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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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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.

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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.


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 !!

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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.

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