We reached Katsumi’s vacation home roughly an hour later. It really was in the middle of nowhere. We’d spent the past thirty minutes taking narrow, deserted roads through vast fields and forests, and I hadn’t seen another human being since we’d left the town behind. It was almost like we were the last people on Earth… it was a strange feeling, and I loved it.
Softly humming a repetitive tune, Tadashi turned the car onto a side road and drove all the way to the end, where it turned into a kind of driveway for a large two-story brown-and-white house. It was pretty well-hidden in a lightly wooded area, and didn’t outwardly scream wealth with its simple design. Behind it, through the trees, I could see water.
“Is that the lake?” I asked, squinting out the window.
“That’s the lake,” Tadashi replied. He stopped the car in front of the house. “Here we are. Everybody out!”
I got out, stretched, breathed in a lungful of crisp, clean air, and then went to help carry the luggage. Katsumi had packed the least – everything he had was in a single standard size backpack – but all three of us had packed in a pretty minimal fashion. Carrying his bag and my laptop case in one hand, Tadashi dug the house keys out of his pocket and went to open the front door.
“This house is really big,” I remarked as I grabbed my duffel. “So much bigger than my apartment.”
“My mom’s successful in business,” Katsumi said in explanation.
“Oh, so your family is pretty wealthy?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
He closed the trunk and we trailed Tadashi to the door.
Tadashi was having trouble with the keys. “Hey, I don’t remember which one it is…”
Katsumi rolled his eyes. “It’s only been a year. Here, let me.”
“No, nevermind, I’ve got it.” He pushed the door open and stepped inside. “Welcome to our summer home, Chas. Get comfy.”
I followed him into a clean, spacious entryway where we took off our shoes and placed them by the wall. Tadashi launched immediately into a walking house tour.
“This way to the living area,” he announced, heading to the left. “Watch the step.”
Katsumi headed off to turn on the electricity, plug in appliances, and so on, breathing life into the house again. I followed Tadashi around in the meantime.
It turned out that the interior of the house was pretty simple as well. The living area was very large, but it wasn’t packed with expensive things like I would have expected. There were just some cabinets, a couple of bookshelves along the wall, and several couches and comfortable chairs arranged loosely around two low coffee tables. I noticed that all of the furniture had only wood-type or neutral colors, a theme that would continue throughout the house. I really liked it – it looked like a nice room to just sit around, have tea, play games, and talk. Tadashi slowly led me through the area and then moved on to the kitchen.
He pointed out the key features as we walked around the central island. “That deep sink is for washing vegetables and stuff, so no soap there. The other one is for washing hands and dishes. Dish rack, microwave, oven, fridge and freezer. This container is for garbage, this one for recycling, this one for compostable stuff – you know, food waste and such. Here’s a rice cooker. This thing is a water heater, and that stove is gas; you can use it whenever.”
He opened all the kitchen cabinets and drawers to show me where things were located – cups, plates, utensils, pots and pans. Then he opened up the fridge, which had absolutely nothing inside.
“We already brought a few groceries, but we’re also going to go to the market tomorrow,” Tadashi explained. “Then we’ll have more things to put in here.”
“I’m not used to such a big kitchen,” I said. “It’s so spacious it almost feels empty.”
He laughed. “That’s because it is pretty empty. I guess Katsu and I live a relatively simple life. We don’t go shopping often, and we don’t like filling the house with useless things. A smaller house would really suit us better, but, you know.” He shrugged a little and turned away. “Let’s go outside, come on.”
He opened some curtains and a sliding glass door and then led me out onto a wide wooden porch. There was a circular table and several chairs to one side. “We usually eat out here,” he explained.
I went to the edge of the porch and stared out towards the lake. It was easier to see from here, although many tall trees still obscured the view. The porch was surrounded by a variety of wild grasses and plants, and a worn dirt path led off in the direction of the water. I took in the sights and smiled. “It’s really pretty…”
“The lake is just a couple minutes’ walk. And the gardens are on the other side of the house.”
I looked at him with delighted satisfaction. “Hey Tadashi, thanks again for letting me stay with you guys. This is exactly the kind of place I wanted.”
He grinned back at me. “I know. Come on, let’s go back inside.”
I followed him back in and through the kitchen to a hallway that led to the stairs. Tadashi pointed out the doors on either side of the hallway.
“That one’s the bathroom – there’s another one upstairs – and that’s the laundry room. Oh, and that goes to the garage.”
“How come you didn’t park in the garage?” I asked.
“‘Cause Katsu’s car is in there.”
I glanced at him with surprise. “Katsumi keeps a car here?”
“Yeah. But look, he’s a bit of a crazy driver, and he’s obnoxious about his car, which is why I don’t park mine next to his even though there’s space… It’s a big thing for him, and it’s important, so don’t get mad if he says something about his car that you don’t like. And he probably won’t let you in it, but don’t take offense – you’re really better off with me. Let’s go upstairs.”
We headed to the second floor, which was just as clean and spacious as the first. Katsumi was going in and out of the rooms, busily opening windows.
Tadashi pointed. “This is our music studio. It’s not soundproof or anything, but we don’t do any of our professional recording here anyway. Just play for fun and arrange new music.”
“This next one is our workout room. We just have some basic machines and stuff, but there’s a lot of space, and you’re free to use it.”
I scratched my head. “I haven’t really exercised recently…”
“I’ve never actually exercised much at all. I kind of hate macho guys for some reason… like, people who are so excessively masculine and flaunt it with their muscles and whatnot.”
He laughed. “I know what you mean. But working out isn’t just for macho guys. You’re a human being, Chas. You need to stay fit and healthy, and try to offset what sitting for eight hours a day does to your body.”
“Hm, maybe you’re right.”
“You can work out with us if you want,” he offered. “We can show you how to use the equipment.”
“Well, okay, sure. Maybe I’ll try it.”
We moved on.
Tadashi gestured at the next room. “This is the bathroom. You can shower and wash up here. The one downstairs is fine too. Do you have a towel?”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll get you one. Now look – these last two rooms are the bedrooms. This is where Katsu and I sleep… and this one is the guest room, for you.”
I went into my assigned room. Like the rest of the house, the furnishing was sparse and there was a lot of empty space. It had a closet, a small dresser, and a bed across from the window, and that was about all. The bed was a little low, but I figured it wouldn’t bother me that much. I put down my duffel bag by the wall, and Tadashi gently lowered my laptop case to the floor next to it. He pointed out the outlets in the room where I could charge my electronics.
“Good enough for you?” Tadashi asked.
I laughed. “Plenty. Thank you.”
“Okay, well then, I’ll leave you here. I’m going to go unpack. If you need anything come find me or Katsu.”
After he’d left, I spent some time walking around my new room, exploring. I emptied out my duffel bag, hung up my clothes, and put my toiletries in the bathroom. I tested out the lights, which were the kind that could be dimmed to one’s preference. Then I threw myself onto the bed on my stomach and closed my eyes, enveloped in the soft, light summer blanket.
What a house, I thought to myself. This summer is going to be so great…
I really had no idea.