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Q: Everywhere I go in Japan, I see laundry hanging on balconies. It looks out of place in such a high-tech country. Have the Japanese not invented clothes dryers yet? What’s up with that?

A: You’ve probably noticed that those balconies are awfully small, right? And so are the houses attached to them. When your house is small, you can’t devote a lot of space to big, American-style appliances. And dryers definitely take up a big chunk of premium floor space.

What to do? There are a few solutions:

1. Shrink the appliances. If you’ve been inside a Japanese home, you know the refrigerators are often about half the size of their American counterparts. Ditto for washing machines. Those tiny washtubs are good news for people in a crowded house, but bad news for procrastinators. Laundry has to be done every few days, not put off until you run out of clean clothes. Running a dryer for just seven items is expensive.

2. It’s two, two, two appliances in one! Witness the miracle of the Japanese microwave, which can also bake and broil just like a traditional range oven. Or the combined washer/dryer that cleans and dries clothes in one drum.

So how does that work? Well ... according to a lot of expats who have them ... it doesn’t. The expensive combo machines are notorious for ridiculously long cycles and lackluster drying power, and some models are possessed by malicious, miscalculated timers that lock the machines for the duration of the drying cycle, trapping clothes for hours. So, many owners opt to air-dry instead.

3. Use a clothesline. It saves space and it’s good for the environment!

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