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Where's The Bleach

Author: Author unknown, Issue: May 1996, Topic: Household

Dear Desperate Housewives (or anyone else willing to listen),

I have found living in Japan very challenging. During our family weekend outings we have searched for our destination with only a Japanese map desperately memorizing kanji and counting gas stations. I have gone to numerous shogakko PTA meetings with a pocket dictionary and a level of Japanese that at best enables me to ask "Doko desu ka?" But one of my biggest challenges here in Japan is keeping my families clothes white.

Last week, because of the warmer weather, I took out a pair of new shorts and was appalled at the stark contrast between these new shorts and the "white" clothes we've been wearing this winter. I may not be the best homemaker, but, have my housewife skills deteriorated this much in Japan? In my defense I have determined the following reasons for no longer having white as a choice in my family's wardrobe:

1. NO AGITATOR IN THE WASHER My concern for my family's appearance began after running the first load of laundry and noting there was no agitator in the washer. "This absence can't make that big a difference can it?" I asked myself. One unsatisfactory load later I answered, "Maybe it does."

2. NO HOT WATER Why didn't the builders sacrifice a few more meters of pipe so that housewives could wash clothes in hot water? No, instead housewives are expected to either run a hose from the sink or the shower or use a bucket to transfer water to the laundry machine. Being the dutiful housewife I find myself doing just this while mumbling under my breath words that I can't repeat.

3. LAUNDRY DETERGENT Is it just my imagination or is the Japanese laundry detergent weaker than the detergent back home? I now resort to using two times the amount recommended. Maybe I'm lucky that there's no agitator.

4. ILLITERACY For all I know, due to my illiteracy, I could be using toilet cleanser. "But it doesn't have a toilet on the bottle," I comfort myself. Do you notice yourself buying goods with labels that have pictures and English and at last resort Hiragana and Katakana? I even use location as a clue to figure out what is in the bottle, desperately hoping that because it is next to the laundry detergent it must be bleach. Although, this method has failed many times, and I bring home unwanted goods.

5. BLEACH I have heard from Japanese women friends that there is bleach here in Japan that works. WHERE IS IT? I've asked one of these friends to write the bleach kanji for me. I found the same kanji on a bottle, bought it, used it and, as I have so clearly stated above, my "whites" continue to become more gray. I have found at Daiei a dry powder "burichi" in katakana that if I pour one third of the package in one load, I see some whitening effect. Out of necessity, I have now ordered bleach through the foreign buyers club.

6. UWABAKI Japanese school children wear white slippers called "uwabaki". When I first arrived, I had heard rumors that mothers scrubbed their children's uwabakis once a week. I'm concerned about my child's appearance but I have my limits. Mind you, I'm already bucketting water from the bath to the washer under great duress. I would launder them but not scrub. But during the first class observation, it was painfully obvious who's mom did and who's mom didn't. Afterwards I found myself reluctantly scrubbing them every once in a while when I couldn't stand their gray appearance.

7. A FOUR YEAR OLD CHILD When I go to pick up my daughter at the yochien, where there are hordes of kids, why is my child the dirtiest? Even my friend, with whom I carpool to and from yochien, noticed. Last week we went to Ueno Zoo and, just as we got on the subway, I noticed on my daughter's inside sleeve a line of dirt that ran from her cuff to her arm pit. After much discussion with two other mothers that were present, we determined that she had draped her arm over a dirty railing as she was walking down the street. It takes effort to get the inside of our sleeve dirty, but, for my daughter, even this comes easy.

Are there any other housewives feeling challenged out there? Have you found bleach that works? Any other frustrations you'd like to air? I'd be happy to hear from you. I know some other housewives who would also be greatful.

Suzy Homemaker

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