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June 23, 2011 / Karen Hill Anton

Coping without ‘necessities’

My kitchen before the dishwasher


(November 28, 1991)

“Come to think of it, that is a good place to put it,” a Japanese friend said when she visited us, referring to the fact that our ofuro is on the second floor, “though it would never have occurred to me to put it there.” It didn’t occur to us to put it any place else. Well, actually, it did occur to us, but we decided the second floor, near the bedrooms, was the most practical place to have it. (There appears to be some unwritten rule here that the bath should always be on the first floor, preferably near the kitchen.)

In any case, it’s interesting to see what people notice, and expect in a house. An old friend visiting from America was hardly in our house ten minutes before she noticed two things different from American houses. It wasn’t that we take off our shoes in the genkan, nor that  the windows are covered with shoji.

“I see you don’t have a dishwasher or clothes dryer.”


“But of course they make them here,” she said, and then, not quite so sure of herself, added, “Don’t they?”


“And you don’t want them?”

“Most people here don’t have them. I don’t think Japanese people consider them necessary appliances.”

“But you’re American!”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And this is a brand-new house. Don’t you want a dishwasher and a clothes dryer?”

“Well, to tell the truth, I don’t. I’m used to washing dishes and hanging laundry and I don’t mind.” (I even like it.)

“You could never find a new house in the States without these appliances now,” she said.

And food processors, microwave ovens, electric knife sharpeners, popcorn makers, and burglary alarm systems. “Yes, I know,” I said, “but even when I visit America I don’t use dishwashers. By the time I rinse a dish I figure I might as well wash it.”

“But what do you do after a party?”

“Billy and enjoy taking our time cleaning up and talking after everyone has left.”

“But a clothes dryer, come on, it’s a necessity,” she said.

I must admit, I do have a thing about clothes dryers – I don’t trust them. I mean, I’ve yet to use one that didn’t shrink cotton clothes, no matter what they say about just tumbling. So even when I visit the States I bring along laundry hangers and rope so I can hang my clothes outside to dry. (One friend jokingly accused me of turning her tony Marin County neighborhood into a Gypsy camp.)

“Well, I’m sure that laundry hung outside must be nice and fresh, but what if you have a baby in diapers?”

I ought to know the answer to that one. I had two babies in diapers at the same time at one point – and as luck would have it, during the rainy season. We had diapers hanging around like stalactites from any place they could be suspended. “Somehow I managed,” I said, “and I figured that if it got by without a dryer dealing with that, I didn’t need one.”

“Well, I guess you can get used to anything,” she said.

I guess so.



I have a dishwasher now.

I bought one about five years ago.

And now, every night, when cleaning up after dinner – I say to myself: What in the world did I do before I had it?!

I mean, I still don’t mind washing dishes.

But you just spend less time in the kitchen after dinner when you have a dishwasher. And I must say, the older I get, the more I like kicking up my heels after dinner.

But I still don’t have a clothes dryer – and still don’t see the need for one. 

Just a couple of hours ago I was on the phone with my youngest daughter Lila, who is living and working in New York City.

I regularly send Lila, and her eldest sister, Nanao, packages. In addition to vacuum-packed 0-sekihan, Lila cannot live without tonyu – soymilk. I know they have it in the States too – but none of it is as good as the one we get from our regional co-op. 

And Nanao’s youngest son, Luka, is crazy about ajitsuke nori (flavored seaweed).

            “Thanks for the great package!”

            She especially thanked me for sending the laundry hangers she had requested. And told me that when her roommate Liz saw them she said, “Wow. This is pure genius!”


© Karen Hill Anton and “Crossing Cultures” 1990-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Hill Anton and “Crossing Cultures” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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