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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Non-Typical Japanese Apartment Diorama In LEGO

This was more difficult than I thought... or at least it would have been if I had thought about it. When it comes to LEGO, I just build... and then go back and take things apart to make it better.

This is my three-bedroom LDK (Living room-dining room-kitchen) apartment with two balconies that I resided in when I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan between 1990 and 1993.

Pretty cool, eh?

You know all of those stories about people living in rabbit hutches in Japan? They are true - having visited many an assistant English teacher (AET) across Japan... and staying at various Japanese friends' apartments when in Tokyo or Osaka... they are tiny places.

And then there is my apartment. Granted I lived in the so-called boonies, some 100 kilometers north of Tokyo... so there is that... but I always liked the quiet life of the suburbs... so again, I was lucky.

I was a bit of a loner... I had friends and all that, but growing up with a brother seven years my junior, my family life wasn't as close as others - like my buddy Rob who has five siblings or my buddy Matthew who was one of four kids...

Seven years is a big difference... or at least it was for me. 14-7; 21-14... people are into different things. Even now - regrettably, my brother and I are still loners - he's a writer, too... albeit more successful as a cartoon writer who has an Emmy sitting on his shelf.

As well, I had already lived in Toronto - a pretty big, cosmopolitan city, but in the 'burbs... so it wasn't a big switch for me...

See... lucky...

And there I was in Japan with an apartment better suited for a family.

And all I had to pay was the equivalent of $330 a month - thanks to my office paying the other two-thirds or more.

There's that luck again.

Many other AETs on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme were not as lucky as me.

It's probably why I had such a great experience in Japan that seems, on the outside, to be better than most. I really have no one to compare it to, and I did my best NOT to compare MY life with any one else's... but seeing as how I often played amateur psychologist to many an AET (and sometimes they to me), you do get a better read on your own life.

Which brings us back to my apartment. It was my home. Ohtawara was my home. I always felt that it was. And it was. It's part of my mindset. Home is where you are right now. So... being homesick... though uncommon for me (it happened a bit), it was not a big factor in my life. I was always home.

Check out my home. I kept it pretty neat - vacuuming a few times a week... doing laundry a few times a week... always doing the dishes (by hand) - you can see a pile of dishes in the sink in my diorama.

I took pride in my place. I think it was large enough that it was a get-away place for my girlfriend at the time Ashley... who, excluding sleep at her place, spent more time awake at mine.

Let's take a closer look at the diorama of my apartment:

I placed the light green tiles on top of the walls to provide separation - to make it easier for the eye to follow.

That photo above - the one at the very top... it's by far the best photo of the bunch!

Yes... that's me at the writing desk. I have a copy of a famous Roman speech there - "Vini vidi vici" by Caesar, which means "I came, I saw, I conquered." And, while I may not have conquered Japan, I certainly survived without any great problems. It was never a battle to be won or lost. It should not be for you.

I miss cameras with film - when you could zoom and focus easier.
But who's that lady visiting me in Wonderland with the chocolate ice cream cone? I'll never tell, but I lick her very much. I mean like. Whatever. Yes... I blurred her on purpose to avoid proper identification. Okay... not on purpose...
Map of Ohtawra sits above my comfy chair next to the book shelf and lamp and phone.

The bathroom... sink, clothes hamper and washing machine. Pretty basic. Also a western-style toilet in a small room... and that tan-tiled area would be my shower stall... imagine that it had three full walls and a shower curtain... That tan thing hanging there on the wall... that's my backpack... which was my briefcase while in Japan. It was never hung-up, and was usually placed in a corner behind the main door.

Washroom area.
On the north balcony there are spiders. That much is correct, except I didn't have enough spiders to adequately represent the buggers, who would begin dropping down from the roof of that balcony as the sun began to set... which means that if I didn't get my laundry in on time - I would leave it out all night. (shudder) I hate spiders... and these guys were huge.    
The north balcony was home to spiders at night and spectacular vistas during the day.

Do you know what's really scary? I didn't need a single photo to recreate this model of my place. Not a single one - even though I do have a few of the place. Yes... I am pleased with myself.

As mentioned previously, I didn't have some of the pieces available to do the job... but since I have maybe 250,000 pieces, I did pretty much have what I needed.

You can see that I tried to put in every single bit of furniture I had, but because of size constrictions, I did have to make a few allowances...

For example: My Queen-sized bed... it had a wood headboard that had a couple of cabinets - sliding doors and such... that I might keep my glasses or a book or a box of Kleenax in it.... but I lacked the room and the skill to make it so. There is a trophy in there, but that's all in the fun of things. You'll notice it's a silver award. And... if you ask, I'll explain why... unless you have your own thoughts on that! ;) Love that crazy quilt, too.

My bedroom. It served its purpose.... and then some.
The Japanese style door leading to the bedroom is accurate, in that there was one. It was a dual sliding door, and had a mountain image and trees et al painted on it - but closer to the bottom... with the artwork not rising any higher than one's knee. The dragon image on my LEGO door is better, only in the fact that my name Andrew translates to 'peaceful-leader-dragon'.... at least in the phonetic kanji I chose to represent my name. Hey... in for a penny, in for a yen.

In the room to the right of it, I actually had a larger clothes cabinet... I'm pretty sure I have a set of drawers somewhere, but I'll be damned if I know in which previously-built model they reside in. Anyhow... except to get clothes in the morning, I rarely went into that room, seeing as there was only a large floor to ceiling window present, and if I wanted a view of the outside, I would simply go to the living room and exit onto my north balcony.

I kept my clothes in this room... and not much else.

Now... because I built the model of my apartment with a wall-cut-away - essentially doing away with the main eastern wall, there are a few things missing. On that wall were hung a number of puzzles I had built and had framed.

As well, because of the whole cutaway thing... to allow us all a better view of things, I decided not to include the complete back wall separating my kitchen from the bathroom, and thus the cabinets above the sink and stove are not present.

At the last moment, I decided to add the wall behind the small living room chair, where a map of Ohtawara was tacked to the wall. That same living room chair was where I first had sex with someone other than myself. Ohhh. Aaaah.

In my bedroom, on the wall to the left of my bed, there was a narrow linen closet, and on the opposite side of that same wall in the other room where my writing desk was, I had a closet - also with sliding doors that held my coats and such.

The colors of the place are accurate - except where the furniture is concerned. Yes, I had a yellow dining room table... but the chairs were wooden and a matching yellow as well. The sofa and comfy sex chair were all done in green fabric... and I'm pretty sure my television was black in color - not red. The lamps in the place are imagined - for the sake of not being so effing anal, but their location is spot on.
Dining area and kitchen... there was more room in real life...

I pretty much spent most of my evenings in the living room, lying on the couch or huddled under that square brown table which in the winter time was a kotatsu - a heated table - whereby a quilt is placed under the table top allowing one to cower under it for warmth in the chilly autumn and winter and spring.

The living room - where I did a lot of living. That aquarium on the low grey table - there was a lot of dying.
I did add a bonsai tree to the table. I had a two - both of which I managed to kill within a year of them being in my possession. I have a black thumb, even though I do love indoor plants.

Lastly... over the dining room table for two, there was an over-hanging light... which was hung so low, I ended up tying up the wire so it would hang higher so there was no danger of me smacking my head on it as I stood up.

Anyhow... I hope you enjoy visiting my place located at 307 Zuiko Haitsu in Ohtawara as much as I enjoyed building it.

I would love to build a scale replica of the entire seven-story apartment complex, but, along with not having enough white pieces, I am trying to avoid being considered insane. I still might do it one of these days...

Andrew Joseph

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