Yesterday the builder came to fix the hole in my wall that has been there since I moved in here. As this is a traditional Japanese house, the walls are essentially made of mud on a wooden frame, held together by wood on the outside and some sort of plaster on the inside. The problem with my wall was that the plaster on the inside came loose at some point, and sometimes pieces of mud would fall out into my room, usually small grains and dust, but once a piece the size of a bottle cap fell out.

Anyway, so the builder finally came yesterday. Finally, because after several appointments three weeks ago which he mostly did not keep, he came here to fix some other things around the house and on the roof to disappear again when the rains started, he needed an extra appointment on Tuesday to look at my wall again as a reminder what to do. So, all in all it took him three weeks to fix everything around the house – I guess the whole work could have been finished in a day, two at the max, but he chose not to do anything in the afternoon. Apparently this is standard in Japan, not kept appointments included. This astonishes me as the country is known for its polite people and strong work ethic…

When he finally arrived yesterday at 9 am I was looking forward to it. My landlady had described in detail what was going to happen: “He’ll take off the plaster, fix the whole with some mud and then you’ll get new plaster on top of that.” The idea was that he would redo the whole panel and not just the damaged corner, which would probably take a while, so after having removed my futon and other assorted stuff littering my floor, I sat in the corner with my computer table and patiently waited – camera ready – for the things that were supposed to happen.

bare wall Well, it started off alright. After covering the tatami neatly with large pieces or sturdy cardboard and preparing his tools, he stepped on the small ladder and started to tear off the plaster. (I keep on saying plaster, but you have to imagine it more like a very heavy type of wallpaper, about 3-5 mm thick.) He didn’t do very much though, only the part that would come off easily. He took some measurements and disappeared for a short while, reappearing with – a piece of something resembling mdf the size of the panel he was supposed to fix. My surprise turned into outright shock when he used double sided tape to glue the mdf to the wall… At least he secured it with thin slats that he affixed to the wood already in place with small nails. He then “repaired” the panel next to it in the same fashion, took his things out, and, after vacuuming my room very thoroughly (another surprise), he left. The whole repair operation took only one hour.

new ugly wall panelsI think the outcome is ugly, and I don’t even mean the color that doesn’t fit to the other walls. Yes, it’s doing the trick insofar as there will not be any more dust raining down on my bed, but the room has lost a lot of its charm. I would call the work shoddy – double sided tape of all things! – and when you knock on the new panel it sounds hollow, and it feels like plastic. I am certainly not happy about this, but … it’s not my house and I think I have to be grateful to still have a cheap roof over my head.