I first visited the home in January, one week after they had moved in, home from time spent in Canada. And there were no beds.
But there was no table and only a couple of glasses and one sauce pan, so I did not think anything of it. It was only about April when I realized that there were still no beds and most probably never going to be.
You see, these people were European, a couple with two young children, well paid jobs and could clearly afford beds, but instead their children slept on little more than mats on the floor and it took me weeks to even work out I was in the master bedroom as the anorexic futon was rolled up each morning and hid, shyly in the corner.
I came to the conclusion it was the Japanese thing.
The Husband was clearly obsessed with Japan. I had been told, extensively, about the time he spent there, his Japanese brother in law and the thousands of brightly coloured Manga that filled the house.
And whilst he seemed to be on the wrong side of Russia, his wife was generically European. Cheese and sausages jostled for space in the fridge beside the noodles and exotic looking vegetables, knives and forks lay beside the chopsticks and Chanel n°5 sat proudly beside black, futuristic cotton wool buds in the bathroom.
But to come back to the beds, or lack of them, I tried to imagine the conversation this couple had, must have been early on in their relationship, just moving in together, finding the perfect apartment when:
“Darling.” Said the husband.
“Yes dear?” Replied the wife.
“You know how I like to take a lot of my life philosophies from Japan?” (Said NIHON, the native way)
“Really, I had not particularly noticed.”
He looked at her a little worried, “Well yes, I believe their outlook on health…”
He noticed her looking at him with a withering expression.
“I was being sarcastic.” She said. “You live a breath Japan. You wake up every morning cursing your parents for being from Lytham not Osaka, but anyway, what is it this time?”
He looked at her carefully, checking the outburst as over, “it’s about bed.” He said.
“What about beds?”
“Well the Japanese believe that….” He stared enthusiastically.
“Whooh there, spare me the lecture, just tell me what you want.”
“I don’t want a bed anymore!” He declared.
“Are you mad? How are we supposed to sleep?”
“We will use a shikibuton, it is not bad actually, better for your health, your spiritual well being.”
He petered off at the look on her face.
“we try it, just to see? Please?”
“Ok then, just as a trial period, but under one condition, it is you who has to explain to people why and I never have to hear another lecture about it in my life!”
“Yes of course darling.”
And then it just stuck, when the children were born, there were no questions asked, they went from basket to cot to mats on the floor.
When friends and relatives politely inquired as to why, had the children done something wrong, was it a form of punishment? The wife would point them towards her husband and 10 minutes later the guest would wish they had not asked.