For whatever reason, when I got my apartment, I assumed it would have a washing machine.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it certainly had the space to PUT a washing machine in (and another friend who has an apartment did, in fact, put a washing machine in said space), but in the grand scheme of trying to furnish (and pay for furnishing) my apartment, a washing machine ranked pretty low in priority.
So I did laundry in my bathtub for 3 weeks, waiting for friends to get back to campus so I could sneak into their dorms and use THEIR washing machines.
Then I realized… this isn’t America. They actually “check” the visitors you bring in, and – apparently – check to make sure your visitors are not bringing in dirty laundry. I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought of that idea.
So I went back to doing laundry in the bathtub.
That lasted another 2 weeks, tops. My back was killing me.
When I was little, I used to think I was born in the wrong era. I wanted to be a cowboy-warrior-princess. Now I know I was born in the right era, because – chances are, if I was born 300 years ago, I wouldn’t be a cowboy-warrior-princess (Disney, you lied to me), and I WOULD be doing laundry by hand.
One day, taking a back road to the station, I found a small little coin laundry place next to an onsen. Sometimes I wonder how foreigners who can’t understand Japanese survive in this country.
Off to the side, near the window, they had another sign. This one was in English. If you’re looking for a place to do laundry in Tokyo (or any other city in Japan), type “コインランドリー” into Google maps. For whatever reason, they go by the name “Coin Laundry” rather than the typical laundromat or laundrymat.
I can only assume that coin laundries in Japan are nearly identical to coin laundries in America, but I wanted to write about it anyways.
For whatever reason, in Japan, it isn’t called a laundromat or laundrymat, only a coin laundry place.
How to use a Japanese Coin Laundromat
1. Find the place. Most places also have signs in English. GoogleMaps also has a nice assortment of coin laundry places (although mine does not show up).
2. Figure out which one is the washer and which one is the dryer.
Hint: The dryers are usually stacked on top of each other. If you’re wondering “How much do coin laundry machines costs in Japan, click this link.” For budgeting purposes, I wrote down all the typical expenses.
3. Put your dirty clothes in the washer. Make sure you check your pockets. In the 6 years I’ve been doing my own laundry, I’ve lost a phone and an iPod. No one should have to suffer that fate.
4. Figure out whether the machine comes with laundry detergent or not. One of the things I noticed about this coin laundry place was the lack of detergent for sale.
Then I saw the laundry machine. It had this sticker on it – which means that laundry detergent is included in the wash cycle (so you don’t have to add any extra).
5. Add laundry detergent anyways, because (no matter how much deodorant you put on) you stink. And your clothes stink. And your apartment stinks. And if your clothes smell nice, then maybe it will make your (and your apartment) smell nice too.
Or you can just put fabric softener in too.
Because for my first month and a half in Japan, I was using fabric softener as laundry detergent – and couldn’t tell the difference.
I still can’t.
6. Fill the machine up to the top.
7. Fill up another machine to the top. That is, of course, only if you’re like me – and only do laundry about once a month.
No one has time for that.
8. Put your money in. Notice how I put that step near the end. Both of the Japanese coin laundry places that I’ve used work on the system that as soon as you put money in, the water starts flowing. They do not register that the lid is open. If you are particularly slow at putting your clothes in (or just get bored waiting for your clothes to wash and open up the lid to see what happens), the spin cycle will splash soapy water on you.
While I was waiting (and bored) after splashing water on myself, I saw this sign. You’re not supposed to bring children and pets. Apparently, the Coin Laundry place is dangerous.
They say nothing about bringing people with the mentality of a child.
9. Wait 38 minutes.
There is a nice bench outside I like to sit and read my kindle on. Other times I will chat with the other customers (there is usually at least one other person waiting for their clothes).
There is an old man who spends a lot of afternoons sitting on the bench outside the Coin Laundry place. I see him often when I’m biking to the station.
I’ve come to realize now that he probably isn’t doing his laundry. I don’t blame him. The bench is very comfortable.
I also like to keep a lookout for my bike. Several of my friends have had their bikes towed for illegal parking (don’t laugh, it’s a serious thing here). If your bike gets towed, you have to pay 3,000 yen (almost $40) to get it back.
The coin laundry place has no “bike parking lot.” Or, for that matter, car parking lot.
What do all the other customers do? Maybe that’s why everyone waits out on the bench. They’re just making sure their bikes don’t get towed.
10. Take your clothes out, stuff them in your bike basket, bike home, and hang them up to dry.
If you DON’T want to hang up your clothes to dry (or you’re just rich and have a bunch of 100 yen coins to throw away, you can use the dryers)
11. Put your clothes in the dryer. It costs 100 yen ($1.20) to dry them for ten minutes.
12. Make sure you pay for the correct drying machine. I’ve only used them once (I’m too cheap to shell out the extra yen), and I did it correctly – but I can see how someone can easily make a mistake.
13. Don’t forget your clothes in the dryer. I felt a little guilty taking all of these pictures. It was only at the end I realized there was a security camera posted up near the machines.
They were probably judging me.
Click here for additional tips for using a coin laundry place in Japan.
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