Managing supplies of clean clothes can be a challenge on vacation. My mother in law has been trying her best to take care of everyone’s laundry*, but she is having trouble keeping up with 3 additional people’s clothes in the tiny laundry machine they have in the house. My in-laws, like many Japanese people, don’t own a dryer, so clothes can only be dried by hanging them up outside. With yet another rainy day and packing to return home coming soon, we were developing a laundry crisis.
*Yes, I am more than capable of washing my own clothes. But trying to do household chores at my in-laws house would end up causing more problems than it solved. I once got yelled at by my father in law when he found out that I helped wash dishes in Canada, but that’s a different story.
I suggested that instead of waiting for the rain to stop, that I would be happy to take our laundry to a nearby coin laundry, which would also buy me some quiet time outside of the house. My in-laws agreed and dropped me off, promising to pick me up later.
I expected they would take me to a place where I would largely be left alone, similar to the coin laundry I used to use in my teaching days. This one had a very attentive owner who my mother in-law referred to as “mama-san”. I have only ever heard this term before used in reference to the manager of a small bar or hostess pub, so it was interesting for me to hear it in this situation.
Mama-san looked at my pile of clothing, assessed my needs, and directed me to one of the machines. She explained in rapid fire Japanese how to use the machine while my brain tried to translate as fast as possible. I did catch all of the key points like where to put my clothes and money, which was fairly obvious in retrospect. The machine that mama-san recommended provided its own soap and would both wash and dry my clothes, proving once again that Japanese technology is cool.
I sat quietly on my own for most of the time, taking advantage of the free wifi from nearby 7-11. My mother in-law came in later after finishing grocery shopping, and I showed her some of the pictures from our trip to Nagoya while we waited for my laundry. When the clothes were done, my mother in-law started talking to Mama-san about our visit.
As a proud parent and proud Canadian I took this opportunity to show off pictures of Tiny Dog from Japan and Canada while trying to maintain a conversation in Japanese. My mother in-law seemed proud of the attention her daughter and grandson were getting.
Although doing laundry is not likely to be anyone’s vacation highlight, this was a good chance to see some of the differences between Japan and Canada. Experiencing another culture can involve temples and museums, but it can also be as simple as going to the grocery store or trying to get your clothes clean. I love vacation!