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Happy New “Wild Boar” Year!

The end of year holidays are always a good occasion to relax with the legs under a “kotatsu” heated table, eat tangerines and think of old friends.

It is also a time to look back at accomplishments, things that could have gone better and to brush up the plan for 2019.

In the past year we celebrated our 15 years of operation with a record result consisting in 45 projects and more than 500,000 USD in sales. Of course it is a crumb compared to the revenues of large companies but it is enough to feed our dozen of craftsmen and keep them busy with their good work.

Now we are blessed that our business is growing and that we are receiving press exposure etc. but I am realizing that if I want to preserve our company in the long term I have to take a more active role in promoting the ofuro culture.

The craftsmen are aging (the youngest one is 65 years old…) and the business is not enough to justify seeking for younger apprentices. They say it takes at let 10 years to understand the wood, its memories and its behaviors. In the past young trainees were willing to work for a cup of rice for few years in exchange of being taught the secrets of the craft. But now youngsters need other types of motivations…

For this reason, this year I invested time and resources to connect more with the B2B market.
In August I went to Dubai (The Hotel Show).
In September to Phoenix (USA) for a trade show specialized in spa.
In October, I participated to the Hotelier Summit in Jakarta (Indonesia).

By developing a new market targeting business users (hotels, spas, resorts, luxury yachts etc.) I should be able to provide the economic stability necessary for the craftsmen to structure for the long term. Also, this dynamic international market may be an element to attract younger craftsmen who can envision their works installed in famous projects worldwide etc.

I am planning to implement this course of action in 2019 and I just wanted to share this with the other Japanese-lovers who are following this news letter.
I apologize if it was boring (and for the too many sentences starting with “I” and “We”) etc.

But if a letter is “one-way” per definition, the writer is of course hoping to receive a reply…!
Even if this communication is sent as a newsletter, I have in mind all of you, individually, with the memories of the projects we did together or the emails we exchanged.

Therefore, if you have any suggestion, any comment, any request, please let me know!
Bartok design is our community! so do not be afraid to reach me with your ideas.

May the year of the wild boar (2019) bring you all the happiness, energy, strength and health you deserve and it only remains to me to wish you a…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

All the Best//

iacopo torrini
Bartok design Japan Co.
japan@bartokdesign.com

Rebuild the Matsuguchi house?

It finally happened.
After demolishing the elegant and flawless 90 years old Early Showa period house, the sign of the real estate company appeared inesorably on the site.
(In the early days, I asked 4 real estate companies I know, but nobody had a clue of who purchased the property)
They are going to split the 200 square meters lot in 2 and build prefabricated houses.
I cannot dare to imagine what will happen to the nice retaining wall and the natural poll where pristine water from Suwayama, the mount dedicated to Venus can be scooped up as needed.

Are you interested in buying land in Kobe?
Is owning a vacation house in Japan your long caressed dream?
If so I can build it for you! My architectural services will be for free. This is the only humble contribution I can put on the table to save this charming property from the cancer who is eating out all japanese territory.
I have to face that the gem that was the Matsuguchi-house is gone. But I cannot accept that the best will be replaced by the worst!
To use the words of Cicero: “corruptio optimi pessima” = the corruption of the best is the worst of all…

I salvaged almost 80% of the windows and the interior doors of the old house: my dream would be to rebuild the house using traditional techniques and reusing the original doors, stair railing, stone lantern, post box etc!


check other photos here

Also the symbolic gesture of being more affirmative than the scrap and build culture, winning over the blind speculation would have a tremendous value.
Am I just a dreaming idealist?
Is there somebody out that is interested in resurrecting the Matsuguchi house? Even stronger and more convenient than before?
Of course we could upgrade it with a hinoki bathtub! Overlooking the stone wall and with the lantern and the moss garden!
Please let me know.

The real estate agent is asking 82 million JPY for the land.
Building a house in timberframe costs about 300,000 JPY per square meter so rebuilding the original house would require about 48 million JPY.
But of course fancy features would add to the cost.

In the link below is a site survey and a zoning plan.
DOC181130-20181130092500
The area is located just uphill from Motomachi and the Prefercural office area and was from the past an exclusive residential area.
The white condominium on the north side was actually built on the site of the former residence of Kimura Haruo, first major of the city of Ashiya.



Click the image above to jump to the street view

The real estate agent has an agreement with a builder and they are planning to have the plans approved by mid december.
Of course, the more they go ahead with their plan, the more it will be expensive to buy the land out.
So if you fell in love with this building (and you have the financial resources to bring it back to life) please contact me as soon as possible.

If you did not see the photos of the interior of the original house you can have a sample here:

-> october 25th blog post


-> facebook post

Keeping my fingers crossed…

The Melody of Hinoki as told by an American Guitar Maker in Japan

When we came across an American guitar maker, living in Japan, using native Japanese wood to make guitars, we knew we had to get in touch! Stephen Faulk of Stephen Faulk Guitars kindly answered our questions and shared his story, along with these photos. I know he would love to hear from you if you enjoy this article. I’ll add all the links at the end.

Stephen Faulk Hinoki and Cedar Guitar
We asked Stephen about the merits of Japanese hinoki for musical instruments.

Hinoki is similar to the wood traditionally used in Spain to build guitars, Mediterranean Cypress. Hinoki is in the cypress family and it also related to The Lawson Cypress on the West Coast of North America. I’ve found that the Hinoki is a good wood to make traditional Spanish guitars with as it shares many good qualities with the cypress that was used in Spain during the 19th century to develop the modern guitar. The Cypress family woods often give a more ‘dry’ character to the sound.  Cypress woods were used in Spain not only because of the availability and cost as a local resource but also because it produces a sound slightly different than the rosewoods and other precious hardwoods used to make guitars

When I first learned that I could find Hinoki in the lumber yards in Japan that had similar qualities to cypresses form the Mediterranean area I was very excited. I had known about Hinoki for many years, but it’s not readily available in California where I began making guitars.

The cypress makes excellent ‘classical’ guitars which are a modern variant of the traditional Spanish guitar. Before about the mid-20th century there was no distinction between the classical guitar and the flamenco guitar, both instruments were virtually interchangeable. Later as classical guitar playing emerged as an art form separate from flamenco, Spanish folk music and other kinds of guitar music, the darker rosewoods came to be favored by the makers and the musicians.

However, the appeal of the dry sound of cypress never went away and stayed popular with flamenco guitarists and other musicians. Today the cypress guitar is seeing a bit of a comeback as a wood used for classical guitar construction due to changing tastes.  Musicians are now more aware of the tradition of using Cypresses in guitar construction in Spain when the ‘Torres’ style guitar developed.

I use hinoki in the same way I use the traditional cypresses I buy from European, Mexican or American suppliers, but I like it also because it is locally sourced. I have made many guitars with the rosewoods, but as a maker my personal taste is to make ‘blonde’ classical guitars.’Blonde’ guitars that are not made with dark rosewoods. Of course, I do make rosewood guitars, but make more guitars with lighter woods like Maple, Cypress, Hinoki and Lawson Cypress than most makers today.

The hinoki is a good guitar wood because it has the attributes that the late 19th-century Spanish makers liked about cypress. It’s lightweight and low density, which encourages vital resonance in the guitar. In general, it creates a warm dry sound and the sustain is crisp. It makes guitars that are good for playing dense richly harmonized music like Bach. Since the hardness and density of wood varies from region to region and tree to tree, I select the best Hinoki for guitar making by making sure it is not too soft. I like a board of hinoki that it difficult to drive your thumbnail into, hard medium dense Hinoki makes fantastic guitars.

I use hinoki to construct the backs and sides of the guitar, like the old Spanish makers.  I use either spruce or cedar for the top of the guitar. The neck is made Cuban Cedar or Cedrella which is usually from Central America and must be specially imported. The hinoki boards I select must be carefully cut by a skilled sawyer, with a big band saw. I work with them to ensure the wood is properly quartersawn for guitar use.

Q. Do you use any other native Japanese woods?

Yes, I fact I do use Red Oak from Kyushu to make some of my specialized guitar maker tools like binding cutters and ‘violin makers’ knives. Many tools used in the art and craft of making musical instrument must be made by the luthiers themselves, usually after their teacher shows them the tools and says your assignment is to construct your own set of special tools and knives! Of course, today may things can be purchased online in specialty shops but when I began this was not as possible as it is today. I had to begin by making most of my guitar specific tools.

A tool made of Kyushu Red Oak, the tool is a binding channel cutter.
A tool made of Kyushu Red Oak, the tool is a binding channel cutter.
A tool made of Kyushu Red Oak, the tool is a binding channel cutter.
A tool made of Kyushu Red Oak, the tool is a binding channel cutter.

I like Kyushu Red Oak because it’s hard enough to be durable for life and it’s also smooth and doesn’t mar the work. This kind of oak is also used to make martial arts weapons for Okinawan karate. I’m interested in native woods for guitar making too, such as Keyaki and Sakura. I’ve made a beautiful guitar about of 90-year-old Persimmon that I took from an old broken tansu.

Sakura is a fruitwood and used to be common in European instruments from the late middle ages to the baroque era, often used as bridges on lutes and guitars, but also for pegs and fingerboards. I have used Kagoshima Sakura wood for bridges on my guitars. It’s a wonderful bridge wood, and would make great guitars if you can find a tree big enough that needs to be cut down.

Career as a guitar maker

My instrument construction training began when I was in high school. I played the cello in the school orchestra and also played the guitar. When it happened that my cello needed some repairs the band teacher sent me to Mr Tenney who was a violin repairer and bowmaker in Redlands California. I took my cello over to his shop to have a crack fixed and to get new strings and I was hooked within five minutes of entering the shop with all the activity going on there. On one wall there was an enormous painting by a Spanish artist who lived in France in the 1840’s called Narcisse Diaz de la Pena, he is well known, under the painting was a Beethoven era piano built in the 1820’s and on the top of the closed piano were five or six Italian violins laying on a small Persian rug.

There were violin bows being made and old master paintings being restored and antique furniture everywhere. Mr Tenney and his wife owned an antique shop, which his wife Betty ran. Mr Tenney employed me after school to move antiques, clean the shop and to strip and refinish furniture. Soon he let me help him do instrument repair work, learn more about woodworking tools and try to build some instruments myself. I built some cello and bass bows and learned a great deal about paintings antiques, architecture and violin making in his workshop. I worked for the Tenney’s for about three years and then I went to college to study. I remained friends with the Tenney’s over the next 25 years visiting them often.

I went to college at the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated with a degree in sculpture. After that program, I was accepted into the Graduate Studies Art Dept at Mills College in Oakland California. I finished the master’s degree course in studio art and art history. After the time in the academic setting, I wanted to make instruments and work on a career in visual arts.

In 1997 I began to study under two instrument makers in the San  Francisco area, one was Eugene Clark a notable guitar maker who was thought highly of in the classical/flamenco guitar world for his depth of knowledge of traditional Spanish guitar making concepts. And the other was historical Lute maker Mel Wong, who is still active in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Gene Clark died a few years ago. I worked and studied concurrently with Mel and Gene for two years going back and forth between their shops doing projects, learning about guitar and lute repair and construction. After that time I opened a small workshop of my own in Oakland CA. In 2006 and 2011 I did a year of additional training on steel string guitar repair with Stewart Port who is master guitar repairman in Oakland CA who specializes in rare and vintage steel string guitars. I had my own guitar making shop open at that time and Stewart Port and I are both former students of Eugene Clark.

I maintained a guitar repair and building shop in Oakland until 2013 when I moved to Japan with my wife who is native Japanese. We met in CA where she had lived for many years. She works in the graphic design business and does bilingual Japanese/English web design as a freelancer. The move was prompted by the unfortunate death of her mother in 2012. We came to Akune in Kagoshima to help her dad and keep him company. I moved my guitar making shop to Akune into a former salt supply warehouse and began making guitars for my remaining US customers.

Current Projects

Final thoughts: We have to ask – Are there any onsen in your area? Hinoki ofuro?
In Akune, where we live, there is a tradition of putting Bontan, a locally grown type of giant Pomelo citrus in the baths. It makes the room fragrant.

There was an onsen here that had a hinoki tub, but they had to close down two years ago.

Akune also has a natural saltwater geothermal onsen!

Thank you so much, Stephen, for your detailed comments and for sharing your passion for wood and guitar building so openly. If anyone wants to reach Stephen you can contact him via his website Stephen Faulk Guitars and make sure you take a look at his Japanese persimmon guitar on YouTube.

The King of Trees: Hinoki

hinoki

In this series of posts I will share some information about the different trees and woods used in manufacturing our beautiful ofuro bathtubs. This photo was taken in the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens. It’s hinoki, the king of forest in Japan.

Why the king of forest?
In feudal times in ancient Japan, five beautiful and majestic trees were planted and selected as the most valuable. Known as the “Five Trees of Kiso,” they are Chamaecyparis obtusa, Chamaecyparis pisifera, Sciadopitys verticillata, Thuja standishii, Thujopsis dolabrata.

from Shade and Ornamental Trees: Their Origin and History by Hui-Lin Li

As hinoki trees suffer in polluted environments, they grow mainly in areas where the air and water are pure. Aomori and Ishikawa in the north, Gifu Prefecture, the Kiso Valley in the Chubu district and Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku are the regions with the largest hinoki forests.

This “purity” is reflected in the wood’s appearance: it is light-colored and has a compact straight grain. A natural clear resin permeates the pores homogeneously thus creating natural protection against insects and rot. When cut or scrubbed, hinoki wood emanates a pleasing lemon scent for which it is famous.

This excerpt was taken from the Akasawa Recreation Forest website:

The hinoki, Japanese cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) trees native to the Kiso Valley have been renowned for centuries. Kiso’s timber resources were highly prized by Toyotomi Hideyoshi* himself, who made the Kiso Valley a fief under his direct control and used timber from its Japanese cypresses and other trees when constructing castles**.

*Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a Japanese Leader in the 16th century.

**Osaka Castle was one such castle, constructed from hinoki, although the current structure is a concrete & steel replica replacing the original which was destroyed by fire.

As castle towns prospered during the Edo period, from the 17th century, a great many trees were cut down on Kiso’s hillsides. Kiso’s mountains were left so desolate as a result that, fearing for the few remaining trees, the rulers of the Owari Domain issued a harsh proclamation: “one tree, one head.” The threat of capital punishment meant that Kiso’s trees began to be protected. As a result, the Kiso Valley once more boasts dense natural forests on its rejuvenated hillsides.

From the latter part of the 19th century, the majority of Kiso’s mountains were covered in “Goryorin” forests that were the property of the Imperial Family.

After WWII, the area began to be managed as National Forests.

In 1970, parts of the Kiso Valley forests were designated as Recreation Forests. Akasawa Forest, the first Recreation Forest, is the birthplace of “shinrin-yoku” or forest bathing.


Current Situation: Sustainable Wood Product?
Our hinoki wood is sourced from Kiso Valley, Nagano. We use wood from mature trees, between 250 – 300 years old. In Kiso Valley, a sustainability plan is in place to authorize tree felling.

A healthy forest is managed to give each tree optimum chances of growing strong. Trees that would die naturally are selected first for cutting. The forests of Japan play an important role in the natural ecosystem by setting down deep roots, preventing landslides and soil erosion. The forests are also a natural habitat for many species of animals, birds and insects. And of course, forests purify our air by absorbing carbon dioxide and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, the forest is a source of income for the local rural areas and provides employment for those involved in forest management and manufacture of wood products and construction. Wood is a renewable resource. It can be grown and managed sustainably.

We believe that with careful consideration for the current and future generations, these can co-exist favourably.

The Wood of the Hinoki Tree
Easily the most beautiful wood in the world, the wood of the hinoki tree is smooth, very light but very strong. The grain is very straight and it is a delicate soft pale wood color, sometimes ever so slightly pink-tinged. The scent is woodsy but often described as lemony. It is a very grounding scent. When hot water is poured onto hinoki (or when you fill your hinoki bath) the scent will intensify. The scent of hinoki essential oil is calming and relaxing. It may help with respiration problems and act as a decongestant.


Hinoki means literally “tree of fire” as it was used to spark a fire in ancient times, thanks to its dry nature. As hinoki has an excellent dimensional stability and durability, it has always been the first choice when it comes to the bearing structure of a house. Still today hinoki is widely used in construction, especially for the parts which are connected with the “life and soul” of the building: columns and foundations. The grain is very compact and prevents the penetration of insects. The wood from the Kiso Valley hinoki is especially water and rot-resistant making it highly suitable for use in baths.

The choice for your ofuro
Hinoki is our most-requested type of wood. Depending on your bathroom layout and your budget we may sometimes recommend one of two other types of wood:
Sawara or Asnaro.

Scroll to read more.

An economical choice: Sawara

Sawara Cypress
The sawara cypress tree (Chamaecyparis pisifera) is very similar in appearance to the hinoki cypress tree. It grows slowly but can reach a height of up to 50m. As one of the Five Trees of Kiso it is highly-valued wood though it ranks below the hinoki which means there are more growing naturally in the forests of Japan. Both hinoki and sawara are sensitive to pollution which means they’re grown away from urban populations.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species there is no cause for alarm, the tree is well-represented and is classified as ‘Least Concern’. This is good news for wood-lovers and conservationists. Nevertheless, our suppliers manage the entire forest carefully with regard to the longevity of this eco-system.

Properties of Sawara
Sawara has a warm cherry-like color, a beautiful straight grain and is very aromatic. The beautiful fine color of the wood reflects the pure environment in which the trees grow. Sawara appeals to those who think hinoki is too pale. Sawara shares the same rot-resistant qualities as hinoki and is used in the construction of shrines and temples and of course ofuro bathtubs.

Sawara is becoming a very popular material also among the Japan-lover community because of its color and reasonable price.

Scale-like Leaves: Asnaro

asnaro

Asunaro
I was really excited to find these labeled specimens in the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens. Only one problem, I’m having trouble distinguishing them, now that I am back at the office. I think this one pictured above is asunaro/asnaro (Thujopsis dolabrata). I really love the scaly configuration of these leaves.

The asunaro is also called hiba. It’s an evergreen tree in the cypress family. This particular specimen was found in Hokkaido so it’s a rarer variation, the Thujopsis dolabrata var. hondai.

Nevertheless this tree grows quite readily across the four islands of Japan in the Thujopsis dolabrata var. dolabrata variety. According to the The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species this species is stable. It gets an LC (least concern) rating as it is planted in state-controlled forests where it grows well. Read more about hiba-arbor-vitae here on the IUCN Red List.

Hiba Arbor-vitae is an important forest tree in Japan and is one of the ‘five trees of Kiso’ (all are conifers) originally reserved for imperial use. There are now managed state forests with this species as the dominant tree besides some imperial forests. Its light, soft, resinless and durable wood is used in construction, for bridges, buildings, furniture, the wooden basis of lacquer work, wood carving, etc.

The choice for your ofuro
As far as ofuro go we recommend asnaro more often than any other wood because of the cost advantage and the durability of this wood. It is harder to damage than say hinoki or sawara. We think you will love it too.


Hybrid Japanese Soaking Tubs

You love Japanese traditional wooden bathtubs but you wish they did not have exposed metal parts? You want crack-proof construction? Embedded overflow? Sexy, organic shapes? Read on!


Kintai bridge

I have a mission as a “bridge” to connect master Japanese craftsmen with Japan-lovers worldwide. As a designer, I like to apply the Japanese proverb which states that it is not by chance that men have one mouth and two ears. I like to listen to the requests of my clients and customize, adapt the shapes and details of my ofuros to match the space and the functionality that is needed, case by case.

Thanks to your inquiries about details such as top rim overflow cuts, removable seats, reversible covers, slanted walls, sloped bottom plank and more, I present … the “kakehashi tub”.

New Technology
All of the requested details have been incorporated into this brand-new product design, which I’m calling the “kakehashi tub”.

This amazing modern bathtub can be made in any convex curve and even concave shapes! The curved walls can be straight or even slanted in and out, free as a freehand sketch.

Our prototype Kakehashi ofuro is crescent-shaped. Perfect for 2 people, the moon-shaped ofuro is a tribute to the lunar side of the Japanese aesthetics.


Features

  • pneumatic controlled popup drain
  • overflow system concealed inside the walls
  • no exposed metal parts and the look is very organic and natural
  • curved, concave, convex walls
  • any shape


Kakehashi means bridge. This idea connects and conjugates tradition with innovation; natural materials with cutting-edge technology; and Japanese sensibility with a world of sensuously curved shapes. If you are looking for something sleek, yet rooted in tradition you are ready for this new product.

japanese soaking tub kakehashi

Technological Breakthrough

The technological breakthrough of the Kakehashi ofuro is its laminated structure.
The walls of the tub are made from a fiberglass mold.
Upon this mold we construct an internal and an external layer of solid quarter-sawn Japanese timber (7-15mm thick).
Essentially the fiberglass core is sandwiched between the layers of wood.
The core gives stability to the bathtub.
The fiberglass also partially compensates for the expansion and contraction of the wood.
Structural support against the pressure of the water is provided by the core thus eliminating the need for metal bands on the outside of the bath.

You can also download here a summary of this page in pdf format.


Best of both worlds

The Kakehashi ofuro can be made from premium Kiso Valley hinoki and asnaro wood from Aomori Prefecture.

Enjoy the same pure aroma and soft touch of our traditionally-built wooden ofuro.
It is a wooden Japanese bathtub adapted to the modern environment.
Imagine a gorgeous pale hinoki bath in your modern bathroom.

Traditional

Our company specialises in the design and production of traditional Japanese bathtubs made with hinoki wood and other Japanese conifers (asnaro, sawara, koyamaki). The traditional tub has some limitations in its design and functionality. It also doesn’t suit all tastes. It has been a few years now that I am caressing this new project. What strikes me about Japanese bathtubs is their minimalist design. They are very modern while being traditional.

For those who are attracted by the naturalism and the historical heritage behind the ofuro, then our present custom-order bathtubs produced by Bartok design are perfect for you. With the traditional techniques, it is possible to create circular, oval shapes or round cornered rectangles but with the limitation of having to cope with the metal bands which are needed to keep the barrel-type construction together under the pressure from the water.

We have always made and will continue to make these tubs.

Traditional crafts are in a difficult conjuncture and if we do not find alternative markets and products suitable for contemporary demand, tradtional handicrafts will be abandoned. That is why we are passionate about the Kakehashi ofuro. The Kakehashi project is also meant to bridge the knowledge of the traditional carpenters towards a stable and bright future.

By ordering any Bartok design ofuro you are helping preserve Japanese traditional crafts as they are passed to the next generation. Our craftsmen are excited about exploring these challenges with you.


To order

To start the order process please use the contact form below or contact us by email. What shape are you dreaming of?

Kakehashi Inquiry

Download a PDF of the Kakehashi Hybrid Ofuro

An onsen on a budget in Oita Prefecture

When planning a trip it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. We at Bartok design have taken it upon ourselves to explore the onsen areas of Japan (a tough job for sure) to find places that we can recommend. Today we’re sharing a budget option that isn’t going to make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a youth hostel.

Onsen Inn Usa, Good Stay Mizuho

If you were to find yourself in Oita Prefecture and you needed a place to rest your weary body then might I recommend Good Stay Mizuho? It’s not the fanciest of places but the owners are extremely welcoming and you are sure to have an authentic Japanese experience.

I happened to be in the area this week on another matter but knowing my interest in onsen and Japanese soaking tubs, my friend took me along to visit the owners of this Japanese-style inn. They very kindly let me take photos and explained some of the behind-the-scenes information about inns of this type.

This particular inn was renovated in 2017. It’s functional and spacious with plenty of space to relax and enjoy the retro ambience. There are three onsen baths on the ground floor. These baths are available for use free of charge by guests and you can also ‘drop-by’ to use them for a set fee of around $15 per hour – good to know if you are just passing through.

Each of the three baths is private which means you may enjoy them as a family or a couple. Their source is a natural onsen hotspring located in the town. The water is heated to a comfortable temperature but has no extra additives, it’s completely natural. The baths are emptied and cleaned daily (as was the case when I visited early on a Monday morning).

The owners told me that they have had increasing numbers of international visitors, which is really pleasing to them. They are learning to speak English and have access to a telephone interpreter if you get really stuck. You may know that there are a few hard and fast rules when using an onsen – even a private one like this – since the bath water will be used by all of the guests at the inn. The owners recognise that a lot of signage and instruction detracts from the overall experience but there is a handy poster explaining the basics: wash in the shower stall before you enter the bath, avoid wearing bathing suits, underwear or your towel in the bath, keep long hair tied up. Leave the changing area tidy before you exit, put your towels in the hamper and make sure the floor isn’t wet. These kind of baths are basically self-serve so cleaning staff don’t typically come in more than a couple of times each day, guests are expected to be courteous towards other users.

Things to do in Oita
The magnificent Usa Jingu shrine is nearby. Kitsuki City and Kunisaki Peninsular are also places to check out. Check JNTO for more info.

While I was in the area the Fukuoka Marathon was held. Were you there for it? Unfortunately I missed it but there is always next year. It was beautiful weather! On the Sunday afterwards I took a train to Oita Prefecture from the center of Fukuoka (Hakata) which took a lovely scenic route around the coast. It cost about $50 – $60 and took about an hour and a half to arrive at Usa Station.

Let us know if you have travelled around Fukuoka or Oita Prefectures. Where did you stay? What activities did you enjoy while you were there? If you are coming for the Fukuoka Marathon next year, we might see you there! If you are coming for the Rugby World Cup, we will definitely see you there! Read our post here.

a toilet to match your kimono

Well, I am not talking about the interior design of your powder room: I am actually meaning the actual sanitary equipment.
That is the link between a toilet and a kimono?

Mr. Yoshio Jogan, the director of the Kyoto Design Factory is turning state of the art Japanese automatic toilets into works of art.
Jogan-sensei started actually a kimono designer. Traditionally the production of kimonos is carried out with the coperation between several highly specialized craftsmen. The product takes shape as it is passed on from the binder to the dyer, to the weaver and then to the block printer and/or designer.
Jogan Sensei was involved in block printing and design of the kimonos and he shaped his culture and sensibility thru years of apprenticeship. In the world of Japanese crafts, you first need to become a master of the ancient shapes. You need to let go your individuality and absorb the basic of the traditional imagery and sense of composition. Only after tens of years and after you become a perfect copier you are allowed to start breaking the rules.
And this is what Jogan sensei did. But as his design retains a very traditional (and extremely delicate) touch, his revolutionary step is more structural than formal.
In order to save the declining kimono culture he decided to make a pact with the devil. He threw away the wood blocks for stamping the kimono outline pattern and started to use intensively the computer and ink jet printing.
A part for optimizing time, cost and energies, his revolution enabled him to bring the kimono culture outside of the clothing world.

(more…)

Out in the green – round hot tub

A client from the USA kindly shared with us a beautiful picture of her Bartok design`s outdoors hot-tub (roten-buro?)
Of course, the landscape is not included in the package!

Well, I feel this photo does not need too many other comments!!

The tub has arrived and it looks great!! Thanks again …

L. from Pennsylvania

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