How to use a Japanese Coin Laundry (place)

For whatever reason, when I got my apartment, I assumed it would have a washing machine.

It didn’t.

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.

But then I remembered. Japan loves to take care of me.

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.

(the nice mermaid teaching us how to use the laundry machines)

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.

(Thankfully, in case can’t read Japanese, they color-coded it)

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.

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

16 Comments on How to use a Japanese Coin Laundry (place)

  1. Your writing is very funny. I quite enjoyed it.

  2. Hello Grace! I recently came across your blog and just can’t stop reading your articles these days. Every post is too interesting, funny and full of tips!

    About NO.8 of this article (put your money in), I think the sign is asking people not to wash diapers or cloths of animals. It does not stop you bringing kids or pets… :)
    Probably some customers or the owner of the coin laundry did not want people to wash diapers in the same washing machines as other cloths.

    Wish your wonderful summer in Japan!

    • Hi Harune~
      Thanks so much :)
      Hah, looking back, now I can totally read that sign/kanji. It’s crazy to see how my language level has improved.
      I’m glad you’ve found my blog funny!

    • Michelle // 26 July, 2015 at 10:55 am //

      Hi there. Visiting a son in Sendai Japan. Found your article on the Coin Laundry very helpful. I ventured into one in Sendai and had to guess at which cycle I was using. The dryers were great. I did meet an English gentleman who said he didn’t worry about what cycle he was using – he just stuffed all of his clothes – way too many – in the washer, used the card (which you have to buy) and let fate take over. I left before I saw what his clothes looked like.

  3. I’m currently in Japan. And I’ve been staying at the Royal Park Hotel in Tokyo all week. I’ve now exhausted every piece of clean clothes that I brought with me and the Hotel staff has advised me that, in Tokyo their are no “Coin Laundromats”. They then ensured me, that if I wanted clean clothes by tomorrow that my only option was the service they provide. I about shit my pants when they told me how much this service costed. You ready for this guys, Its 1600 Yen per item, which is about 16.00 dollars PER ITEM. Ridiculous right? For that price they had better be using water melted from a Antarctic Glacier, and scrubbing each individual fiber of cotton by hand using soaps made from Moon Powder and Pixie dust, then drying them Dragon’s Breath. Shit.

  4. thanks for the hint to search for: コインランドリー !!! that saved me today

  5. hey thanks for the tips. i’m wondering how many clothes do you need to fill to the top?

    • It depends on how much you want to get for your yen :)

      I’ve done loads with only a couple pieces (I needed a shirt cleaned for work); I’ve also done loads where I shoved two weeks worth of clothing into the machine because I didn’t have enough spare change for two loads.

  6. Hi! I wanted to ask permission to use your photo above of clothes hanging on a Japanese hanger to dry…I’m writing an article about summer in Japan and need a photo of laundry drying. I will include all the links back to your blog and credit your blog with the photos.
    If you are not cool with this, please just let me know, and I’ll remove it.
    Many regards,
    Erinn for KAjapan.org

  7. Only 38 minutes?!
    Does the clothes really get clean? Espacially like underwear & socks…
    In Germany we call them 60°C-Wash and it takes about 3 hours (at least in my machine), and other clothes about 1,5-2h. But in Japan you use only cold water right? I can’t imagine that it would be really clean XD”

  8. this was very useful! =)

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  2. How much do Coin Laundry Machines cost in Japan? | Texan in Tokyo
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