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Saturday, June 20

Japanese Peculiarities #9

One of the things I remember about my childhood, that I always used to love, was how my mom hung our laundry out on a clothes line in those sunnier months. Our clothesline hung parallel to the side of our fenced-in yard separating the vast woods from our well-trimmed lawn. The metal fence and clothesline poles were always entwined in lilac that would scent the small stretch of land where my brother and I spent most of our time playing G.I. Joe and eating mud pies. Well, he ate them anyway… but only because his older sister made him. Mean, that little girl was. I digress.

I can still see my mom hanging up shirts by their tails, our skimpy unmentionables, and our long bed sheets while our dog Gizmo (Pinky as many of you know him) circled at her feet. With everything hung, it was a virtuoso fort in our young eyes. Looking back now, the scene was pretty idyllic of a very good childhood in the country, the same kind of childhood I hope KP will be blessed with.

But here we are in Japan, where the country is hard to find, with any patch found either covered in rice fields or

hills covered in thick foliage. Certainly KP is too young to know much of his surroundings at this point and we will probably move somewhere new before he is actually aware, but in the meantime, there is one thing I can give him… a clothesline.

Of course, this is nothing like the clothesline of my distant past, but it is a clothesline nonetheless. And I honestly admire the Japanese for their version, when they are so tightly packed in between neighbors and often lacking any sort of yard at all. A version where the Japanese women take whatever small space they can find out of doors, albeit a lanai, terrace, or just an open window where a small hanging device can be attached. And here hang not only their shirts, pants and unmentionables, but oft, their whole bed, which is now slung over a wall that functions more as a clothesline than its intended role as an architectural detail of their home. Remember the traditional Japanese bed is a futon, or thin mattress, rolled out onto their tatami floor every night. Tatami mats and the futons on top of them do get bed bugs just like those American king-size mattress babies do. So you clean them up and hang them out on your ‘clothesline’ to make them all nice and refreshed.

But Japanese take the clothesline process one step further and use it all year round. This is a great idea in the face of all of us who want to be a little bit more green in our daily lives. I hang out many of our items of clothing, just like every one of my neighbors does, although our queen mattress does stay where it always lies. Not only is all this Japanese green-ness wonderful, but it just plain makes sense when a Japanese drier takes about 4-6 hours to dry one load. I wish I was exaggerating. But it is indeed that painful. And, consequently, very energy wasteful.

While it may not be the beloved scene from my childhood, and it may seem a bit odd, I really do love the many makeshift clotheslines here in Japan.


Momo-Mama said...

You have to be there to really appreciate the Japanese Clotheslines...Luckily I will be in no less than 2 days!

My kids and I fly into Narita on Tuesday and are looking forward to (not) the hot humid air!

Kimono Karen said...

Luckily for you, this has been one of the best rainy seasons I have ever been here for... as in very little rain! I'm hoping the humid days of summer turn out to be just as kind to us.

Welcome 'home'!

ablykins said...

I always loved the "clothes lines" in Japan! If you notice, they also serve as great weatehr forecasting tools when you can't read the local paper. If you notice all the items being pulled in strategically at a given time, it is safe to assume rain is on the way! lol