One of the most intriguing things to witness in the Tokyo metroplex is just how little residents utilize balcony space. Most are simply relegated as spaces for hanging laundry, which admittedly, is all there seems to be room for. But laundry isn’t always drying, and it is in those instances when residents should look to take advantage of the cityscape views and non-stale air their balconies have to offer.
There are those who elaborately develop their balconies into beautiful Zen retreats complete with raked stone gardens and perfectly manicured bonsai. Unfortunately, like many of the beautiful flower gardens one sees attached to homes in residential areas, these tend to be maintained by privileged pensioners. (of which Japan has in abundance). It is all those in the lower to mid-level tiers of the age demographic that all too often neglect their apartment balcony, and it is my mission in life to steer clear of their work-to-life-balance inequalities, no matter the cost.
Admittedly, I don’t currently possess the green thumb to create a gardening masterpiece, but fortunately my wife had just the motivation necessary to begin the very small process of transforming our formally sterile laundry walkway into a balcony we can enjoy, especially in the nuclear energy-free summer that promises, once again, to sweat me out of my skin.
One needn’t have the dedication of Mr. Miyagi or a blistering bank account to make such a sanctuary. Indeed, there is a middle road to Japanese balcony enjoyment, and it starts with getting yourself outdoors. Whether it’s for a few minutes or several hours, all urbanites can benefit from spending some quality daylight hours just relaxing on the balcony. Get yourself a tiny collapsible stool, maybe a beverage, and just sit and watch. Then you can begin to add bits and pieces in the form of 100円 potted plants, or pay slightly more for higher quality from a local 八百屋さん(やおやさん, yaoyasan or green grocer). Final ingredient: some nice background jazz.
Sure, you might frighten the bejesus out of your balcony deprived neighbors, but in time, once they realize that: a) you’re not a stalker (lose the binoculars) and B) you have no plans of committing suicide – then they might see that this balcony thing aint such a bad idea after all.