Huh? I Have to Hang My Laundry in Japan?

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It was a gorgeous day today and everything seemed right with the world. It was one of those perfect fall days. Sunshine a plenty…the wind was blowing, making it just cool enough to throw on a sweatshirt. People were outside running, birds were chirping, it almost seemed like Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” should have been playing in the background. Because it was so nice I decided to take full advantage of an opportunity to reduce the heap of dirty clothes* that was accumulating in my bite-sized laundry room.

*Please check out my article on How to Use a Japanese Washing Machine.*

For those of you who don’t know, hanging clothes is the most common method of drying your clothes in Japan. It seems kind of weird though, right? I mean, Japan is one of the most high-tech countries on the planet, so why on earth don’t they use dryers? Well, I don’t know all of the details, but I think it could be a government-initiated phenomenon (don’t quote me, though). Perhaps the Japanese government promotes a green lifestyle, along with businesses, and the society as a whole. Just as it’s quite common to recycle, it’s also an everyday thing to dry your clothes outdoors. Regardless of where it comes from, for many, it’s an inescapable part of the Japanese lifestyle.

THE GOOD

This biggest pro to hanging your clothes outside is that it’s a way to live a more energy efficient lifestyle. Every time you hang clothes, you’re saving energy. Another benefit of hanging clothes is that you don’t have to worry about buying or maintaining a dryer. This also saves space in your apartment or home. In addition, hanging clothes can be quite relaxing (at least it is for me), as it’s not difficult to do.

THE BAD

I probably have more bad ideas than good ones. However, it doesn’t mean that hanging clothes is a bad idea (. One bad thing about hanging clothes is dealing with the uncertainty of the weather. If it’s a cold day, your clothes won’t dry. If you left your clothes out overnight, most likely, your clothes won’t be dry (that morning moisture goes right to your clothes). If it’s rainy, your clothes will end up wetter than you started. If it’s really windy, you may end up losing a few pieces of clothing. The other hassle is timing. Whereas with a dryer, you know how much time it takes, regardless of the season you’re in. When hanging your clothes, there is no speed dry button to press. All you can do is wait, which can be a tad annoying if you’re in a rush.

THE PROCESS

When you’re hanging clothes, it’s important save space, or you may end up not being able to dry everything. To handle this situation, you should buy a drying rack for your clothes. I’m not sure if this is the correct term for the item, but we’re going to roll with it. This plastic (or metal depending on how much money you dish out) device allows you to hand a lot more clothing at once. You can find these racks at your local grocery store or home decor store. The good thing is that they can be quite cheap as well; I think I paid about ¥1000 for mine.

Also when you dry clothes, be wary of outside conditions. If it’s raining or too cold, it’s best to dry your laundry indoors. It’s also a good idea to bring your clothes inside as nightfall approaches as it will be easier for things to dry. I know this sounds a bit weird, but for women (in some areas of Japan), please watch out for panty snatchers. You think I’m joking…but I’m serious. It doesn’t happen so much here in Ibaraki, but in parts of Tokyo, I have heard stories about men actually stealing women’s panties! Weird, huh?

On paper, it looks like hanging clothes is a bad thing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Take some time to get used to the routine of it all, and you may actually enjoy hanging your clothes…I know I do. If you don’t enjoy it, at least you’re helping the environment.

Happy hanging,

Donald Ash

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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of thejapanguy.com blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.

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  • Mary

    I dry every thing on clothes drying racks by choice. I think it is a great money saving, clothes saving environmental practice that makes a lot of sense.

    • Donald Ash

      I agree. I could buy a dryer, but I’ve gotten pretty used to hang-drying my clothes. I can’t say I was the most environmentally conscious person, but being in Japan is changing me a bit. Cool racks, by the way.

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  • Marina

    When I read the title of this entry I was confused as to why that was a big deal! At my home here in Austria we usually hang our clothes too! It’s just so much cheaper ;) For me it’s weird to use a dryer , because we never owned one.

    • Donald Ash

      It does save money and energy. Once I started hanging clothes, it’s kinda become a habit for me. I don’t miss the dryer so much anymore to be honest :D

  • Kevin

    As a person who lived in the States all his life and is now currently residing in Japan, it seems it is mostly an American mindset. It is convenient and fast for us. But for the rest of the world air drying your clothes is quite the norm. It saves energy, is eco-friendly and your clothes last much longer.

    Though I have a few theories on why this is much more prevalent in a nation such as Japan. My first one is that dryers take an enormous amount of energy and the infastructure is not there to support it. My house for example has a 30 AMP breaker and if I have anymore then three major appliances running at once I’ll blow the breaker. Japanese homes commonly have 60 AMP or less breakers compared to Western homes that have 100 AMP plus. Not to mention the cost of electricity is quite high too. Also the dryers available in Japan are quite small too. he average dryer in Japan is about 1/3 the size of what we are accustomed to in the West.

    My second one is the Japanese are more eco-oriented. Why use energy (which became sparse after the Fukushima earthquake with the shutdown of all nuclear plants) and spend more money when the sun can do it for free. Plus all the homemakers need to keep busy somehow too. Not as many woman compared to the West have careers in Japan though this is slowly changing.

  • incognitosmiley

    During my time studying abroad in Japan, all of the host moms I stayed with agreed on one thing- the fact that it was mainly because of the fact that 太陽の匂いがいい, or the fact that having the sun dry the laundry made the clothes smell nicer, fresher, and なんとなくドライヤーよりいい! It’s the same reason they air out their mattresses every week, or every two weeks. Regarding the laundry, they actually never mentioned the fact that it was cheaper to line-dry laundry whenever I asked, or talked about the lack of dryers in Japan. Although, the high cost of power is still much true and relevant to the daily lives of all Japanese people. I studied to Fukuoka a couple months after the Fukushima incident, and my neighborhood would have monthly tables where households would not use electricity for specific amounts of times because they were so aware of the issue of energy and power. Last year though, my host families would mostly talk about saving electricity only when describing shower lengths, turning off the lights, air conditioning, and unplugging devices.

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