even. Totally possible, you just need to ask for it and be willing to pay the price.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:47 PM on September 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh my goodness I'm now watching all their videos and loving them all. Interesting and charming; thanks for sharing!
posted by soakimbo at 6:17 PM on September 24, 2016


When I lived in Japan, I was helping a Japanese student with his English language studies. Since I had to go to his family's house for these sessions, he introduced me to his family. His grandfather is an artist/sculptor and he had an interesting story about communicating via sketchbook to foreigners while he was studying art abroad in Paris. He never had any problems ordering food and drink. His only problem was when he desperately needed directions to the nearest restroom. He quickly drew a Japanese style (washiki) squat toilet in his sketchbook. They would direct him to a shoe store, since the drawing to them, resembled a single slipper!
posted by plokent at 6:28 PM on September 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Watching that video, my husband and I were both making whimpering "want! want that!" noises. North American bathrooms are generally bad; rental housing bathrooms are worse.

Speaking of roll-in, barrierless showers, I love this video about how to install a barrier-free shower. (Updated video link bc previous one no longer works…)
posted by Lexica at 6:52 PM on September 24, 2016


That's such a weird story, because although I've traveled to Japan and China, the only time I've ever had to use a squat toilet was in Paris.
posted by phooky at 6:55 PM on September 24, 2016


Worth noting that barrier-free bathrooms with floor drains mean the whole room is subject to mildew and must be cleaned accordingly.

Bidet toilets, though, are a must. Anything less is uncivilized.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:04 PM on September 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


In Vancouver, there is a store in the Crystal Mall (the mall outside of Metrotown mall) that sells several kinds of those fancy toilets, and toilet seats. I bought the seat last year and am still loving it.

In Japan even the truck stop bathrooms we stopped at had those fancy robot toilets.
posted by Iax at 9:41 PM on September 24, 2016


A term for the shower room is wet area shower. My mum is an occupational therapist and gets wet area showers installed for her clients that have mobility issues.
posted by poxandplague at 9:45 PM on September 24, 2016


The octopus sausages remind me of the hot dog go rounds Mom used to make when we were kids. They fit better on sliced bread that way.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:57 PM on September 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I made my own wet room bathroom ten years ago and I swear it's the best thing I've ever done, design-wise. It took a bit of smelly work to tank out the room with a kind of fiberglass coating before tilng, but left the floor as concrete, which I painted shiny black, with a simple fall towards a drain. I have a Swedish squidgee to run over the floor in a few easy sweeps after my shower. I have longish hair and the way this system cuts out the dusty/dandery, hairy floors of every other bathroom I've inhabited makes my housekeeping so easy. I can also spray the walls with cleaner in the morning and use a window cleaner brush to squidgee it down, then rinse the floor. If I could do that in every room in my house, I soooo would.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:52 AM on September 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


The slats are to keep the heat in, and also to keep other stuff (like soap) from getting in the bath water while you shower. The goal is to be as clean as possible before you get in the bath so as not to muck up the water for the next person, so while you soap up and shampoo or whatever, you keep the tub covered. Our tub has a pretty handy plastic cover that rolls up and can be put to the side, or can just be rolled back when you get in. It's awesome as a spot to set a (carefully encased in a waterproof case ziplock freezer bag) tablet to watch whatever while soaking after a long day.

Japanese bath tubs are all kinds of awesome. Ours even has a call button to alert people in the house (usually me) that the person in the bath (usually Mrs. Ghidorah) wants something, but doesn't want to get out of the bath to get it.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:03 AM on September 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


What a wonderful series of videos. Thank you!
posted by james33 at 3:23 AM on September 25, 2016


OK, so the mats on the floor in the kids' room – I'm assuming these are the famous tatami mats? I thought they were basically a Japanese equivalent of carpet. Why are there gaps between them?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 AM on September 25, 2016


Joe in Australia those were tatami mats, but I didn't see any gaps between them, though there was a gap around the edge of the room. Tatami mats come in a standard (ish) size and it is still pretty common for people in Japan to describe the size of a room in terms of how many tatami mats it takes to cover the floor. However a room is usually designed so there's a bit of space around the edges to make it easier to move mats around and so on.

Tatami is also becoming less common in Japan, one manufacturer says they've seen demand decline by 20% or so over the past decade. They're expensive, they need replacement semi-frequently (every decade or so depending on use), and a lot of people are switching over to hardwood (or fake hardwood) flooring because it's simpler to care for. Some people also object to the smell, but I always rather enjoyed it.

EDIT: Almost forgot, tatami takes some caring for too, you've got to air it out in the sun every now and then, maybe once a year or so depending on your area.
posted by sotonohito at 4:41 AM on September 25, 2016


Beware people over, say, 170 cm; if you rent a single-room apartment, your fancy bath is probably to small to soak comfortably in.

But! There's usually a nice BIG tub at your local fitness club.
Someone should write a song about it.

(Sorry for the self-promotion but this conversation is too timely)
posted by AxelT at 5:03 AM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


hose were tatami mats, but I didn't see any gaps between them

On a closer look I guess it's just an edging.

Super interesting post, thanks!
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:31 AM on September 25, 2016


Almost forgot, tatami takes some caring for too, you've got to air it out in the sun every now and then, maybe once a year or so depending on your area.

One of the biggest complaints about tatami mats is tatami mites, microscopic bugs that live in tatami and cause asthma and allergy problems when they become too numerous. Airing the mats out in the sun reduces the number (by removing moisture from the mats), but you never really get rid of them all until you get rid of your tatami.
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:10 AM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I do not get the appeal of a wet room at all. I ... don't want everything in my bathroom wet? I don't want to sit in the shower? I also don't want to share bathwater, though it would be nice to keep it warm instead if just adding hot water like I do. My apartment came with a deep soaking tub (they called it a Japanese tub and from the video it seems similar but tall American length). But these videos are cool, even if the only thing I'd like is a separate toilet room.
posted by dame at 9:18 AM on September 25, 2016


I enjoyed the one showing back-to-school supplies - all those bags, and a disaster prevention hood!
posted by needled at 9:40 AM on September 25, 2016


My Japanese grand-nieces have "Hiragana Camps" in the summer, taught by their formidable mama. They fill up huge ring binders with their practice. Their grandmother sends them school kits (they live here in the states), they are very comprehensive and elaborate and include tablet computers.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:44 AM on September 25, 2016


In the twenty or so years I have been connected to Japan, I've never heard of airing tatami mats out. I've never seen anyone do it, either. "Tatami mites" are also uncommon—I've never heard of them. Cockroaches are a problem in Japanese homes, and fleas can be a problem if you have a cat or something... but "tatami mites"?

Our townhouse is pretty old, and we have had all manner of weird things in the house, including cockroaches, ants, bats, centipedes, and birds. But never "tatami mites."

It's important to air out futons and duvets, though.
posted by My Dad at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2016


you just need to ask for it and be willing to pay the price

And in most cases, you need to own. One difference is its going to be a lot easier to find these things in a rental in Japan. While my landlord probably wouldn't mind if I made some upgrades with my own money :P, the aesthetic is different enough that he might not want a Japanese-style bathroom in a house he's trying to rent in the US. (As you said, the plastic look is less desired here, although I'd switch bathrooms with my Japanese father-in-law's house in an instant).
posted by thefoxgod at 1:14 PM on September 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh wow the little girl is named Aiko. Translated roughly as "someone who loves" and is also the name of Emperor Akihito's granddaughter.
posted by Talez at 1:57 PM on September 25, 2016


He's actually done a video about transport accessibility, with links to the sites/channels of the people featured.
posted by hoyland at 3:11 PM on September 25, 2016


In the twenty or so years I have been connected to Japan, I've never heard of airing tatami mats out. I've never seen anyone do it, either. "Tatami mites" are also uncommon—I've never heard of them. Cockroaches are a problem in Japanese homes, and fleas can be a problem if you have a cat or something... but "tatami mites"?

Here ya go:

Tatami bugs

Dani mites
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2016


The apartment was way bigger than I was expecting! That excellent bathroom could eat mine for breakfast.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:38 AM on September 25 [+] [!]


Yes, it was bigger than I expected. I have a fairly normal two-bedroomed flat just outside London. The living room and bedrooms of the Japanese apartment are about the same size as mine, but the kitchen and bathroom are much bigger than mine.

In the UK you can't have a washing machine in the bathroom, as there are no electrical outlets allowed, except for a shaver socker. Unless you're lucky enough to have space for a utility room for the washing machine, in most UK homes you'll find it in the kitchen.
posted by essexjan at 12:53 AM on September 26, 2016


Oh yeah, the mites are absolutely a thing. I discovered them for myself when I noticed that the dust on my phone's screen, visible when the screen was off, was moving around on its own.

They sell these sprays with this weird stabby thing that you stick into the tatami mat (so really less a "spray" and more just an aerosol can) to kill off the bugs living in your tatami mats.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:00 PM on September 26, 2016


Yeah, I'm thinking I'd probably break all those nice little plastic fixtures in about a week with my giant, clumsy, Western body.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:20 PM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Man, I'm having culture shock. All the nice, clean, smooth white lines and trim of the bathing area look both normal and really nice to me, but everyone here is seeing them cheap and chintzy? And the apartment looks a little bit minimal to me, but to y'all it looks beat up and "beyond minimal"? Do y'all live in Versailles?
posted by Bugbread at 9:46 PM on September 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Versailles' bidets don't ask me what scent I prefer in my ass-spritz. So, in answer to your question, not for much longer.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:33 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tatami mites are most definitely a thing. It's been a while since I lived in a place with tatami and even then, I think those were probably kind of fake ones with styrofoam cores. These days I doubt you see them airing in the sun most places (I don't around me), but I think you can flip them over in older places for a "refresh," and you can get them pulled and have the surfaces redone and re-installed.

And, I wish my Japanese bathroom had that much nice, white, indestructible plastic instead of old thoroughly destructible beige crap. Mine is about as low tech as it gets. Beige porcelain sink, beige fiberglass tub that slides around, a spigot coming out of one wall and a spigot and shower hose coming out of the other, and really craptastic tiling.
posted by Gotanda at 3:58 AM on September 27, 2016


I dunno about minimal, I still feel like that apartment is pretty feature-rich compared to even recently-built-or-remodeled upper-middle-class homes here in the US. But cheap and chintzy? Yes, definitely. To my eye (someone who works for a US-based home remodeling company) it looks like someone went into a Home Depot or Lowes and just bought the most bargain-basement stuff they could possibly find. It looks like a slumlord special, but with more plastic.

Except, of course, that the fixtures have features that would only be found in the US in special-order, high-end items. Also, pocket doors everywhere.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:49 PM on September 27, 2016


I suspect I understand what's going on, then. It's plastic, but it's not the thin, shitty plastic used in super cheap stuff in the US. It's more like...like the plastic used in hospitals, pretty damn sturdy. All the white plastic stuff in my house, for example, is still like new after 8 years of living here.

In Japan, the shitty plastic tends to be yellow or beige (I feel ya, Gotanda), and is thinner and more fragile.
posted by Bugbread at 2:58 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


The apartment was way bigger than I was expecting!

Does it say where this is in Japan? I think people expect tiny apartments/houses because they're used to seeing Tokyo, but if you live out in the country you can get a lot more for less money like anywhere else in the world. Even in Tokyo it will depend heavily on where you are. My in-laws have a relatively large house thats not expensive at all, but they're in the country.

(Also the ultra-tiny 100-150sq ft apartments are one of those symbols of Japan to a lot of people)
posted by thefoxgod at 3:15 PM on September 27, 2016


8 square meter apartment tour. (I suspect her bathroom plastic is not as nice as the original video's bathroom, and is the cheaper stuff, but the lighting is also pretty bad in that bathroom.)

I find Japanese at-home videos weirdly soothing and the impression I've gotten is that a) apartments/homes in the countryside, outer suburbs, and smaller cities are plenty generous-sized, especially compared to what you might find in a lot of European or American big cities, b) it is reasonable and customary for a single person to live in a quite small place but to upsize a fair bit as a couple/family.

I still find Japanese-style wet rooms MUCH more conducive to being rooms-that-get-wet than places I've encountered in Germany and Scandinavia, where it was just like "here's an entire room with other shit in it, electrical outlets, toilet paper, open storage shelves, somehow a bathroom rug, and then here's a completely unpredictable handheld sprayer hose and you should be able to wash your entire self not get anything else wet." My basement shower when I was an exchange student in Sweden was next to the washing machine, as in I would set my shampoo on top of the washing machine to keep it within reach, in a similar way that the light switch was within reach. If I wasn't careful I would spray water under the door into the family room.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:04 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Lyn Never: "8 square meter apartment tour"

Holy shit! I lived in the middle of Shibuya, but even my apartment was bigger than that! (Of course, it cost about $200 more per month). But, yeah, that apartment is so tiny it's hard to even see what plastic fittings there are, but, for example, the little shelf thingies she keeps her shampoo in are the kind of plastic that shouts "cheap apartment" to me.
posted by Bugbread at 4:46 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does it say where this is in Japan?

The father has an accompanying video where he says they're in Tokyo, but not in the city center. I'm assuming it's whatever the Japanese version of suburbia is.
posted by hoyland at 4:49 PM on September 27, 2016


My wife lived in a 10 sq m / 6 mat apartment for many years, but it cost her less than $300 a month... (not in Tokyo, obviously).
posted by thefoxgod at 4:24 PM on September 28, 2016


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