October 2015 Archives

4 Plugs

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When Tod ran us our first bath in the new house, we discovered that the old bath plug was no longer sealing the drain - a slow leak meant that the water was noticeably lower upon getting out after a good soak. 

PLUG 1: Tod measured the plug - 34 mm - and we biked over to the nearest home center, Komeri. We also brought the old bath plug as a backup. Apparently this is a common thing, because the packaging for the new plug was designed to let you fit the old plug into an indentation to test the size. Very clever. Except that our bath drain is actually 36mm - the old plug's rubber had shrunk. 

PLUG 2: So we bought a different plug at the other home center, Cainz, a few days later when we were in town to register our move. Except Tod accidentally grabbed the wrong package and we ended up with another 34 mm plug. We promised ourselves we'd return this one (unopened) next time we went to Cainz. 

PLUG 3: In the meantime, a week or so later, Shreyas and Tod bicycled over to Komeri again and got a plug that was sure to work! It had a sloped design marked suitable for drains from 34mm - 38mm. Except that it didn't work because our drain has a little metal cross in the bottom of it that prevented the fancy plug from going in far enough. 

PLUG 4: Yesterday, we were in town again for "Beach Work Friday" and made a trip to Cainz. We exchanged the too small plug for one that works! We had a hot bath and it was wonderful.

So...if anyone needs a new bath plug, tested but never used, we have a size 34mm and a 34-38mm plug available for cheap. 

Bus Tickets

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Without a car in the countryside, we ride the bus pretty frequently. In fact, I have the schedule memorised now but it is pretty easy because there are only four busses a day that leave from our stop. Tod has invested in "kaisuken" discount bus tickets. They come in different denominations so you can pay your fare no matter where you get on or off. They look like Monopoly money!

Adventure Hiking

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A view from the heights above Kozuka

According to Open Street Map, up behind the Hackerfarm, past the Kamado no Hi bakery and the site of the Kozuka Art Festival, and there's a hiking trail. Google Maps doesn't show it. Akiba said there was nothing but his friend's house at the end of that road. But Arun, Shreyas, Tod, Osamu and I decided to go have a look anyway.

And we got lucky. The map was right and the trail was there. Leading away from the back of the house is a fence that shows the way. It leads to a lovely trail along a field and into the forest. Easy to follow until you hit the little ravine/landslide and then the abandoned house where the trail disappears in a pile or rubble.

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Abandoned house! 

We decided to check out the house and grounds to find the trail beyond it. Tod peeked into the mailbox for clues about the property and was rewarded with a handful of old utility bills made out to Takezawa Kaoru and dated about 8 years ago. Well, that gave us a date and a name, but no more information. We explored the compound a little bit, simultaneously looking for interesting artefacts and also the trail out.

The sheds and storehouses were full of tools and equipment. It looked like the owner either fled or died. Arun liberated an ancient tennis racquet, complete with rotting catgut strings and a neatly painted TAKEZAWA on the handle. We debated whether this was theft or salvage but since we used the racquet later on, it turned out to be a good choice to carry it no matter what the liberation was labelled.

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The way out was less than obvious. After a false start into an overgrown rice paddy, we found a sort of trail along the treeline. Shreyas figured out how to get over a giant fallen pine.  Arun used his racquet to push back branches and help people out of ditches. Tod blazed the trail through jungle, around a ravine, and with the help of his GPS map got us to the road on the opposite side of the hiking path before the sun set.

We came home with all sorts of questions. Who was Takezawa? What happened to him? And how did the mailman get there when there was no road?

Shoji repairs

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The holes and the old paper removal process

This old house is totally wonderful and it is full of projects to do. Today I learned how to replace shoji, the paper on our interior doors. 

First you take the paper off by dampening the old glue and peeling the paper away from the frame. Our shoji haven't been redone in a very long time and the brittle paper ripped rather than peeling. I spent a long time carefully peeling off the bits with a butterknife until the wood was clean and smooth. But I eventually got both sets of interior hall doors un-papered.

The next step is to put the new paper on. I sort of cheated and used iron-on paper. It's backed with a heat-set glue so I didn't have to fuss with a glue pot and drips. But it was still a bit of a challenge to get it smooth and to neatly trim away the excess paper. If you come over to visit, don't look too closely.

I discovered some writing on one of the door frames. A Yasuda grandchild must have practiced his name in pencil. It's invisible when the doors are closed; I wonder if that was on purpose? 

The final product looks pretty good. Fresher and tidier. And with luck it will remain hole-free for a while. 

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Unpacking in Kamogawa

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The movers arrived at 9:00. 90 minutes later, everything in that truck was in the house.

How did we get so much stuff and where is it all supposed to go? We've spent a few days now sorting through boxes and trying to put our square peg into this round hole. My favorite Japanese word is currently toriaizu which is means "for now" and is how everything in the house is deployed. It will get moved or rearranged later, but toriaizu OK desu.

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Kitchen full of boxes; Tod testing the new oven; unpacked kitchen (toriaizu); first meal in the new house.

This house has been mostly uninhabited for a very long time and it is filthy. I attacked the kitchen and with the help of Tod & our neighbor, Chris, got it cleaned and unpacked on the first day. I used so much degreaser that I had to send Tod out for more and I still am not finished. But it's toriaizu OK. We have cooked many meals here already. Our appliances arrived over the course of two days, so now we have a gas cooktop, an oven, and a washing machine. 

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The washing machine lives outside.

There is a lot more to do: unpacking, organising, cleaning, and some moderate and major repairs. But toriaizu OK desu! Today we are off to enjoy a harvest festival in the rain and meet some of the extended community of creative anarchists who live out here. 

Goodbye, Bunkyo-ku

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In the living room at 3:30, 4:30, and 6:30.

It was a long day scrambling to get the last of the gear and materials packed. We did get to the stage of putting things in boxes marks "stuff" and "random" when the movers arrived half an hour early. But I'm sure it will all be fine at the other end. Obviously the things in those boxes are the ones we packed at the last minute and will need first anyway. 

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One last photo of the evening view from our veranda before we handed over the keys.

Fourteen years in this old apartment - the longest I've lived anywhere - and a lot of memories accumulated. I cried all the way to Tokyo Station as we headed off to catch the bus to our new home. New adventures are beginning and I'm ready.

Bittersweet Goodbyes

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The kids' chalk drawings at this house have gone from Anpanman scribbles to train schematics.

Me: We've only got a couple of days left; we should plan to eat at our favorite restaurants and say goodbye to the neighbors we like.
Tod: Yeah, we should but we'll come back.
Me: Did we go back to Nakameguro? Sendagi? Nishikata? Not really.

One of the bittersweet things about leaving this place we've lived so long is saying goodbye to the familiar. Fourteen years is a long time. I've watched the neighbor kids grow up in waves, watched our older neighbors get even older. Witnessed trees mature and bear fruit. Observed the neighborhood change as houses come and go. This place, Kasuga, has been home for a long time.

And while I'm very excited to be going to a new home in a green place, I will miss the daily rhythms that I understand so well right here on this block.

Boxes & Kanji

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Preparations for moving are definitely underway. We have piles of boxes where the sofa used to be. Ultra Bob collected the sofa last weekend and traded me an electric bass for it - a trade I am very happy about. If it all works out, our unwanted furniture will have a happy new home: the old piano is due to go today or tomorrow; we have someone picking up the bed on Sunday. I have my fingers crossed as plans have fallen through a couple of times already. It is hard to give things away. I am becoming a good fan of Craiglist.

The apartment is hysterical in its disarray. There is unpacked stuff everywhere.  It's dithering time - will I need that in the next couple of days? Which box should this go into, anyway? It's totally nuts. The stacked boxes are a visual relief from the clutter.

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And, in the spirit of knitting a horse, I started practicing writing the kanji for our new address. I realised yesterday when we went to the Bunkyo city office to register our move, that I could not write the new address except in English letters. I recognise the kanji to read and I can type them on the computer, but writing the 16 stroke "kamo" by hand seemed impossible. Even "ken" had me a bit stumped and forget "ba." For me, that feels like defeat. So I looked it all up, watched some stroke order animations when I couldn't figure out the order myself (though I have to give thanks to Oyama sensei for drilling me on writing all those years ago), and started practicing. After 40 minutes of meditative writing, I can remember all the kanji, though as usual, my handwriting is looks like a 5 year old's. But it is legible and it will get better.

So we are moving right along. It will all get done. We will be at our new address (all 65 strokes of it) this time next week. Wow.

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