|On the suburban frontier west of Tokyo - Fall 2002|
Our apartment is large by Tokyo standards - three rooms, in sequence.
As you stand in the kitchen, toilet-room and bath-room are to your right. Ahead of you, the middle room, with a large closet. Simple wooden floor, otherwise unadorned. Glass-paneled sliding doors between. This is where we've set up a dining table and where we use our laptops. Also, to avoid disturbing our neighbors through the thin floors, we put a carpet this this middle passage.
We bought our washing machine from Luca, Italian PhD, and he recommended a particular friendly mover. This middle-aged, backwards-baseball-cap wearing mover man was energetic to say the least, uttering a non-stop stream of mixed Japanese and English encouragements and rhetorical questions while he slipped in and out of his shoes, urging large machines into our apartment. On his way out, after setting up our washing machine for free, he gave us the little toolkit he'd used; "Here," he said, "fix your life."
For two people sleeping together, the last room is the obvious bedroom. For people who prefer separate chambers, the middle room would make someone a less-than-private bedroom/hallway.
The layout of the apartment means you hang the laundry outside of the last window, on the balcony. There are metal hooks that hold long poles across the top of your balcony cubicle. So it's the best place to hang laundry, but as Jane lamented, when you hang sheets and pants and the like from the top of your balcony area, they block the light and the room gets dark.
Since our balcony overlooks a fairly busy 2-lane road, anything out there for more than two days aquires a thin black coat of road-dust and smog grime. This wouldn't be bad for short-term laundry, except that all the means of hanging become dirty themselves and tend to share their dirt with freshly washed, wet cloth.