made in japan

The Japanese Washbasin I Refuse to Give Up

What if, I thought to myself, I could find a basin with a built-in washboard? Reader, I did it.

This year’s Met Gala theme — Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons — got us thinking: There’s such great Japanese-made stuff worth knowing about (much of it that we’ve even written about before), so why not take the occasion to go really big on Japan? From the meticulously crafted to the intuitively designed to the wonderfully weird, welcome to Made in Japan Week on the Strategist.

First of all, full disclosure: The product I am about to recommend is not universally popular in my apartment. It has an approval rating of maybe 50 percent. Certain people think it takes up a lot of room, and this is not untrue. You see, when I married my husband, he was a bachelor of regular, Henry Higgins–like habits and very few material possessions. But let a woman in your life! (As Henry Higgins would say.) I’ll get to that.

Like many people, I have always had a fraught relationship with lingerie. As soon as I was free to buy my own — my mom was and is of the practical, non-“self-indulgent” school of beige economy bras — I fell in love with the beauty of pretty sets. Maybe because I was quite young, lingerie was never about attraction or sex or what other people might think; it was a private pleasure. Perhaps it’s the first time I understood that there’s an intoxication in rendering something useful profoundly frivolous.

But an expensive bra is a fickle mistress: Accidentally throw it in the dryer once or twice and you’re left with a pricey lace rag, a mass of holes that’s as itchy as it is depressing, and a constant reminder that you’re not adult enough to have nice things. In such cases, the little bow between the cups becomes a sick joke.

What you’re supposed to do, of course, is hand-wash. Folks who really have it together soak their lingerie nightly, and then give it a quick rinse in the morning. Those of us who are slightly less on-the-ball can usually manage a weekly batch-wash. For a long time, I used a large, screw-top glass jar, which had the double advantage of looking nice and being satisfyingly shakable for a gentle-cycle effect. But after breaking two of these, I moved on to Tupperwares (both leaky and depressing), and finally, to basins.

Not just any basin (although, of course, you can use any basin). I was in a phase at this point in my life when sometimes, after a glass of wine, I’d type my wildest desires into an eBay search field and see what came up. (This is also how I ended up with the “oil painting” of a “woman” with a “dog” and a “parrot.”) What if, I thought to myself, I could find a basin with a built-in washboard? Reader, I did it.

This Japanese washbasin is the best. I like to put my unmentionables to soak with a little Woolite, or Forever New, or if I’m feeling flush, the Le Labo–perfumed Laundress detergent; soak them overnight; and then give them a good swish and rinse. And its washboard, of course, is for cleaning underpants (or as some men like to call them, “panties”). I imagine if you were wanting to wash up any evidence of a murder, it would be very useful, too.

Back to the storage issue. It’s true, this basin is less than wieldy. Once, I tried to make a hole in it with a nail, so I could hang it on the wall, but the plastic cracked. And it won’t really stay put if you just hang it; you’ll invariably come home to find it lounging on the floor, or in the bathtub, which is what caused the controversy in our small apartment. (It also has a way of leaping out of the top of your closet and hitting you in the head, but if that doesn’t bother you, it’s not really anyone else’s concern.)

And yet, reader, I cannot give it up. It is too good, too useful. And in the end, we have discovered that this basin can snuggle underneath our bathroom sink’s pipe. And as my husband pointed out when I made him watch it, My Fair Lady is actually a very disturbing movie.

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The Japanese Washbasin I Refuse to Give Up