Home Improvement

Japanese Laundry: Small-Space Solutions (Many via Amazon) from a Spotless Country

When my son dropped a glass bottle on a subway platform in Osaka last summer, a man appeared out of nowhere to sweep away the shards—and we learned firsthand how Japan earned its squeaky-clean status. The same fastidiousness extends to people’s homes—the slippers-only policy indoors is the law everywhere (we were even reprimanded for entering the foyer of a gym in our street shoes). So I wasn’t surprised to learn that doing laundry is a favorite chore that often gets tackled daily (“we don’t like to keep dirty clothes in the house,” a Japanese friend explained). Though many people own washing machines and dryers, the latter are rarely used—air drying is far preferred as just about every apartment balcony attests.
My interest was piqued while visiting artist-confectioner Mio Tsuchiya in her narrow Tokyo house dubbed the Vertical Alley: on the rooftop terrace she had towels drying on collapsible steel hangers and socks dangling from metal clips. Mio shared the Amazon links to these household staples, and that got me started on a Japanese laundry solutions hunt.
Here are my favorite finds. Note that since washing quarters are tight everywhere and particularly in Japan, these designs are made for keeping in clean in compact quarters.
Laundry Bags, Baskets, and Hampers
Above: The Koinobori Laundry Bag was inspired by the classic carp-shaped Japanese wind sock; €12.50 from DOIY.
Above: From Tsuruya Shoten, a Japanese workshop specializing in rattan designs, the Rattan Laundry Rack has a top compartment intended as a “bath towel repository” and  a removable laundry basket below; ¥27,000 via Shokunin. In the States, it’s available as the High Hairu Rattan Basket from Nalata Nalata for $230 (bottom basket sold separately).
Above: The Tsuruya Shoten Rattan Clothes Basket Ellipse is ¥12,000 from Shokunin. Nalata Nalata offers the similar Low Rattan Basket for $200.
Above: From affordable storage specialists Yamazaki, the steel-framed Collapsible Laundry Hamper is $45 from Food52.
Above: The Siwa Medium Laundry Basket , ¥7,600, is part of a line of products composed of Siwa, a light but durable material that “expands the possibilities of paper.”
Abov: A Muji basic, the Stainless Steel Laundry Basket comes in two sizes: $40 for the small (shown) and $50 for the slightly larger.
Washing Machine Shelving
Above: Muji’s S-SUS Shelving Unit L, $320, fits neatly around a mashing machine, and can be paired with Muji’s modular steel shelving.

Above L: Yamazaki’s wall-hung Tower Trunks Laundry Shelf is $136.49 from Rakutan. Above: R: The design comes in black or white and has a wooden hanging bar.
Collapsible Drying Rack
Above: The collapsible Jajan Laundry Drying Rack is made of steel and wood (and also comes in all white and black and white); it’s ¥10,989 via Amazon Japan.
Laundry Hangers

Above L: Ohki’s Stainless Steel Folding Hanger is what caught my eye on Mio Tsuchiya’s terrace; it’s ¥1,760 via Amazon Japan. Above: R: The hanger collapses for storage, and, Mio, points out, is seamless and rust-proof. Tokyo-based Ohki makes a range of steel laundry designs that Mio swears by, including Futon Scissors for holding a drying mattress or mattress pad in place.

Above L and R: Aluminum Pinch with Hooks are ¥1,100 from Farmer’s Table, a Tokyo household basics shop we’ve been following for years.

Mio tells us that in Japan people love hanging clothes out to dry so that they take on “the scent of the sun.”  Above: For drying laundry on balconies these steel multi-clip hangers come in handy. Countless variations are available on Amazon JP. In the US, consider the Aoklim Laundry Drying Rack Hanger, $14.79, and the Amagong Hanging Drying Rack, $13.99, both on Amazon.
Laundry Carts
Above: The Yamazaki Tosca Tall Laundry Wagon, $70, is a rolling clothes rack fitted with a large Tosca Laundry Basket, $45.
Above: The Yamazaki Tower Laundry Wagon,  $46.20, holds two Tower Laundry Baskets, $48, medium, $53, large, from Burke Decor.
Ironing Boards
Above: The Yamazaki Ironing Board in a Bag is composed of two ironing mats (one large, one sized for shirt sleeves) that cleverly fold together to form a storage carrier for an iron; $32 via Food52.
Above: The Bestco Ironing Board with wooden legs is ¥5,696 on Amazon JP.
Above: Shaped for ironing shirts, this Tabletop Iron has folding metal legs and a hanger for easy storage; ¥1,990 from Amazon JP.
Laundry/Bathroom
Above: An all-white combination bath and laundry room with simple wood shelving in architect Kano Hirano’s Tokyo house: see An Inventive Sliver of a City House by No. 555. Her Estonia Pine Baskets are ¥9,000 from Kagoami.
Here are some other well-designed household tools from around the world:

German-Made Cleaning Essentials
12 Favorites from the French Scullery
16 Made-in-Italy Kitchen Essentials
11 Scandi Kitchen Essentials, High to Low


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