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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.