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The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage

Introduction

In the Wakayama area of Kii Peninsula, there are a number of ancient walking trails which are collectively known as the Kumano Kodo. Traversing mountains, passing through lushly forested gulleys and crossing racing rivers, you’ll see some of the most spectacular nature Japan has to offer. But enjoying nature is just a side benefit. This area is deeply spiritual and is steeped in history. For more than a thousand years pilgrims have used these trails to reach the three Grand Shrines of Kumano: Kumano Hongū Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha (source wikipedia).

We love being close to nature so took a couple of days off work during rainy season (July 2019) to visit the Kumano Kodo. Here is our account of the trip.

View of mountains in Nakahechi

Day One

My travel companion joined me from Tokyo so my first stop was Kansai Airport to pick her up. From there we got directly onto the ‘Hanwa Highway’ which is the direct route to Wakayama and the Kii Peninsula. It’s an easy drive of about an hour and a half to Nanki Tanabe Interchange which is where we left the highway.

Are you planning to drive in Japan? Here are a few things to remember:

  • the speed limit on the highways is a maximum of 80km per hour but on rainy or windy days it can be reduced to 60km per hour, this is indicated by round electronic signs reading 60 or 80. You might not see many police cars or speed cameras but this highway is patrolled by unmarked vehicles and hidden cameras so for your safety and to avoid a ticket, stick to the limit.
  • along the highway, you will encounter toll booths. If your car is fitted with an ETC machine you can drive through the electronic reader lane, usually purple signage. If you don’t have the machine you’ll need to go through the manual payment lane, indicated by a green light. You can pay using cash or credit card. The amount due will be displayed on a sign next to the toll booth after you hand over your ticket.
  • toilet breaks and snack pitstops are possible at the many ‘rest areas’ which you can enter freely without having to exit the highway. Use these because you’ll save money by staying on the highway until your final destination.

Nakahechicho Area

Nakahechi Trail Kumano Kodo
Tondagawa River

We were booked to stay at a mountainside cottage which we had booked through AirBnB. It was raining heavily on and off all day so after a quick lunch at a local noodle place, we grabbed a few groceries and headed to our accommodation.

The purpose of our trip was not hiking given that it is rainy season. Landslides and flooded rivers are a real possibility at this time of year so rather than hike we simply planned some R&R. Our cottage was just perfect for that and I highly recommend it.

It has a hinoki clad bathroom with a view over the mountains! Gorgeous.

If you are planning to hike the Nakahechi Trail and are starting at Takijiri-oji then this cottage is a great location for that. Link to more info.

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Su~ Daybed

The world’s first daybed made entirely of wood, with no metal parts


Oder this stunning piece of furniture for your home.

A stunning minimal daybed handcrafted from Japanese native wood

Minimalist Japanese homes typically don’t have a lot of furniture in them but when they do, it’s a simple yet stunning piece such as the Su~ Daybed.

A classic piece such as a daybed is at home in a modern environment where wood adds warmth to the room. The leather cushion is timeless and can be a little bit edgy and unexpected in a family home.

Place the Su~ Daybed in your office to greet clients over coffee and sneak in an energizing nap after a long evening at the desk.

Imagine lazy afternoons in front of a picture window, perhaps overlooking a Japanese garden, cozy with a throw rug and the newspaper.


Japanese Craftsmanship

You have an appreciation for fine craftsmanship and attention to detail.

The Su~ Daybed is made according to centuries-old Japanese furniture-making techniques and does not include even one metal part – incredible! It’s definitely a talking point. No nails, no bolts or screws, just beautifully shaped wood.

Each Su~ Daybed is handcrafted from a piece of lumber chosen for its beautiful grain. No two are alike due to the unique voice that is lovingly coaxed from the wood. The wood from which it is made is somewhat rare – keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) and is chosen for its beauty.

The process of assembly requires precision and attention to detail as each piece must slot together perfectly. It requires the patience and training only a master craftsman displays.

Each Su~ Daybed takes about 7-8 weeks to make and a week for delivery, via seafreight. The Su Daybed is made to order.


Beautiful grain is unique to each custom-made piece
Our passionate furniture maker partner, Kitajima san

The product specs

Product Specs for Su Daybed
Product specs

The Su~ Daybed has a keyaki frame (Japanese Zelkova) a native hardwood prized in furniture making.

The slats are soft yet durable, aromatic hinoki (Japanese cypress).

The external frame size is the same as a “kyoma” size (Kyoto-module) tatami, the golden ratio of tatami mats is 1910 x 955mm.

The daybed is a comfortable 410mm high which accommodates all heights of people when seated.

The leather mattress is 1810 x 755mm. The leather is joined with simple double stitch quilting and through stitching to keep the tufting in place.

The mattress is finished with fine full-grain leather (other versions with Japanese traditional fabrics etc. may be available upon request).  The filling consists of 90mm of hard chip urethane and 20mm of low repulsion urethane. The whole thing is wrapped with acrylic non-woven fabric which allows the leather to move smoothly. The mattress side is tightened at 90mm thickness while the filling is more than 110mm. This results in a sharp and tight edge and a soft yet supportive super comfortable mattress.



Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or problems.


About Us

I am Iacopo Torrini, an Italian architect and designer living in Japan. My company, Bartok design, custom-builds interior furniture items such as wooden bathtubs, sliding doors and the Su~ Daybed. My passion lies in sharing the history and traditional craftsmanship of Japan with the world.

We have been in business for more than twenty years and have an established reputation for superior quality and exceptional customer service. I invite you to get in touch with me directly so we can get to know each other and I can understand what you are looking for in a daybed.

Get in touch today to start the order process. Or order directly from our online store.


mail: japan@bartokdesign.com
whatsapp/phone: (+81)90-8205-1200
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/itorrini


…enjoying life, japanese style!

Brought to you by Bartok design, Japan.

Sweet and Compact – outlet tub

A part for its sweet aroma and for the options (removable bench, traditional cover) probably the most notable feature of this tub is to be compact.
With a height of 580mm, if you turn it sideways you can even make it pass trough a 600mm opening!

So, for all of you who gave up installing an ofuro for dimensional problems, take out your measuring tape…and check again!

This tub was order-made for a client. Then the client had to change dimensions and we made a new one.
This outlet tub is sold at 80% of its value. Also considering the included options (removable bench, traditional cover) it looks like a deal too good to believe!

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Refined Elegance: Contrast and Texture

Our friends at Nora Studios sent us a few of the preliminary photos of a recent bathroom installation. It’s stunningly beautiful. The contrast of warm wood and cool stone is magnificent.

Ofuro specs: japanese Knotless hinoki wood bathtub (quarter-sawn)
dim L1060 x W660 x H629mm (ext. dim.) 570mm(deep)
nat. oil @ apron, wood dowels. Iron brand at front side top-right
(Accessories are available from our shop)

It is difficult to understand it from the pictures as the sizes are so laser-perfect… but the tub feet are recessed in a ditch which collects the drain water as well as the overflow. Amazing detailing!

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Kameoka ready for test start

Following all the talks in April and May, we are finally ready to start with the enrollment of students interested in learning the traditional japanese wood construction crafts!!!

We are starting a new renovation project and are ready to enroll students.
Officially we are aiming at July 1st but if you are planning to come to Japan in June, we are basically ready to welcome you anytime.

The students will both the taught the principles of the craft and will also have the possibility of working in the actual construction site.
It will be an experimental phase with the following conditions:

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update about the Wakayama project

Thank you again for the smart ideas and the kind support about the project of infusing new functions in the Kiwata-house in Wakayama.

Last month I presented the conceptand we are now discussing on how to implement it. Apologizing for the delay in getting back to you, let me summarize the main points.

The first chart exemplifies the structure of the project.
Striking a parallel with the cycles in agriculture:
*rooting = 5 basic ideas I illustrated in the mailing message
*seeding = based on the (biased) opinions of all of you who replied I selected some concepts and lines of intervention
*watering = many of you gave me great indications for the overall branding
*growing = some ideas about the promotion and management
*reaping = goals to be fine-tuned, reached and further developed.

In the PDF (see below) I am also including a selection from the comments I received from all of you.

The second table is a tentative plan of the house with come ideas about functions that can be hosted and their interrelations.
You can download the whole pdf here, inclusive of all your comments.

The concept that stuck me the most are:
ONE DAY IN LIFE:
* the house provides the experience of “just a normal day in prewar Japan”
* second meaning: one day in the life of each visitor. We want to leave a memory that can entangle with and become part of their personal story-roll.

TOTALLY TRADITIONAL – TOTALLY CONTEMPORARY:
* the house is historical and original therefore should not be faked. Any addition or modification should be in harmony but cutting edge.

MUSEUM OUTREACH / COLLABORATION
* we should explore the possibility of operating in connection with a famous museum. This could widen the scope of the project and hopefully make it become a model for other beautiful houses in Japan that could be rescued and preserved.

This is all for now.
We have more meetings coming up this month and I will keep you updated on the solution that the owners chose and about the next steps of the project.

Thank you!!

iacopo


japanese traditional patterns coloring book!

From the beginning of this year I have had the privilege to associate with Jogan Yoshio, kimono designer in Kyoto. I visited his atelier, had the chance to attend some events with him and we are also starting to collaborate on some projects (such as the one in Wakayama) .

He is really the quintessential Japanese artist/craftsman: soft spoken, passionate and humble. His right arm is the charming Hiroyo, with feline eyes riding high heels and sports cars: it feels like she could have just come out from a 007 movie or a Lupin III cartoon. The matching and the positive contrast of different elements is somehow a trademark of Jogan sensei.

He practiced since his childhood in the ateliers and along the water streams of Nishijin, the area where Kimonos are woven, dyed, block-printed, painted and embroidered with the collaborative work of dozens of separate companies. Kyoto is famous for its rigid and at the same time soft structures. Rules are not written but are so strongly encoded in the social behaviors that create a kind of invisible system of relations that puzzle the westerner. The secret is to learn every thing with the body rather than with your rational mind.

Rules are not there to be discussed but can be interpreted. Traditional patterns cannot be modified but of course are filtered through the sensibility and the DNA of each individual artist.
I think you will understand what I mean by watching this video:

check below for more photos and info to purchase the book.

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new yield of hinoki oil

We made a new production of hinoki oil, both DSB quality (young trees) and SR (special reserve kiso valley old growth hinoki)

I bottled 100 – 10ml. flasks per type, and I am willing to sell the rest in larger bottles at a discounted price.
DA – DA – DA -DADADA DA !
A) 1 bottle 100 cc of young trees oil (plastic bottle, no drip cap) = 12,000 JPY
B) 10 bottles 100 cc (1 liter in total) of young trees oil (package as above) = 80,000 JPY
C) 1 bottle 50 cc of special reserve oil (glass bottle, no drip cap) = 12,000 JPY
D) 10 bottles 50 cc of special reserve oil (glass bottle, no drip cap) = 90,000 JPY

*) packaging and shipping worldwide 1,000 JPY per parcel (air mail – no EMS)
– one parcel can hold up to 300 ml in any combination –

stock is limited so if you are interested please contact me at japan@bartokdesign.com asap!!

(see below for the production photos)

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kimono in the forest. An unforgettable memory!

this photo will inspire many! A tatami room immersed in the forest!

I received some beautiful pictures from Helen, a lucky owner of a Bartok design`s ofuro.
Here is her story:
When we travelled in Japan in 2013, we never stayed in hotels, but in Airbnb’s (of course, the price too is favorable) and once in a ryokan (in Nara). This gave us the best of all our Japan experiences on that summer!

We stayed with an elderly couple in Okayama prefecture, and I asked the woman (no English, just body language:) to show me how to tie the obi, as we had bought some old kimonos at the market in Kyoto.

This led to the most beautiful experience, as she was so engaged and happy for our interest, she collected all kimonos she had, showing them (her daughter is a textile artist, and had made a masterpiece of a hand painted kimono as an art project) and dressed us up – I think the pleasure of this was indeed mutual.

Then she persuaded us to wear them during a visit to a special restaurant in the forest, very traditional – and there we all sat, on our knees in our kimonos, eating all the strange and beautiful dishes. We will NEVER forget it. 
Well, now you got this long story (just an example, I have got so many!)…sorry for this! I just feel so passionate about making this kind of experiences available, as I enjoy them so much myself!
Good luck! I look forward to follow the project!
(see all the splendid pictures here below)

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The Nara Garden

As you know, there is nothing more soul-destroying for us here at Bartok design than to see old Japanese homes and gardens destroyed in the name of blind speculation. From time to time we hear about the impending doom before it happens, as in the case of this spectacular garden in Nara prefecture (east of Osaka).

A person I know that empties old houses has to throw away this garden in Nara…

We’ve been given the opportunity to share these pictures and we hope that with will be able to re-home some of the ornaments or even some of the plants.

We cannot say for sure how old these items are but we hope to bring more information to you soon. If you are interested in being kept in the loop please contact me via email (urgently) japan(at)bartokdesign.com

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