Laundromats on Okinawa offer convenience and speed
By Jun Ikemura
Laundromats, or ‘koin randorii’ (coin laundry) shops as they are usually called in Japan, are experiencing a renaissance with new shops popping up as frequently as convenience stores on the street corners here. According to industry sources their number has more than doubled in the past few years, and more seems to be popping up almost weekly.
The old image of a laundromat is a place that is dark, dusty and messy, but that’s hardly a case on Okinawa any more. In Japan, of course including Okinawa, they are usually brightly lit and clean, and some even have additional services like machines for washing sneakers or vending machines selling drinks.
Most laundromat rooms are unattended, but recently some popular shops even on Okinawa, especially family-run ones, have an attendant in the room ready to give tips and advice to users and even help with the washing. Most also have large washing machines capable of handling large items like futons and blankets that the home washing machines can’t handle.
Washing and drying a futon in the coin machine is cheaper and faster than the same service at a dry cleaner, and the result is almost as good. In many shops there are coin washing machines with special equipment for washing sneakers. Usually these machines can wash and dry two pair of adults’ sneakers at a time, or for four pairs o children’s size in one process.
Most Japanese still prefer to hang their laundry to dry outside, although the newest washing machines incorporate a dryer, but many people take their laundry to a laundromat just to use their large and effective dryers, especially during the rainy season, when using outdoor clothesline is impossible.
Some of the laundromats are located next to a cafe or bar, where a customer can kill time while their laundry rolls in the machines, which usually takes from 30 to 45 minutes depending on the volume, while some places have game machines or massage chairs installed for the use of their customers. These too run on coins, of course.
There is no big difference for the charge for washing between the laundromats. A convenient location and the availability of services that suit the customers’ needs are more important. The basic charge is about ¥300 for washing and ¥100 for every 8 to 10 minutes of drying. The prices are clearly displayed and although the signs are in Japanese only they are easy enough to figure out.