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Saturday, Feb. 23, 2002

JAPAN LITE

Martha Stewart does a Japanese house


Today I will give Martha Stewart a tour of my house.

Martha, come in! Yes, that's ikebana. It is placed in the hallway to greet guests. I'm so glad you like it. Martha! Stop rearranging the flowers! They're supposed to be at those angles.

Please leave your shoes here in the hallway and put on these plaid "Smile Life" slippers. Come this way, please. I hope you don't mind roaches the size of sofas marching across the living room. You know, in Japan, we try to be one with nature.

Surely you have seen enough coffee table books on Japan to know that we live a clean, simple Zen lifestyle conducive to meditation. So you should not be surprised to see my living room with the low Japanese-style table in the middle and traditional "zabuton" pillows around it. Very simple. Just ignore the hi-fi system, the wide-screen TV, the DVD player and the various remote controls piled up next to the scroll. They're not really there, you know.

As you can see, the secret to interior decorating in Japan is -- doilies! Crocheted doilies, tatting, lace -- you name it, it's got a special place in the Japanese house: on the telephone receiver, embracing the tissue box, fancifying the toilet paper, posing as coasters. You just can't get enough lace in Japan. It grows wild! Lace, lace, lace!

What, Martha? The crumbling yellow plastic covering the lampshade? We have evil dust in Japan that comes from China. So we like to keep the original plastic on things to protect them. The plastic on that lampshade has been there for 10 years. It's yellow and torn now, but the lampshade has been preserved. Besides, leaving the plastic on something new makes me feel like I own something I have paid off in installments, such as a car or a Louis Vuitton sofa. If I owned a Stradivarius, I would keep it in plastic. Yes, it's tacky, but so are those doilies on the telephones.

This is the kitchen, which, in Japan, we prefer not to decorate. It may not look clean, but it is very functional. OK, it's a bit of a mess, but I assure you I know exactly where everything is. In Japan, we never enter the kitchen without a full apron to protect ourselves from kitchen dangers such as flying fish scales, bleeding entrails and Rorschach soy sauce designs.

Let's step outside for a moment and I'll show you where I get my fresh vegetables. In Japan, a vegetable garden should be for the body and the mind. Flowers are planted alongside the vegetables so we may enjoy the view while tending to the vegetables. Cut flowers are used inside to make ikebana and small arrangements for the bathroom. Next to the garden is the compost, where neighborly gifts such as "natto" and sea cucumber eventually transform themselves into something more appealing, such as fertilizer. Martha! No doilies on the compost, please!

These? These are plastic bottles full of water to keep the cats away. Yes, Martha, a bit of an eyesore. We tried politely removing the cats from the garden, but they would just reappear a few minutes later with machetes. To avoid a neighborhood cat coup, we decided to be more subtle. The cats don't like the bottles, so they stay away. We stress harmony in Japan, even with cats.

Now let's go back inside and relax with some green tea in the living room. Oh no, Martha! You mustn't put sugar in green tea! Here is a new cup of tea. Notice the well-crafted tea bowl. Yes, I know it looks like a cereal bowl, but you can drink out of it. Go ahead and sip. I can't hear you, Martha. C'mon, sip!

Now that we've had a rest, I'll show you the upstairs. Martha? Are you OK? What? You're stuck in the lotus position? Martha! Someone call an ambulance!

Contact Amy at amychavez2000@yahoo.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com


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