Sometimes something as simple as doing my laundry seems like a monumentous challenge. What I wouldn’t think twice about back home, in Japan is suddenly baffling. For example, on my washing machine most of the buttons are in kanji. Second of all, the button that is, thankfully, in katakana that says “dry…” Will it really dry my clothes? (The answer is no.)

If you are facing the challenge of using your home appliances, never fear. This guide will give you the essentials for your daily life, namely working your air conditioning, washing machine, and microwave.

How To Work Your Air Conditioner

Japanese ac remote control
A newer Panasonic remote control.

Let’s start with what is absolutely necessary for summertime in Tokyo: air conditioning! First of all, you will need a remote control. Every remote リモコン is a little different, but here are the basics.

To turn on, off, and change settings:

ON: 運転うんてん or いり
OFF: 停止ていし or きり
CHANGE SETTINGS: 運転切換うんてん きりかえ

There are 5 standard setting options:

HEATER: 暖房だんぼう
COOLER: 冷房れいぼう
CLEANING: 内部ないぶクリーン

To change the temperature:



(You might also see an up or down triangle on newer remotes)

To adjust the wind power and direction:

WIND POWER: 風量ふうりょう
TIMER: タイマー

Another handy feature of Japanese A/C is that I love is the timer feature. You can set it to turn ON, OFF, or PAUSE, やすみ

My old FUNAI remote has three timer buttons, all under the category TIMER.

Press SELECT MODE モード選択せんたく to choose ON, OFF, or PAUSE. While the mode is flashing, press TIME 時間じかん to select from 1-12 hours. Finish by pressing SET セット.

Set the timer for your air conditioning to come home to a cool room!

To cancel, first press モード選択せんたく again, and then press CANCEL 取消とりけし.

The Panasonic remote is simpler, with only two timer buttons:

OFF TIMER: 切タイマー
ON TIMER: 入タイマー

These on/off buttons double as the time button. Press until you see the number of hours you want. There is no finalize button. (On your display screen, the little 切 or 入 kanji next to the digit tells you whether you have selected off or on.)

Press 取消 to cancel.

Japan has four seasons (or can we say five, counting the rainy season 梅雨つゆ?) Knowing you’re A/C controls like a pro will help you be comfortable all throughout the year.

How To Work Your Washing Machine

“Egg style” top loading washing machine

No matter how long or short you are staying in Japan, one thing you will definitely need to learn to do is laundry! Here is what you will need to know to keep your clothes fresh and clean.

Basic Functions

POWER ON/OFF: 電源切でんげんきれいり
START/PAUSE: 一時停止いちじ ていし
LIQUID DETERGENT/BLEACH COMPARTMENT: 液体洗剤えきたい せんざい漂白剤注入口ひょうはく-ざい ちゅうにゅう-こう
SOFTENER COMPARTMENT: 剤注入口ざい ちゅうにゅう くち 

Basic functions of a Japanese washing machine.

LID LOCK Light: ふたロック中

コース or Wash Cycles:
NORMAL: 標準ひょうじゅん
LARGE LOAD: 毛布もうふ (for items like blankets)
FAST: 時短じたん or SPEEDY スピーディ
DELICATE: ドライ (Don’t be misled by the word “dry.” As I mentioned in the introduction, it won’t dry your clothes. Rather, it’s a gentle cycle.)
RESERVATION: 予約よやく (This allows you to schedule your washing.)

You can also customize your wash settings by selecting your preferred WATER LEVEL 水位すいい or a STEP 行程こうてい in the wash cycle.

If it’s your first time doing laundry in Japan, note that detergent is 洗剤 “senzai” or 洗濯用合成洗剤 “sentaku you gousei senzai,” and softener is 柔軟剤 “junanzai” or 順庵仕上げ剤 “junan shiage zai,” not to be confused with ハイター “haita,” which is bleach.

Wash Cycle Steps

FILL: 注水ちゅうすい
DELICATE FILL: 念入ねんい注水ちゅうすい
WASH: あら
RINSE: すすぎ
SPIN: 脱水だっすい

How to Work Your Microwave

Life is so much easier with a microwave!

Whether you are heating up “kombini bento” (convenient store box lunch), steaming a creamy yellow sweet potato, or baking homemade brownies to fulfill your cravings, you will certainly need to use your microwave while in Japan.

Microwave Types

The functions on a microwave depend on the type you own. Here are the four main types:

MICROWAVE OVEN WITH VAPOR STEAMER: 過熱水蒸気搭載かねつ-すい じょうき とうさいオーブンレンジ

Basic Microwave Functions

Basic functions on a microwave.

Every microwave is a little different, but here are the basic kanji to get you started!

STEAM: スチーム
MENU OPTIONS: メニュー選択肢せんたく-し
CANCEL: とりけし
WARM/START: あたため・スタート

Most microwavable rice packs and ready-to-eat dinners specify wattage. If you need raise or lower the WATTAGE, press the 出力しゅつりょく (literally, “output”) button until you get the correct power.

Over To You

I have personally have not tried steam or grill features on my HITACHI microwave, but I have had a lot of success roasting vegetables and meat and baking sweets with the oven feature.