Sometimes, late at night, I like to just innocently peruse Google Flights maps to see if there happen to be any really spectacular, too-good-to-pass-up, dirt cheap flights to somewhere cool. It’s dangerous, but exciting, and it’s generally “just browsing”, but a few weeks ago I found unbelievable prices to Tokyo over Thanksgiving, and 2 weeks later, we were eating ramen and drinking shochu instead of turkey and hot toddies.
I’ve been to Japan several times; my mom has family there and I fell hard in love with the country and the culture as a pre-teen. This was my first time going since I switched from the service industry to real estate though, and I found that I saw Tokyo a little differently.
This time I paid more attention to buildings, to houses, and to the way people lived. As you may know, apartments and accommodations in Tokyo are notoriously cramped. I really recommend going there if you feel pouty and like your house is small or crappy; it will give you a new perspective on the preciousness of personal space and appreciation for the amount of clean air, empty land, and open sky around you here in Washington state. (We live in an amazing area, people!)
Tokyo is pretty much the polar opposite of my cozy, quiet neighborhood of 2 bedroom craftsman homes in central Tacoma. I gotta say, after 8 nights squished up in tiny hotels rooms in one of the (if not THE) biggest cities in the world, my claustrophobic heart was fully filled with a newfound gratitude for my pretty little home (which, in comparison to most homes in Tokyo, is HUGE).
That said, the use of space in Japan is super impressive. The whole tiny home fad here is cute/cool and works for some people, but over there it’s just how almost everyone lives….because it’s really the only way to fit 38 million people into one city. There are teeny fridges and mini appliances and shower heads that are just on the wall in the middle of the watertight bathroom that doubles as a shower. There aren’t toilets and bidets- the toilet IS a bidet. The traditional futon bedding is genius (and often the fabric is gorgeous!!) and folds up neatly to maximize floor space when you aren’t sleeping, turning a bedroom into a living room. And it surprisingly made my back feel better than it has in years!
Besides living spaces being extra small, I noticed that more thought seems to be put into objects that are kept in them. Perhaps this is because space is so valuable, why clutter it with ugly or excess things? Most of the time, if an object wasn’t useful, it was exceedingly beautiful (or painfully adorable). I love the connection to nature too-I saw so many compact apartment porches totally bursting with pots of glorious plants, and windows with beautiful, impossibly tiny, handcrafted vases holding little baby clipped flowers. And, hello? Bonsai trees are thee cutest things.
Our visit to Tokyo was a whirlwind adventure and I came home completely exhausted, but newly inspired to make my own home more thoughtful, to use all of the extra space that I’m lucky enough to have in a meaningful way, and to appreciate more the beauty and nature that we have here in Tacoma. Traveling can be a lot of things, and in some ways the way that you return home is more important than what you did when you were gone.