CH 4 WHAT IS THIS? AN APARTMENT FOR ANTS? (Jiro)
He feels like a sardine in a tin. A gorilla in a too-tight suit. Gulliver living among the Lilliputians. Okay. So that last bit was a small exaggeration, but every time he bumped his head on a doorframe at the Airbnb he and Hanako had leased, or ran his shoulders into something because the space was too tight for his six-foot-one frame, or he had to sit on the toilet and his knees jammed up against the closed door (was that TMI?): He felt like Gulliver. He felt, cramped.
The kitchen for instance. If he were to stand parallel with the kitchen sink and the wall opposite, his shoulders would round slightly so they could bridge the gap between the wall and the sink. The kitchen was a blip on the roadmap between the bathroom and the living room. It was a sink, an electric burner, and three shelves above with a cabinet below. He thought his mini fridge in college might have been larger than the refrigerators in most of these efficient Tokyo apartments.
The efficiency and resourcefulness of the country was enough--almost--to make up for the things that were less awesome for Jiro. Like the inevitability that his size twelve feet would hang slightly over the bed, or discovering after a night of tossing and turning that the blankets were too short. The next night, he took two blankets, laid them horizontally across the bed and overlapped them slightly in the middle. Problem, solved.
He loved the balcony. Granted, it gave him a view of the love hotels lining the block, but the view afforded him sky and unhindered space to lift his head. He could really breathe out here.
He knew Hanako was enthralled by everything, which surprised him a little. She had come from a brand-new kitchen in a renovated house on the west side of LA with new appliances, a small, but sufficient bath with two sinks, two bedrooms, an office and a yard that seemed a waste to have without the golden retriever of her dreams or at least a kid, but here she was, “oohing” and “ahhing” over Japanese ingenuity and efficiency in an entire apartment the size of two rooms back in LA.
“Just look at this!” she exclaims one morning, discovering that there is no garbage disposal. “You don’t need to waste needless energy pulverizing food bits. You lift this,” and low and behold, a part of the sink drain is in her hands. “There is a net here! A mesh net to catch your food so it doesn’t clog your drain in the first place!” They later found that a pack of 30 replacement nets cost under 200 yen (that’s under $1.90 at the current exchange rate) at the nearest convenience store.
The size of things was an adjustment, but not nearly as dramatic as he had been led to believe before arriving in Japan. Jiro had envisioned ducking through every doorway, not finding clothes that fit, not getting enough food to eat. That was the biggest worry. Portion sizes were said to be much smaller--not promising news for someone who Hanako teased ate as much as three grown men. His stomach had rumbled, thinking how hangry he might be, all the time. Turns out, portions were different. A mostly carb base (rice, noodles), with bits of protein (pork, fish, beef, chicken), and vegetables. Hanako was in heaven. Jiro was disconcerted at first, but adapted. It was okay that his chosen food pyramid was an inverted version of this. He told himself he would adapt, and he did.