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Last thatched roof in Tokyo is endangered.

A friend running a real estate agency in Kobe informed me of another beautiful & sad story.
The “grievous finale” is incumbent but is still avoidable and I am now starting to dream about how I can rewrite the epilogue of the story and conclude with a happy end instead!

Anyway, let me explain. A friend showed me the blog of a volunteer association (the “Nakano Building Support Committee”) supported by 50 local residents who are devoted in collecting and diffusing information about historical buildings in Tokyo`s Nakano district and organize community events.
http://nakanotatemono.blog.fc2.com/
Nakano district is one of the 23 cities forming the Tokyo metropolitan area and is located west of one of the busiest high-rise office district in the world: the Shinjuku area.

Well, the volunteer association is very lively and recently held their annual “persimmon pickup and drying event” (maybe there is a better way to translate it…?!) at the “Hosoda house.”
hosoda-house-hoshikaki

A) Features
Well, this is the “beautiful” part of the story.

The Hosoda house remains intact like an oasis in a neighborhood once rural and now inexorably covered in asphalt and concrete.
I cannot judge which is more noteworthy: if the vast garden boosting a great variety of indigenous trees / or the house: a 160 year old japanese traditional “minka” farmhouse, the last surviving thatched roof in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
The straw roof has been temporarily covered with a metal roofing but if properly restored it would show in its full glory.

Hosoda house is strikingly important for many reasons: its architectural details, its unique atmosphere and especially the fact of being the last one! Hosoda house is not only an example of an endangered species: it is the last example… The city around transformed into a neoplasm of asphalt and asbestos but the Hosoda house is here to witness that there is another way of living and it may inspire future generations to rethink the image of the city.

Hosoda house is not only last thatched roof in Tokyo (and I believe one of the few private gardens with so many variety of species) but is a presence of hope, showing an alternative to our inhumane cities.

If the Hosoda estate is destroyed also its function as a “light tower of hope” and “example” will be interrupted.

(Here below a picture of a traditional cultural event held on the premises)

hosodahouse-saginoiya


B) Threats

We see here one of the many contradictions of the japanese society: this unique gem is not protected and actually it is severely threatened by multiple small-minded circumstances.

1) The municipality is planning to expropriate it and demolish for the construction of a road. The road plan was enacted in 1966, but, as happens for many similar “pork barrel” public spending projects, remained dormant for several decades. The city obtained approval from the national government for the road construction in 2015 and plan to have the project completed by 2020. It is useless to say that priorities and needs have changed in this 40 years and this sacrifice would not only be harsh but also meaningless.

Hosoda-Residence-Nakano-2
2) Hosoda house is owned by a descendant of the Hosoda family but he is not living on site.
The house itself does not have any real estate value (like any building 25+ year old in Japan) but the land is very large (1000 tsubo = about 3300 m2) and based on land prices in this area, the property could be worth anywhere from 1.5 ~ 2 billion Yen or more (approx. 13.3 ~ 17.7 million USD).
It is already a miracle that the owner is holding firm and is not allured by the lump of money he would make by selling this rare gem to the next ruthless developer.
But this situation cannot last forever. Inheritance tax is very expensive in Japan and most people inheriting this type of precious estates are cursed with the destiny of having to sell it to be able to pay the succession tax.

3) Another secondary but significant threat is the “asphaltification” of the common sense of the society. It is becoming more and more rare to find deciduous trees in japanese cities and people are just not used to it anymore! Neighbors complain when they see some fallen leaves on the sidewalk. Yes, they complain…!
The owner has to heavily prune the trees to avoid diplomatic accidents but this is not only a mutilation for the centennial plants but is very expensive (since the trees are very large they need to use a crane).
It is a trying situation and I would not be surprised if the owner would decide one day to just get rid of everything.

Well, maybe I have 3 years, maybe less but I am sure that everyday spent in passive contemplation is just going to bring the deplorable end closer.

Between the end of year and the beginning of 2017 I intend to take the following actions:

1) individuate the public agencies involved and understand exactly the progress in the approval process. Then, find some weak points and possible ways of opposing the project.

2) try to reach Mr. Hosoda and verify directly his plans for the future. Set the bases for a safe alienation of the property (ex. creating a foundation an collecting donations as needed to purchase the property)

3) network with the “Nakano Building Support Committee” and identify some individual who are critical about the trees. Then try to talk with them and evaluate a reasonable compromise. Sometimes just one voice against can be contagious. And people “against” are often just looking for attention or a channel to relieve their stress…

This is all for now.
I will keep you updated and will ask for your advice and support once I have a clear target.

Feel free to comment here below.

New packaging

We are receiving many orders of kadomaru tubs.
Maybe because of the following amazing salespoints?
1) it is reasonable,
2) compact and lightweight
3) it requires only 1 week from order to shipping
4) allows savings on packaging and transportation

I have to apologize as we are not managing to maintain the promise on 2 of the points above (but are working hard to re-establish the best conditions…!)
Here is the “new kadomaru” features:
1) reasonable: no change
2) compact and lightweight: no change
3) it requires only 1 week from order to shipping: sorry, we require 2-3 weeks but will try to contain the delay as much as possible.
4) allows savings on packaging and transportation: same price but better packaging!
(see also this article)
Remember also that you can order a kadomaru tub directly from the shop (note that there are 2 sizes: S and L).
Contact us by email or thru the contact form if you need any customization/options.

Transportation damage!

lower side
It finally happened.
After 14 years of paying the transportation insurance without need to use it we had our first accident.
Of course I am deeply sorry with the client but I confirm that we were able to replace the tub with a pristine one.

Actually we had in the past 2 damage reports about bathroom accessories arriving in smashed cardboard boxes (both in the USA with air mail…) but never experienced a damage to a tub.
Yes, with this first shipping damage experience which brings the accident rate to 1:240 which is about the 0.4%.

The client promptly reported the damage (it must be done within one week) and since it was a kadomaru type we could make a new one in a week time. The tub will be shipped as “replacement item – free of charge” so there are no taxes involved and if any customs inspection is required we will take care of the cost.

But this story has a silver lining, actually 2!

#1 Sturdier box
no doubt the box was mistreated. It was dropped probably more than once and was pierced by a steel pipe. Anyway we could learn the weak-points of the box and changed the packaging method. The new box is much sturdier and prevents the tub from moving inside.

#2 Same cost
The packaging we will be using from now on is actually more expensive. But actually we also find a new service from our forwarder which will enable us to lower the shipping cost. They will use flexibly DHL or UPS according to the space available and provide a better fare which compensates the additional cost of the reinforced box.
Therefore we will be able to offer a safer transportation for the same price!

NOTE:
Cardboard boxes are used only for Kadomaru tubs. All custom tubs are shipped in a plywood completely closed crate.

new-packaging1

new-packaging2

new-packaging3

Everything you wanted to know about a japanese ofuro…

Please read the information here below before purchasing a japanese tub.
Also, we recommend to do a {search} within the FAQS for the keywords you are concerned about.

Do not forget to browse the “download area” in the “REFERENCE” section.
It is useful to check the “installation” section in the “DETAILS” menu.

Once you are ready to place your quotation request, go thru the “tub details” section for a thorough step-by step explanation.

You can do your final recap and fill the form in the “how to order” section.

Why are japanese ofuro tubs expensive?

Here are the main reasons:
1) The material is expensive.
2) The craftmanship is expensive.
3) The shipping cost is expensive.
Anyway, we ship directly from the maker to the end user so you can be sure that there is no overhead and you are getting value for every penny spent.

About US made tubs

What are the differences between Japanese ofuro and tubs made in the U.S.?
Here are the 3 main differences between US-made tubs and real japanese tubs which make the two products difficult to compare.
1a) almost all US made tubs are coated with urethane. The look is natural but may feel a little cold and hard (like plastic) and have no aroma.
1b) Japanese made tubs are un-coated. You can feel the warmth, aroma and soft touch of wood but if the environment is too humid they may develop mold stains.

2a) US made tubs are assembled as a cabinet (see the corner mitered joint) and often made of finger joint glue-laminated wood.
2b) Japanese tubs are and are built like a boat and are made of solid wide lumber laminated with dowels

3a) US made tubs are made in red cedar, hard woods (like teak) or Port Orford Cedar (most of the makers call it hinoki – but it is not.) Please note that hinoki usable as construction material grows in Japan and Taiwan only.
3b) Japanese tubs are made with japanese softwoods (hinoki, asnaro, sawara, koyamaki). For flooring or wainscoting we use man planted lumber while for making tubs we use exclusively 250-300 year old trees lumber from primary forests.
Well seasoned wood is very stable but in extreme conditions of dryness it may warp or crack.

Warranty: Is there a warranty against cracks/leaks?

We offer full warranty in case of damage during transportation. (replacement)

For any other problem (cracking etc.) we cannot offer a warranty because of the environmental conditions for which we cannot be responsible.

To avoid cracking we recommend to:
1) use the tub often (everyday is ideal)
2) do not use air conditioning or heaters in the bathroom (may be used while the tub is full). Beware also of centralized air conditioning.
3) in case of the above conditions cannot be met, we recommend to keep a bucket full of water inside the tub. This avoids the insurgence of cracks in most cases.

Until today we supplied over 250 tubs.
We had about 20 reports of cracks or leaks.
In 1 case we replaced the tub.
In 1 case we had the tub shipped back, repaired and have it reinstalled.
In some of the other cases we shipped a kit for repairing the tub (wood color epoxy putty). (Cost is about 3,000 JPY inclusive of shipping fee)
In most cases we supplied advice and the tub could be seamlessly repaired by the user.

With the assumption that all the customers who experienced a crack contacted us (but there may be some exceptions), about 10% of the tubs had crack problems (including tubs 10+ year old).
On the other hand, 90% of the tubs did not experience cracks.
I would say that in 90% of the cases the tubs are used as directed and the environmental conditions are met.

Can I contact your past clients to have their opinion?

I am afraid it is not possible.
As most of our clients are private users, it is our policy not to use them as a reference.
Arranging a meeting between an old customer and a perspective client may be time consuming, may be invasive of the privacy and we just have not the structure to be able to take responsibility for any trouble or miscommunication.
As we cannot be on site to manage the situation, we cannot refer past clients and we make no exception to this policy.
Thank you for your understanding.

Another sketch up model!

london-tub-cg1

Yes, we did it again! (this time thanks to the generosity of a client)
Here is another ofuro you can use in sketch-up.

This solution consists of the tub buried behind a ledge, so you can see only the inside and the beefed up kamachi border.

The sketch up model is not so detailed so if you explode the parts or check it in the hidden areas inside the ditch you will probably not find what you are looking for: anyway it is great for a presentation or just to rotate it in perspective view and get a feeling of the space.

Go ahead and download the :
japanese ofuro build in with wide kamachi border
london-tub-cg2
https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/social/model.html?id=66e018fb-85af-4e26-8484-dd18d0379600

testimonial from Sidney

japanese-ofuro-sidney
Hi Iacopo,
Bathtub cleared customs and quarantine last Thursday and we have been loving the bath ever since. It’s gorgeous πŸ™‚
We just love it and the whole family uses it including my very tall partner !!
It’s beautifully made and makes our bathroom look fantastic.
Thankyou for your hardwork and craftsmanship it will be appreciated by our family for a VERY long time.
Of course you can publish my email in your testimonial corner πŸ™‚
apologies for the photo we are still renovating our bathroom and are in the process of replacing the toilet and the sink ! but the bath still makes our bathroom look good…lol
thanks again,

L.

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