Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How to Wash Your Damn Clothes in Japan - The American Idiot's Step by Step How-to Guide

This month, we moved into a lovely, temporary apartment in beautiful Nagoya, Japan. Our property management company specializes in foreign relocation and I was so relieved when I found they had created a manual for every appliance in our furnished flat because we do not speak a lick of Japanese.

I flipped through the binder they had provided. There were a variety of different washer dryers featured and instructions on how to operate each one in ENGLISH. Woohoo! Easy breezy.

Unfortunately, we had a different model than any of the ones in the photos. I determined that we MUST have been provided with a much more higher-end appliance due to the abundance of extra buttons. I couldn't wait for this robot-machine to to work its magic.

There are only 3 English words on this machine and one of them is "magic"!

After many hours of trying and failing to get this extra-small capacity machine to work, I decided to create this more comprehensive instruction manual exclusively for Americans like us. It is guaranteed to work on any model you will find here in Japan. Things can get a little frustrating when you are a foreigner who does not speak or read the local language but this is how we make it work!

How to Wash Your Damn Clothes in Japan - The American Idiot's Guide

1. First you want to find a translating app on your phone. Scan every button on the machine. This may take a while and you may find words like "araiiuipa" and "araiinuiso" whatever the hell those mean. You may want to try to learn Japanese at this point which may or may not be faster but it is important to make a solid attempt to find out what the buttons actually say.

2. You should have some Japanese laundry soap on hand by now. None of these will be in English so make sure you have your translating app handy if you want to know how much to use or what you want to smell like. Want natural soap with no fragrance? Good luck with that. Be prepared to smell like something...unusual like "old lady", "perfume bottle explosion", or "I've drenched myself in this cornea burning shit to keep you all the hell away from me."

3. At this point, you may be sick and tired of the countless hours of wasted time using your translating app or have drained your battery doing so, so eff it. Just pour your best guess of a reasonable amount of soap in the drum. Be conservative here because of fragrance options listed in Step 2.

4. Now you're ready to push buttons. If you found the button that translates to wash, push it and wait. If nothing happens, push all of them. That is the only way to find what they do. Good old fashioned trial and error should get you closer to your goal eventually.

Whatever happened to wash/dry small/med/large and high and low??? Waaaaay too many choices here. This thing looks like it could do a fireworks and laser light show instead of simply washing and drying 4 outfits.

I'm not sure what we're being protected from but safety first so I pushed it.

I don't really care about the tank being cleaned but it can't hurt, right?! Press that one too.

5. Wait.

If nothing happens press more buttons.

6. Wait.

If something happens, especially if you get flashing lights, sounds, and somethings shaking and it isn't you, pour yourself a glass of champagne and celebrate! You may get clean clothes very soon!

7. When things stop flashing and there is complete silence or loud beeps, open up the machine and feel the clothing. If they are wet and there is a strong smell of rainbows bursting from a cherry blossom forest, you must have done something right. Rejoice! Take another swig of the bubbly as a handsome reward and move onto Step 8.

BUT If things are swimming in a soapy pool of water. Or everything is still dirty and dry with just a soap stain to show for your 45 minutes of waiting and 2 hours of button pushing while learning Japanese the hard way, repeat steps 1 thru 7. Keep repeating these steps until you are satisfied.

8. Time to DRY! The thing about washers and dryers in Japan is that they both wash and dry! At first you are going to think that this is a technological innovation beyond American ingenuity at its finest. However, you may have to do more translating, and push more buttons to make this miracle of sweet scented allergy inducing apparel on its way to a wrinkle-free hanger.

9. Pour yourself another drink! You deserve it, and it is time to wait again. *Bonus points* if you skip the drink and you move on to figuring out the dishwasher which happens to be the size of a toaster oven.

10. Once the flashing lights and noise have ceased, (you may get some loud beeping which either signals an emergency or that your cycle is done.) Launch your next investigation.

A. Touch your clothes and if they are dry, congratulations! Try to remember whatever it is you did the first time and repeat with your next batch of dirty clothes.

B. If your clothes are in what appears to be a fancy braid or knot that could tie a cruise ship to dock in a tsunami, start untangling and cut your losses by using a scissor to separate items that have unraveled or ripped in some irreparable way. These are rags now. You needed rags so it's no big deal.

C. If the clothing is still wet and you are having a hard time seeing your hand in front of your face in your laundry room which has become a sauna... start again at Step 8.

Also, it may be time to cork the champagne and hit the sake. You are in Japan after all!

10. After several times repeating this dry cycle pipe dream, it is perfectly fine to give up, especially if you can get your clothes washed and slightly dank, wrinkled like used tinfoil, but not dripping wet, cut your losses and dry them out out the patio.

I'm certain this is why everyone hangs their clothes out to dry here. Some things are just not worth the time and trouble. People have been hanging clothes to dry for hundreds of years and they were not walking around naked. Convince yourself that you are being eco-friendly and assimilating into the Japanese culture.

If you run out of room or don't have an outdoor space, a rod in the shower will do OR just hang these wet clothes directly in your closet and cut down on wasted time.

11. Once everything is hung, dried and crispy like a stack of Pringles the true test is to wear what's left of your crinkled, dank outfit into a densely populated public space like a subway train once you sober up.

Hubby can totally wear these to work, right?!

You will want to see if people move away from you or if you come down with a rash that looks like a sunburn bodysuit. If your skin is fine, people avoid you like they normally do for your freaky Americanness on it's own, and if your eyes and nose aren't dripping like the first round of wet clothes from the stench of mildew and a forest fresh swamp, you are golden! You are a Japanese Laundry Samurai!

Otherwise, there are clothing stores that are opening up all around this country and profiteering from foreigners' inability to understand the complex programming skills required to operate Japanese appliances.

Also, I've learned everything beside socks and underwear can go through many many many more wears with a simple washcloth and water or stain pen spot treatment, visual inspection, and/or sniff test to determine if a complicated wash is really necessary before starting a painstaking cycle once again.

Furthermore, if your kids eat meals in their underwear, you can cut your washing in HALF. Think of all the Japanese translating you can do with all that free time!

Hope this helps. Next week we're going to teach you how do operate a rice cooker but make sure you have a restaurant that has a menu in English nearby and a bottle of wine just in case.

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