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MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

We are deepening our relation and collaboration with the kimono designer Yoshio Jogan.
Jogan sensei is based in Kyoto and went through the long and steep path of mastering traditional kimono patterns since his youth.
But he believes that Art must always be in movement and the worship of a mummified tradition is not going to keep the Art alive.

Jogan sensei is a master in bridging the subtle traditional knowhow of kimono patterning into interior design, contemporary products and computer art. We will talk more about Jogan sensei in the next few weeks, but here I would like to anticipate a news that is also going to impact our Wakayama pre-war mansion re-branding project.

Jogan sensei owns some 2000 Kimonos from the end of Taisho-beginning of Showa period. We are talking about the mythical years between 1920 and 1940, where Japanese influenced Art Nouveau and Art Deco were trending.

The 2000 Kimonos are works of art entirely hand dyed, hand painted and hand embroidered and most are probably worth more than 200,000 USD each. These kimonos were also used in the 2005 Hollywood movie “Memoirs of a Geisha” .
Did you see it? Do you remember the beautiful kimonos?
If not it is a good timing to pull out the DVD again and have a closer look!

Meanwhile, we will keep you updated on our projects with Jogan sensei and are looking forward to hearing your comments, questions and Memoirs!

Nestled in the Swiss Alps

With the email subject line from our client “At last the bathtub is in place” we could appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into redesigning a bathroom. Importing an ofuro from Japan takes no small effort and a huge amount of trust that we are going to get it right.

But get it right we did. Look at this stunning bathroom with it’s outlook on a mini version of the Swiss Alps (or so we like to think, since the bathtub is in its new home in Switzerland). Hats off to the designers of the bathroom who have managed to create a calm and relaxing space that I am sure the owners will love for years to come.

Can you imagine slipping into the delicious hot water after a day on the slopes?

Thank you F.H in Switzerland.


a house for the arts – idea competition

Finally, my prayers seem to have reached some sensible ears up in Heaven…!

An enlightened owner inherited a high grade and extremely well preserved house in Wakayama. The house is a 1,400㎡ (mostly 1 story, 2 rooms on the upper floor) timber frame house on a 3,100㎡ lot.

K-house is relatively new (1940) but being pre-war, it belongs to a sensibility, culture of material and aesthetic sense that unfortunately is now lost and unknown to post war architecture.

I am not being nostalgic: it is an evaluation based on the virtue of the design elements: knowledgeable but with a scent of fantasy.
If you look at the photos below (↓) you will agree that the sukiya-zukuri style in the Taisho and early Showa period is probably the highest point reached by Japanese architecture. The materials are selected with respect for their features. There is wit and irony. Nature mingles with architecture and even penetrates it as branches become railings and full moons become windows.

(more…)

The Cat’s Pajamas

Our customer James sent us a fun video of his cat contemplating diving in for a soak in the ofuro. Thanks for the giggle James! Ofuro fun for the whole family. You can see it over on our Facebook page. It’s a beautiful bath, so tranquil.

Send us your pics! We love them!! japan(at)bartokdesign.com is our email address.


https://www.facebook.com/japanese.ofuro/videos/2273150919622731/

Photo credit: Photos generously provided by James Reinke

a tropical heaven overlooking the north sea!

According to the client, the installation is still incomplete: the shower glass partition is missing and the faucet inside the spout needs to be modified. Also the lighting fixtures are still missing – but since the boreal spring provides some light until late in the evening, the ofuro is already operational.
Well, this space seems already PERFECT to me !
I cannot imagine how it will be when it is complete with all the bells and whistles!

from the window. A tropical heaven overlooking a Norwegian fjord!
look at the water droplets! this picture is so inspiring!
what a wonderful smile! Natural? Hinoki induced?

This beautiful bathroom was designed by Oslo architects Skajaa Arkitektkontor, outstanding job!

Reiwa Era: Important Notice

Important Notice Regarding Holidays & Bank Closure

As we welcome the new era! Reiwa era starts on May 1st, 2019


Please note that next week the spring holiday break called “Golden Week” will start. This year our holiday is particularly long on the occasion of the celebrations for the new emperor, taking place of the father who has abdicated. The new era Reiwa begins on May 1st.


To make a long story short, if you can make the bank transfer by April 24 (4/24) I think we will receive it by April 28 (4/28) and be able to work/ship during the long holiday period.


If not, all bank processing and shipping will happen after May 7th (5/7). Thank you for your understanding.


HANAMI and JAZZ in Kameoka (LIVE!)

If you are in Western Japan this saturday 4/6, you cannot miss the Hana-mi event organized by Nakagawa Juken at the model house in Kameoka.

Here you can meet with people who fled the cities and are now living in a ko-minka AND you can meet with those who are getting ready for the big jump: the people who are longing to live in an old traditional house in a natural but culturally stimulating environment and are looking for the right timing.
But you can also come to hear Makoto in concert (former top level Geisha in Gion and now acclaimed jazz singer)
And yes, even just those who want to eat heart food in a friendly setting are welcome.

I said that you cannot miss the event if you are in Western Japan. But it is not precise. Actually you cannot miss it if you are anything in the world and have a Wifi connection!
I am planning to run the full event on FACEBOOK LIVE with talks, live music, interviews, and yes! you can ask questions and have them answered!
It is my first time with Facebook live and I am not sure how it will go but if you are awake between 10:00 ~ 14:00 JST join us!
I am not sure if I can run the live from the bartok design facebook page or if it will run from my personal page, anyway here are both URLS just in case:

https://www.facebook.com/japanese.ofuro/

https://www.facebook.com/itorrini

 

Timeless standard – outlet tub

Here we are dazzled by new emperor-era names, displaced by an uncommonly cold and rainy springtime and preparing for an extra long (but already fully booked) Golden Week holiday break.
In these periods I recommend to lay back and wait for the confusion to clear.
Maybe you can have a cup of hoji-tea and listen to some old time classics like Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday.
Timeless standards can reassure us that also this storm will pass, after all, and every winter (no matter how long or cold) always evolves into a springtime…

But if you try all of the above and the melancholy is still there, we have another “timeless standard” to propose as an infallible antidote to a bad day: a hot ofuro bath!

If you do not have one yet, look at this outlet ofuro tub.
Its outstanding feature is … to be not outstanding: it is a “timeless standard”.
Good for 2 people, in hinoki wood (not asnaro) and with a removable internal seat (already included in the price).
This is probably in the strike zone of 90% of the people who are looking for an ofuro.
2 people / hinoki / internal seat.
The only non standard part of this ofuro is the price: 650,000 JPY.

The I asked Ikeda-san if there was no mistake: he gave me a look worth 1000 words (basically the description of the present times I made here above) and said: “our clients are looking for a tub like this”.

So I will not indulge any longer in the chat and come to the hard data:

Sizes: L1500mm x W800mm x H620mm (external dimensions)
550mm(depth)

Material: knotless natural Hinoki (quarter sawn)

Options: internal seat

Details: Wooden dowels at joints / copper apron

Drawing: Timeless standard – drawing


Price:
1) AB grade tub (quatersawn) : 650,000. JPY
2) Packaging: 170x100x82cm plywood box: 44,000. JPY
3) transportation: to be quoted (please let us know your exact address: we will provide a quotation before you purchase the tub)

Please contact me by email for any question/problem at japan@bartokdesign.com

Kameoka projects – tsunami for you!

How are you?
I am dying to to ask you an opinion!
Do you think I should become the curator or Rica should?
A foreigner living in Japan (A1) or a charismatic and charming international minded Japanese lady(A2)?
If you do not what I am talking about, please go the bottom of this letter.↓

Or, if you can bear with me 5 minutes, lets proceed with order.

In the internet and SNS world it is recommendable to release news slowly, to create constant and recurring waves of interest towards your projects or products.

But I did not follow the orthodox practice this time.
This post in not just a wave. I think it will hit you like a tsunami…!
(a tsunami of happiness and energetic thoughts!)

What`s it all about?

Well, everything starts from a party organized by a group of italian expats in Osaka.
I met Christian there: a Florentine nice guy with a beard who bought and renovated an old Japanese house in Kameoka (near Kyoto) and just starting to run it as an air bnb.

Two days later, a friend real estate agent in Kobe (Rica Bradshaw) calls me saying she wants to introduce me another real estate agent.
They are coming to my office few days later.

Can you imagine my surprise when the guy she introduces me … is actually operating in Kameoka and salvaging old houses? !!
Too many coincidences to ignore it !

We plan immediately to visit his projects as well as the recently met new friend Christian.
On a cold but sunny february 20th 2019 we head to Kameoka on my yellow Honda Fit,
Rica, Jacqui and me.
Here below are 3 videos we assembled with the photos and talks we had that day.

The first is a general overview of Kameoka territory and some examples of houses being renovated or on sale. The video ends at the Nakagawa Juken model house where Mr. Nakagawa produces events (like concerts or BBQ parties) and makes it possible for curious urban dwellers to sleep one night in a ko-minka country house.

The second video is the visit to Bishamon House (managed by Christian Cambi) and short interview.

The third video is the interview with Mr. Nakagawa (the local real Estate agent Nakagawa Juken).

Doesn`t it look like a tsunami?
We bring you virtually on site 3 videos full of emotions, dreams, blunders…

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mr. Nakagawa`s ideas are complementary to my worries and tentative solutions.
Do you remember in the end of the year newsletter I was planning to take action to create opportunities for young people to learn the woodworking crafts from the aging masters in order to preserve the secrets of ofuro bathtubs manufacture for the next generations?

Well, I cannot help seeing a divine hand staging my encounter with Mr. Nakagawa.
What is most amazing is that he has the same anguish (many old buildings to renovate and not enough skilled workers).
But he is a practical thinker and already come up with the solution.

He wants to open an “Academy” where youngsters interested in traditional crafts can learn from the masters.
He is considering creating different courses to target the different traditional disciplines such as:
– carpenter
– plasterer
– bamboo weaver
– gardener
– clay worker
– tatami maker
– cabinet/door maker
etc.

and here is a chance for me to open a:
– ofuro workshop !
within the “Kameoka Traditional Crafts Academy”.

Mr. Nakagawa is considering the following conditions:
1) length of course of 1 month, 3 months, more.
2) tuition is about 3000 USD for the first month, proportionally less for longer stays.
3) there is a chance for students to work in the current projects and earn credits that can be used towards room and board, purchase tools etc.
4) students will be fully insured and can join the program with a normal tourist visa


And here is the big question I alluded to in the opening note:
Q: who should be the director/curator of the Academy?

A1: Some people are suggesting I should be.
I would not be involved in the day to day management of the courses but would have a position of supervision and interpreting the wishes/distress of the foreign students and develop the courses based on the actual needs.
I am honored to be appointed for this position, but believe that a Japanese curator would be more appealing for the foreign students.

A2:I think that people coming from the other side of the world to learn traditional Japanese crafts in an authentic environment may prefer that a Japanese person. Rica (who is translating Mr. Nakagawa`s interview in the 3rd video) is my candidate.

What would you prefer? A1 or A2? Other ideas/comments? Please let me know.

Please reply by email to japan@bartokdesign.com or comment here below.

I am looking forward to brainstorming with all the community of Japan lovers and thank you in advance for the kind help!


UPDATE!

I am here literally crying like a baby, on my keyboard reading all the emails that have been coming in from all of you!
It is so rewarding, moving, exhilarating to receive such honest, wise, caring advice.
In this moments of sharing and receiving feedback I really feel grateful and blessed.
It is like belonging to a large family: next time people ask me, I will tell them my family is made of 1600 people!

If you do not understand why I am so hot about it, read yourself the amazing comments/advice I received in the first 24 hours:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1AtNciiPNqGC-aSi2_mNPnWifhxWR8P_hycCd31Muxi4/edit?usp=sharing

I will add yours as well – omitting the private information – so please feel free to contact me by email anytime.

…to be continued…>

Testimonial from Dubai



Dear Iacopo,
This reply is a little late, but I was waiting for the bathroom to be ready with some pictures before sending this review.
It has been quite a few years now that I had chanced upon your website. I don’t recall what I was searching for 🙂
I am so glad I did though. A dream slowly became reality. A hinoki ofuro was high on my list to bring a little bit of Japan into our home.

We thank you and your team of artisans for making this possible. Grateful for your “site” visit before I ordered and we promptly received the tub in October. The smell was amazing and we had a few months of keeping it under wraps whilst slowly enjoying the aroma of the hinoki.

Finally installation was completed in early January.

My son, the official Ofuro and Onsen expert (he bathes 6-7 times a day when visiting onsens) was the first to try it out.
It was heaven – it was given the seal of approval. We bathe in it almost everyday or at least the wash area is used such, so it has been a worthwhile investment.
My youngest boy says he’s inspired when watching the videos on your site. He now says he wants to be a carpenter and his wishlist for Christmas is a Kanna. Who knows, he changes his mind often but you and your artisans work has already inspired one young soul!

Wishing you all the best for 2019!

A. and Family
Dubai


Our resident Onsen Expert


The boys enjoying the Ofuro


Wash area with TOTO tap imported from Japan


Close up view


The Bath area with sunoko platform and step-bench

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