I finally moved out of my Japanese share house.
So I have had a few bad housemates in Japan up to this point but it gets worse. Living in a share house anywhere in the world, not just Tokyo is pot luck. You never know who you are going to have to put up with.
The worst tenants.
I’m relaxing on my bed watching something on Netflix and I hear the all too familiar rumbling of suitcases being rolled on the laminate flooring down the corridor. Living in shared accommodation for a few months has made me very familiar with the sound. Coming, going, shape, size, I’m sure that if I tried hard enough I could even guess the brand of suitcase at this point. part3
I like to guess what room they’ll be moving into by listening to the sound of footsteps and noise coming from the suitcase. But this noise is getting louder, and louder, and closer. By the sounds of it, it’s my new next-door neighbor. “Well, there goes my peace and quiet,” I think to myself.
On my way out to teach a class the next day, I check the mail as I always do and I notice there is a new picture up on the notice board. Sure enough, right next to my picture there are two new people in the same room, two Chinese guys holding hands. oh my god! That’s amazing! I think to myself.
Don’t get me wrong as far as Asian countries go, Japan’s views on LGBT rights are fairly progressive, as their religions have never specified nor deemed it to be immoral like western countries had. However, your housing company can still refuse to house or rent to you because (at the time of writing) there is no national civil rights law to protect you if you are gay. Same-sex marriage is illegal and if you leave Japan to marry in a country that does allow it, Japan still won’t recognize the marriage. So it makes me feel relieved to see that the company I rent with is pro LGBT.
I catch them on the way out of the house that night and they seem like great guys! However, the fact that two people had moved in right next door to me became evident pretty quickly. It started with the arguing. really loud arguing! Unlike The Artist Formerly Known As Prince and his helium-filled Anime girlfriend from the first story, these two were fully grown men with really fully grown angry voices screaming at each other in Chinese.
The second issue came when I started smelling cigarette smoke in my room when I left my window open. After a few days, the hallway smelled like an ashtray. The rules of living here are pretty harsh but fair. No drinking, no loud noises, no parties, no plants, no leaving stuff in the shower or on the kitchen work surfaces, no un-vetted guests, nothing in your room that can cause a fire or damage property, no pets, no sleeping in the kitchen (there is definitely a story behind that one) but most of all! Rule no.1! Kicked out immediately if found doing! Not inside, not outside, not anywhere in the vicinity of the building. Absolutely NO SMOKING!
“Well, they’ve smashed that rule” chuckling to myself. I’m not gonna rat them out though. Their arguing and smoking are annoying, but I wouldn’t feel right sneakily getting them kicked out over it.
The third issue was a strange one. They would keep cooked/raw food in their pantry. This needs a bit of explaining. In the kitchen, there is a giant shelving unit that spans the width of the wall. The shelving unit has wooden doors with glass centers and each shelf is labeled by room number. For example, door one contains shelves for room 101,102,103 and room 104. The next-door contains shelves for room 105,106,107 and 108, and it goes like that for the number of rooms there are in the building.
Well, it just so happens that their shelf is directly above my shelf. So when I opened the cupboard to grab a cup and was hit with the smell of three-day-old cooked broccoli, an unidentifiable open can of wet meaty looking food, half an Avocado and what looked like a half-eaten plate of curry, I was mortified. I knew it was three days old because I had seen it there three days ago. What shook me more was that ten minutes into my afternoon coffee they came in and ate it in front of me! Well I left, The smell was contained in the cupboard but after they took it out there was no protection.
Their bad taste in food would come back to haunt me. I arrived home late one frosty day, desperately trying to keep warm as I had stupidly only packed t-shirts for my year long stay. I remember walking up the step to the front door, typed the code into the keypad and expected to be embraced by the warmth. Instead, I was blown away by the absolute stench of death!
Allow me to give you a brief history lesson of the things that I have smelled in my life.
Between the age of eight and fourteen, my parents owned a farm. Every so often my dad would boil a giant vat of offal to feed to the dogs. That’s where you would take the parts of animals that most people would be too stupid or daring enough to eat. Lungs, intestines, brain, bones, the list goes on. It would be boiled all day until you got a thick gelatinous soup. The smell to this day still hits me out of nowhere. As if my brain likes to go “hey! Remember this smell!?”
I went home to Liverpool for the whole of December one year and left my flat in Leeds in a relatively good condition for when I returned. Little did I know, the trip switch for the plugs in the apartment went off and left my fridge and freezer out of commission. Obviously, the fruit and veg rotting in a warm fridge was bad enough but to top it off, the fruit juice, the milk carton, and the veggie smoothie bottle had exploded all over the fridge leaving layer upon layer of different colored mold, fungi, and rot. If you have ever dripped your Mcdonalds milkshake on the carpet of your car and let it bake in the sun for a week you’re about three percent there.
I have cats, three of them. and one day one of the cats decided that the litter tray wasn’t good enough for them anymore and started pissing on the wooden floor behind the litter tray. Well, not to be outdone by said cat (which will remain anonymous) the other two cats get in on the action. So every time I look at the three litter trays and see that they’re more or less empty, I leave them. Until a week later. Sat on my couch, I catch the scent. I follow the scent. Realize it’s coming from under the cat litter, pick up the cat litter, to find piss soaked wood and I’m submerged in a smell that made me think I had just been hit in the face with a can of mace. It made my nose burn, my eyes water, it even made me cough! Not because it made me feel sick but because it felt like I had inhaled mustard gas, and my lung’s response was to cough it up.
None of those things, however, came anywhere near the smell that I walked into that day. It was a powerful overwhelming scent. Put it this way, smells don’t make me sick, but this smell had me gagging from the moment I opened the door and unsuspectingly took my first breath. I thought for sure there had been an accident! Surely a sewage truck had overturned and flattened a colony of ants and the worlds blue cheese supply had caught fire, causing thousands of skunks to spray out the flames. I covered my mouth and nose to make sure nothing got in and walked cautiously to the kitchen to see what had happened. I catch my two neighbors just eating quietly with something cooking on the hob.
It just seemed so unnatural to watch them silently eat while this noise of smell was punching holes in my understanding of physics. I just stood there looking at them looking at me with my hand over my mouth and nose. I just walked away. It must have appeared rude that I was basically signaling to them that the food they were eating absolutely stank but at the time I honestly couldn’t care less. How dare they ruin the atmosphere of the entire house! I was genuinely the angriest I have ever been! I had almost talked myself into confronting them twice but decided against it. They probably wouldn’t understand me anyway.
They had two really nasty habits that really did get to me though. They would spit constantly! All-day and all-night, the soundtrack to my life was retching and spitting. The other thing was, I don’t think they were trained how to use a toilet. Every time I went to the bathroom there would be shit all over the toilet seat. There would be a little white board with “clean the toilet after yourself” written on it as a message to all of us but I knew it was them. This wasn’t an issue before they arrived so it must be them!
A few days later, my appetite for blood long subsided. I keep getting this garbage smell coming from their room. Not a horrible food smell but a generic wet garbage smell. Every day I walked past I would just hold my breath until I reached the safety of the other end of the hall where the front door is. Until one day I had had enough.
It was late and I’m walking around the room listening to music and cleaning like I do pretty much every other day, and a gigantic cockroach runs right under my door and straight under my bed right in front of me. I screamed like a child and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Unfortunately, my bed can’t be moved. It is a heavy wooden bed with draws underneath to put clothes in. Its where my clothes were! I got dressed and left. I walked straight to my closest convenience store and bought every kind and roach killer available. I kicked my door open like a cop raiding a drug den and I sprayed every inch of my bed with roach killer, clothes and all. The fumes were making me choke but eventually, it ran from under my bed straight back out of my room and shot straight under… My neighbor’s door.
THAT is IT!!! IV’E HAD IT! I march straight into the bathroom where the “House Mother” was (she is sort of like an unpaid tenant that makes sure we follow the rules and ensures we have supplies) who was washing her face at the time, and I am so angry that I can only really blurt out nonsense and point at their door. “COCKROACH! SPITTING! SHITTING! SMELLY FOOD!” She’s looking at me like I have lost my god damn mind until I say “they are smoking,” she says “ahhhhh I was wondering where that smell was coming from, I’ll sort it” and just like that, they were gone the next day.
I was “fortunate” enough to be walking past when the cleanup operation was happening and it was disgusting! Their room was trashed! Empty cans, half eaten pizza on the floor, pizza boxes stacked high, bowls with food in them, clothes all over the place, boot prints on the bedding, it was a hoarders dream. I was shocked at the amount of crap they had accumulated in such a short amount of time. It was like they hadn’t used a bin in the entire time they were here.
“Well, at least they are gone!” I can finally get some sleep without shouting and spitting every five minutes. The next few weeks were bliss. Quiet nights and even quieter mornings. Until one day I awoke to the sound of someone humming… NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!