if you are staying in a place without a washing machine, or if you have saved up your washing to the night before you leave, you are likely to become the customer of a laundromat. Or ”coin laundry” (コイン ランドリー) as they are called in Japanese. Many of them are co-located with one of the many public baths spread out around Tokyo, and if you have not been to one, it is not a bad idea to soak for an hour and a half, while your laundry takes care of itself. Just beware that the hot water basins may be too hot for small children, and remember that everyone, including your kids, are supposed to wash before entering the basins. Including washing off all soap suds. Different from the public bath, however, the laundromats are open 24 hours.
Not all washing machines will take care of your laundry, of course. Most washing machines only wash, and then you have to move the laundry to the dryers yourself. But many laundromats have a type ofwashing machine that you load once, insert 1000 yen, and then come back a couple of hours later to pick up your laundry. The time left is indicated on the machine display.
The big washer-dryers are usually of the frontloaded type, as opposed to the more common top-loaded. Check the capacity before you use the washing machine, there are often two types of those as well, one bigger and one smaller. The big ones costs 300 yen per load in our laundromat, which is pretty usual.
Mind Your Basket
The washing machines in the laundromats nowadays more or less run themselves. You just insert the money, wash the washing machine by pressing the button with a shower on it. Japanese people may be very hygienic but you never know what the previous person washed, which is why there is an option to wash the washing machine before using it.
You will see that people leave their laundry baskets on top of the washing machines. This is to show that it is in use, just like hanging the laundry bag on the dryer door.
When you have put in your laundry it takes between 20 and 40 minutes to run a load. The detergent is added automatically in newer washing machines, and so is the fabric softener. In older washing machines you may have to put in detergent yourself, but in that case you can buy it from the machine that gives change. You will need 100-yen coins to put in the machine and later the dryers anyway.
Dryer Fluffy Difference
When the washing is completed, you do not want to carry the entire load of waterlogged clothes back home. You want to have them nice and fluffy. And this is what the dryers do for you.
If you could take one of the washing machines from the laundromat and use it at home (assuming you could carry it), the dryers are a different matter.
In the laundromat next door, there are several huge, industrial-grade dryers. During the rainy season, when moisture creeps in everywhere and the temperature creeping upwards creates ideal conditions for mold to grow, people dry their things an extra time. The dryers are also big enough to dry bed linen and blankets.
Step On The Gas
The dryers cost 100 yen per 10 minutes, and if you use two or three dryers for a load, then 20 minutes per dryer is probably enough. It still means 600 yen, and with the 300 yen you already put in, you are almost at the 1000 yen the big, self-running machines cost.
Since there are two dryers, you need to know which you are putting money in. 上 means up and 下 means down, so that makes it easy to figure out.
These dryers are gas-powered, which means they get very hot very fast, so you need to load them in a way that lets the air circulate between the items you put in. And be careful if you dry items with zippers and hooks. They may become very hot, even though the dryer runs a special cooling-down cycle before you can open it.
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I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Tokyo to Sendai, previously of Bangkong and Honolulu. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning seven - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.