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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.


HANAMI and JAZZ in Kameoka (LIVE!)

If you are in Western Japan this saturday 4/6, you cannot miss the Hana-mi event organized by Nakagawa Juken at the model house in Kameoka.

Here you can meet with people who fled the cities and are now living in a ko-minka AND you can meet with those who are getting ready for the big jump: the people who are longing to live in an old traditional house in a natural but culturally stimulating environment and are looking for the right timing.
But you can also come to hear Makoto in concert (former top level Geisha in Gion and now acclaimed jazz singer)
And yes, even just those who want to eat heart food in a friendly setting are welcome.

I said that you cannot miss the event if you are in Western Japan. But it is not precise. Actually you cannot miss it if you are anything in the world and have a Wifi connection!
I am planning to run the full event on FACEBOOK LIVE with talks, live music, interviews, and yes! you can ask questions and have them answered!
It is my first time with Facebook live and I am not sure how it will go but if you are awake between 10:00 ~ 14:00 JST join us!
I am not sure if I can run the live from the bartok design facebook page or if it will run from my personal page, anyway here are both URLS just in case:

https://www.facebook.com/japanese.ofuro/

https://www.facebook.com/itorrini

 

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…>

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.

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…)

slaughter of a delicious house in Kobe


I cannot sleep. I just want to cry. I can`t forgive.

In a central area of Kobe they started to demolish a beautiful traditional house.
Along a high traffic street but screened by green, it was a 2 story house with traditional ibushi roof tiles.
It was my favourite, I saw it almost every day. 5 years ago, the old building to the right was demolished and replaced by a tasteless, plasticky prefabricated house. But the beautiful old house remained and the contrast between the smart and refined house and the new unbalanced and basic new house was even more striking.

I always wanted to look inside. But there is no place to park the car, besides I figured it was occupied by an elderly person and I imagined they would have felt scared to see a stranger (and caucasian foreigner…) at their door.

But if I went I could have known their plan, maybe I could make an offer to rent or buy the house.
But everything was so abrupt I just could not take any action.
The greens were manicured until the last day, there was no sign that the propery was abandoned or was on sale.
In my optimistic mindset I just could not conceive that somebody may decide to demolish that beauty.
But the same thing happened 5 years ago with the house to the right. I should have been realistic.
At 46 years old I should have the power of judgement to risk hedge. But now I can just cry on the spilled milk.
I really cannot forgive (myself)

It is a real shame.
There is nothing I can do to stop this slaughter. No time to think what are the options.
Therefore I asked the demolition company if I could take the nice entrance door and maybe even the stone lantern.
The guy was friendly and said “take everything home!”
I called my handiman Israeli friend who has a small truck and we started to load windows and doors.
He was repeating “don`t be greedy…” but all pieces were just so beautiful, so unique that we ended up bringing back 3 loads. Maybe 30 or 40 fixtures and one stone lantern.
I do not have a place to keep this material but will figure out.
Maybe I can share some with the japan lovers in the bartok design community.
My dream at the present is to buy that land and rebuild the same house and reuse the parts I could salvage.

The house was splendid but its compact and airy layout, the smart use of the inner space and its balance with the garden is a example of what architecture should be.

In the back garden, a beautiful stone retaining wall protects the privacy and becomes the magic landscape that could be seen from the north side room. A tiny moss garden with a grand stone lantern. And there was even a little cave, not really a well but a natural small pond of about 2 feet x 2 feet of pristine water coming from the Rokko mountain. I am sure it was used for the tea ceremony.
The stone lantern is very old and has the symbols of the 12 animals of the chinese zodiac. This one already has a buyer. An antique shop bought it for 10,000 dollars. But I think this space in its perfect balance is worth 10 millions…

I hope the people who will buy the land will understand this and will create a beautiful and sensitive house, even better than the previous one. I am in tears not just because this house was pictoresque, of cute, or nostalgic. The real value of this house it that it was very well thought. The builder understood the environment and created a perfect match. Respectful but dynamic. Simple but artistic. Pure intelligence.

I am praying that this sacrifice will not be in vain.

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…)

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