Posted by: balladofyoko | August 7, 2006

Words From Childhood 4.8

Today’s word: sentaku

Sentaku (or commonly, o-sentaku) means laundry. I have very vivid memories of my mom doing the laundry. I remember being in the dark basement, watching my mom pour in the powder detergent and bleach into the Kenmore washer, followed by the clothes. In the spring and summer, she would string the clothesline in the backyard and hang the washing outside, held by colorful plastic clothespins. After a day out in the sun, the clothes would be crisp and dry, and my mom would unclip the pins and put them in a tin, and drop the clothes into the laundry basket. I had fun unhooking the clothesline and winding it up in a bundle.

My mom would fold the clothes on one particular sofa in the living room, putting everything in neat piles– shirts here, pants there, socks over there. She would then put the piles into the laundry basket, and go upstairs and put the clothes away in the proper drawers.

The English word, “laundry,” incidentally, poses problems for Japanese to pronounce. It often comes out sounding like rondorii (not to be confused, you aikidoists, by randori, or freestyle)– my mom once wrote me a note saying that she was doing “londly.” I find this misspelling rather charming.


  1. and the yummy smell…mmm.

    jackie du pre had the right idea in the movie, when she was in russia and homesick, to surround herself with laundry done from home.

  2. Ah… so well written and it makes me natsukashiii! I remember helping my mother with the laundry and when I was old enough, being quite proud of ironing my father’s handkerchief by myself! My Grandmother used to hang the sheets outside in her gorgeous garden and I used to play within the sheets. I still love the smell when I help my mom with laundry. I do our laundry but somehow it isn’t the same. Next time I will remember santaku and enjoy! Thank You!

  3. I meant sentaku.. it’s early!


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