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Saturday, Jan. 4, 2003

JAPAN LITE

How to turn your house into a mosh pit


Already broken your New Year's resolution? Let me guess. You have yet to start dieting, and saving money is impossible during this season of "o-toshidama" and company parties to start the new year.

Don't worry. There are plenty of other ways to make a fresh start in the new year. You might try, for example, redecorating you house -- "gaijin" style. And I'm not talking about the natural urge to build cupboards, closets and attics.

Although I enjoy my own Japanese-style house, I have to admit that there are times when a little change is due. A decade of sitting on the floor, for example, inevitably leads to Kotatsu syndrome. This happens every year around midwinter, when you have sat under the kotatsu so long and gotten so used to cutoff blood circulation to your legs that you have started sympathizing with the practically legless "kotatsu" table. Your elbows and wrists ache from constantly leaning on them, and your body reminisces of the back support you so enjoyed in your home country.

But don't despair! With just a few small changes, your house can be warmer and cozier than a kotatsu, without having to endure Kotatsu syndrome or electric heat bills. In addition, you will burn more calories and have more zing in your life. How? By turning your living room into a mosh pit.

First, either remove the kotatsu table or turn it up on its side against the wall. You can now easily squeeze in lots of people on a "general admission" basis. You now have the perfect dance floor. You can even fit a live band if the musicians each stand in a different corner of the room.

Next you will need some extra space for a stereo, speakers and music videos. Any gaijin searching for more space in a Japanese house will soon find themselves making eye contact with the "tokonoma," the place in the wall reserved for traditional Japanese arts such as ikebana and hanging scrolls. Go ahead and give it a good look up and down, visually measuring the width, and ahhh -- all that depth!

Don't be embarrassed about considering this space -- your TV is thinking the same. As a matter of fact, you may have noticed your TV has been inching closer to that open space for quite a while now. When you finally give your TV the nod of approval, it will jump into the tokonoma all by itself, with the stereo close behind. It's a done deal -- no turning back.

By now you will have satisfied that gaijin urge to create space. Rather than trying to "save" space by folding up bags into little triangles or stacking everything from dishes to soba, gaijin prefer expansion. Perhaps it comes from our ancient sandwich-making skills spreading butter on bread. Ever seen a Japanese sandwich? Every one is a club sandwich, with stacked layers of bread and filling. Not gaijin. We think nothing of making one-layer sandwiches that require large plates that take up large amounts of shelf space. If we don't have enough shelf space, we'll wedge our boxes of cereal into the space between the refrigerator and the wall, all the while making our kitchen seem a little bit larger.

Lastly, in the spirit of creating extra space, if you have a Buddhist altar in your living room, by all means use it. Japanese people typically put out sake and rice for the departed spirits "living" there, but I see no reason why they wouldn't also enjoy a little whiskey on the rocks. With a wet bar in your living room, you're ready to mosh anytime!

With all that dancing, you'll be burning plenty of calories while having found the most natural way of keeping warm.

Check out Amy Chavez's new column, "Parents Do the Strangest Things," at www.amychavez.com.


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