Micro Man Caves

It’s no secret that space is tight here in the metroplex. Tight, orderly, clean, and tight. Public and private – everything is tighter than things in the West.  It’s basic physics in most respects, and you have to learn to deal with it, or risk a mental breakdown.  When I visited by folks in suburban Pennsylvania last summer, after almost 2 years away, my immediate reaction was to go into the living room, swing my arms wildly and spin around – astonished that I could do both and not hit anyone or anything.  Abundant space is a privilege that many people overlook in my homeland, and now that I have learned to live without it, I find I have become a master craftsman of what I dubbed the “Micro Man Cave”.

"Could I make a Man Cave here?" Not likely...

The “Man Cave”, its creation and enjoyment, is a favorite past time of many of my American friends.  A room, previously not used for any particular purpose, is transformed into a sanctuary where dudes can be dudes, away from their wives.  A little “me” place in the midst of a (what would appear to most Japanese) huge shared space. I have to admit that when a friend showed me his in his three story townhome, I was very jealous. It was the size of half our apartment and it even had its own toilet. I wanted my own. I thought of our residence back in Japan and I wanted to cry.

Here in Kawasaki, we live in what is called a 2DK.(2 rooms and a dining room/kitchen) There is no “extra room”.  There is a bedroom which is shared (although it has been infiltrated by a substantial stuffed animal collection, again – not mine), the living room, and the dining room/kitchen that is basically my wives sanctuary, which makes sense since she loves to cook – so I will let that slide. That leaves a bathroom and the toilet room. There was nowhere to go. So I had to make refuge in the little spaces that were reserved for me, namely, our five tiered ニトリ(Nitori) book shelf.

This was the natural place, being a known biblioholic, and as I took over nearly all the shelves, I saw my “Micro Man Cave” take shape. Now there are some drawbacks to my miniature Man Cave. I can’t sit down in it, can’t lay on a sofa, can’t smoke a cigar or enjoy an all night poker tournament, and most certainly can’t clean my gun(s). What I can do is collect small things of my choosing and place them inside in such a way, so that when I open it I am sucked in, transported if you will, into my own world – however fleeting that time might be.

So, I had to do this right, had to arrange things in an exacting manner, had to manicure this tiny 7 foot by 2 foot deep box into the embodiment of my very soul! It was a tall task, but after almost a year of refinement, I think I finally got it. Books make up the bulk of my Micro Man Cave. The rest is curated from bits and pieces of my life that I feel are worthy to be honored in the Micro Man Cave. Sometimes things are promoted, sometimes relegated, sometime whole shelves are renovated. In the process, I have managed to usurp space originally claimed by my wife – and banished her “nick nacks” to the basement level of the bookshelf. Though, she does do a nice job with the very limited space I have allotted her.

I started with a selection of literary fiction at the top shelf and worked my way down through history, politics, Japanese Language, etc.  Currently I am featuring two Nanoblock kits that I have assembled (Kaminarimon and the Hokkaido-Ken), in addition to future Nanoblock projects soon to be completed. My newest feature is a small wood block set of old Edo which I found for 70% off at Muji.  It really brings the place together.  Of course there are some of my personal files and such, but I tend to keep those things limited.  My Micro Man Cave has no time for trivial concerns like money, or taxes, or the legality of my visa.

Sometimes my wife catches me opening up my mini sanctuary and staring for prolonged periods. Sometimes she gets concerned, but later when my trance is broken I assure her that I was just enjoying some “me” time in my Micro Man Cave. “Oh,” she’ll say, “that seems perfectly normal.” Yes, it is normal, and don’t even think of entering uninvited. I’m already considering booby trapping the magnetic door grips…