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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.


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…>

Come for the rugby, enjoy the onsens

If you’re a sports fan and a fan of Japan’s favourite pastime (visiting hot springs) then you’re in for a treat. 2019 sees Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup for the first time in history. This amazing event will be held over a six-week period with games hosted in regional stadiums across Japan.

Did your team make the cut?

If I had to pick which games to attend based on the location of the stadium I would go with Oita. This prefecture boasts the largest number of naturally occurring hot springs in all of Japan! What better way to relax after an exciting match?

The games kick-off at Oita Stadium on October 2nd with favourites New Zealand playing the Repechage winners (I trust you know who that is). Australia, Wales and Fiji will also play in Oita at different times over the series.

Not too far from Oita, also on the island of Kyushu, you’ll find matches being held in Fukuoka and Kumamoto. With fantastic highways as well as the world’s most efficient train system you could easily spend your entire Rugby World Cup “trip of a lifetime” only in Kyushu, tripping between these three stadiums.

I know you’ll want to get to the main games in Tokyo and the final in Yokohama but those tickets are going to be hard to come by. Plus, Tokyo, meh.

Visit Oita! Visit Kumamoto! Visit Fukuoka! Don’t think of these locations as playing second fiddle to the bigger venues. Visiting one of the lesser known areas of Japan promises an experience that you won’t ever forget. Not many can say they’ve been to Kyushu.

This probably sounds like an advertisement for the rugby but as you’ve probably guessed I don’t know that much about rugby. I am however a fan of hot springs and the beautiful Japanese countryside. If you’re coming to Japan anyway …

Also, a little bird has told us that a new hotel is due to open in the area in 2019. It’s the ANA Intercontinental Beppu Resort. Take a peek!

“With its natural beauty and more than 2,400 natural springs, Beppu has built a reputation throughout Asia as one of Japan’s most renowned onsen destinations” via Hotel Online.

Hinoki barrel bath? Check out this one. Gorgeous.

So are you convinced? Will you come to Japan for the Rugby World Cup in 2019? Will you consider making Oita one of your stops if only to experience this wonder of the world, the onsen? Let us know your rugby plans and which team you are rooting for.

Adventures in Phoenix and about

After many years of courting, this year I decided to participate to the ISPA exhibition: the world`s largest and most affirmed show dedicated to the spas industry. Usually it is held in Las Vegas but this year it`s going to happen in Phoenix.


It is a show reserved for the ISPA members and first of all I had to join ISPA as member. Next thing they tell me is that as a vendor I cannot just visit the show: I have either to exhibit with a booth or become a sponsor of the event.
It was just one month before the beginning and I was not going to bring bathtub samples just for 3 days. I explored some alternative options and finally I desided to rent a booth and planned to have a table with some chairs to show photos and samples to interested visitors. To add a Japanese touch to the booth, I obtained a “shimenawa and shide” from a local shirine I know. They gave me the real thing with hemp, the natural fiber material used to tie the rice paper suspended streamers to the rope.
This is used in weddings or ground-breaking ceremonies to create a kind of “sacred zone” where the evil spirits cannot enter. (if you do not know what I am talking about, see below.)
My flight was Osaka-Honolulu-Phoenix. As I had some 120 tablets of wood and few kits of “pocket onsen”, I decided to declare my samples even if they do not have commercial value. I could not imagine they would open all my sutcases and did not remember I had also my blatant wrap of natural hemp (also known as cannabis…!)

Fortunately the custom police did not notice it and I could reach Phoenix with my “spicy” suitcase.

Now, back in august as you may remember, I shared my plans about the Phoenix trip with the Bartok design Community and a woman (whom I never met) offered to have me as a guest in their guest house in Phoenix. They also offered to help me setup the booth (which was a real headache for me at that time) and I accepted the kind invitation.

The following of the story is one of the most amazing and rewarding experience of my 15 years in dealing with ofuros.
you can also read more detail on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/itorrini/posts/10217503173270308 (more…)

Our newest, our favourites and our classics

I’m excited about the next few months of the year, making a special ofuro for you! Find our newest, our favourites and our classics here.

At Bartok design we like to push the envelope. Our newest design is not our design at all, it’s yours. The ‘kakehashi‘ technology allows us to create the bath of your dreams in any shape you can imagine! View the PDF here.

Our favourites? Well it’s hard to choose because we love them all but the Gyo Pocket Onsen has a special place in our hearts because it makes Japanese-style ofuro bathing so accessible to everyone. Simply add a few drops of our hinoki oil to our handcrafted wooden orbs then toss them into your hot bath water.Bliss!

Our classics? We just love the retro feel of this one: (kadomaru tub)

Kadomaru Retro Tub

Bringing water to the desert

Airport shuttle bus all to myself
A limousine bus to myself!

This weekend I will be at The Hotel Show at the Dubai Trade Center bringing some much-needed ? onsen water to the desert! As I mentioned in my last post I am jumping all in to explore the b2b side of things. Orders have been increasing from hotels, bars, restaurants and spas so I thought I should come to answer all the questions about japanese ofuro in person.

You might know that our area of Japan was hit by a super-typhoon (tropical storm) a couple of weeks ago. So many flights were cancelled after the bridge to the airport was damaged as well as some flooding of the airport. It is happy for me that the shuttle bus was empty and I could enjoy a beautiful sunset as I take off from Osaka, Kansai Airport. The airport is only just resuming flights so I am very lucky.

See you on the other side! Come and say hi if you are at the Hotel Show too.

sunset over Osaka Bay
Sunset over Osaka Bay

pocket onsen ‘GYO’ campaign ending tomorrow!

IMG_2029

I should have written this earlier, but life is busy also in this part of the world…
Tomorrow the indiegogo campaign is closing (the project is founded! thanks everybody!)
If you are considering to purchase a “GYO” for yourself or to give as a present, this is the last chance.

After the campaign is finished, I will add the GYO to the Bartok shop but the price will include a profit margin. I was considering 1.5 times (which is still very reasonable). For instance, the basic set with young trees oil will become 45 USD instead of 30 USD.
On the other hand, the cost does not really take into account the time for packaging, labeling etc. so I might set higher prices.
Also, 2 operators are interested in distributing the pocket onsen (maybe OEM) so I will have to protect their prices. In brief, I am now considering to set retail prices to about 210% of the production costs (which is still very reasonable!)
pocket onsen GYO – young trees → 6,000 JPY including shipping (now 30 USD + shipping)

pocket onsen GYO – special reserve → 9,000 JPY including shipping (now 50 USD + shipping)

pocket onsen GYO –  compare set → 12,000 JPY including shipping (now 65 USD + shipping)

(more…)

tub stained and cleaned up!

Here below is the mail correspondence with a client who purchased a tub in 2014.
He kindly agreed to have it published here as it may be of help to other fellow ofuro owners.
1)
Dear Iacopo,
I hope this note finds you and your family very well.
I look forward to a time of leisure where I can see you again.
In the meantime, due to my laziness at not wiping the tub down and its position next to the shower, it has taken on the less than ideal character shown in these photos.
Is there anything I can do to restore the surface at this point?
Thanks kindest X.
IMG_8652

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