Heritage buildings

House for sale in Osaka

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A japanese friend is selling his house in southern Osaka and since it is equipped with a nice hinoki bathtub, I decided to call it out here, in case somebody in interested.

It is remote that users of this site may be considering purchasing of real estate in Japan, but who knows! Also note that this is not a heritage building but a full featured 3 story family house with 2 cars garage.

asking price: 42.8 million yen

year built: 2001, december

structure: timber (post and beam)

floor area: 148.22m² (3 story, 4LDK)

land area: 166.81m²

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You can find more information and photos here:

http://win-jyuken.jp/?post_type=fudo&p=4272&shu=1202&ros=592&eki=6508&ken=00&sik=0&kalc=0&kahc=0&kalb=0&kahb=0&hof=0&tik=0&mel=0&meh=0

Last thatched roof in Tokyo is endangered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hosodahouse-saginoiya


B) Threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to comment here below.

Accounting for “save & relocate japanese homes” activity

As promised, here below is the balance sheet for the activity of relocating japanese historic homes.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/191R52WReEc7nonFc3QVEQIuDnEvK64ipfQ4XMKdO9G8/edit?usp=sharing

I did not make the final decision but I think the new activity will be called Japanese Historic Homes and will have a dedicated homepage.

I was (wisely!) advised that if I want to produce concrete results, I should appeal to those interested in owning a japanese home rather than just hoping to find philanthropists with deep pockets and the mission of preserving for posterity as many buildings and environments of value as possible…

“I love your idea of establishing a network to try and preserve more heritage buildings. As far as naming goes I would shy away from “save-japan.org” as this sounds like it could be connected to Fukushima or some other existing cause.
I personally think you need to appeal to those folks who wish to OWN a heritage Japanese home rather than those that wish to SAVE a heritage home, as the former has the means (money) to buy.
Something like Japan-Historic-Homes.org may work. This may facilitate easy web searches. “Heritage” is arguably a more correct word to use but I think some folks may get this confused with modern homes which have a “Heritage style”. “Historic” (or
“Historical”) does sound a bit dry and perhaps over-important, but everyone who looks at the site name will conclude that you mean old, beautiful homes of significance. Anyway, this is just a first effort. I would be very happy to help you further in any way I can.”

So please be in touch and let me know your opinion as well!

All the Best//

iacopo

demolition work almost completed for the fujisawa teahouse

We are sad to see it go but are looking forward to seeing it rebuilt in full glory in Chiba prefecture next year.
It is a big shock for the building but imagine it is like a life saving surgery.
It is painful but all dismantling work was done gently to preserve all the parts.
I cannot imagine this jewel left prey of the bulldozers…

Please find the full photo reportage here:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.987206494691338.1073741833.168006413278021&type=3

great news about the tea-house!

Sorry for the belated update: I think many of you are in trepidation for the destiny of the tea house in Fujisawa.

Well, 1/27 was an incredible day, I think there are all the ingredients for a suspense movie.
The crowdfunding campaign I started on 1/23 at http://igg.me/at/teahouse produced many contacts.

On 1/27 I went to Tokyo with a 10,000 mhA spare battery plugged in my phone and kept sending mails and calls for help.
I was messaging previous clients while riding the shinkansen and calling ikebana associations or busy stock brokers while waiting to transfer to the next train.
I called dozens of people and sent hundreds of emails.

Nonetheless I arrived to the meeting on site with empty hands.
Two people from the forwarding company were already there discussing details about the street width with the contractor.
The real estate agent was preparing the documents and memorandums to be signed while I was answering the cheerful and excited questions of the owners.
Where is the building going? When is it going to be rebuilt? Can we go visit?
I even got the promise from the old owner she would visit the new location of the house and offer a tea ceremony to all the presents…

But there was only one problem.
Time was up and I had not a clear commitment for taking over the house.
I did not give up until the last moment but after inflating everybody`s hopes, I was going to hurt them even more with the harsh reality, sooner or later.
My face was smiling but there was a deep cloud of uncertainty in my heart.
I received many mails of encouragement:
“Even if you failed this time, the effort and financial exposure would not had been a vain effort. This case contributed to raise awareness about the problem and spread the seeds of more consideration for the items of value we are inheriting from the past.”

I know, you will think I am reckless but there is only one thing that helped me not to panic: Using the “reverse gear” was just not an option on the table.
Like those simple remote controlled car toys that can only go straight or turn left and right to avoid obstacles the only option I had was to keep looking forward for the end of the tunnel.

We started to move out the left over furniture to the living room of a relative living next door while the carpenter started to remove some planks from the ceiling to see if it could be dismantled safely. Some old newspapers started to come out from under the tatamis.

And yes! the sunshine come at 16:00. I received a call from Hamish Murphy, an australian gentlemen, introduced to me by Mr. D. from Tokyo who had been introduced to me by Mr. L. from the UK.
Hamish has been living in Japan for 29 years (if I remember correctly) and is going to start a Permaculture site in Kamogawa, Chiba prefecture.
If you do not know what permaculture is, I recommend to research it on wikipedia. It is is a beautiful concept and practical philosophy.

As I was in Yokohama only for that day, Hamish decided to come right away to see the house and reached at around 18:00.
All the workers already went away and after showing him the house, we sat in the smallest tea-room with the owner and her son.
The owner offered us a matcha-tea – by coincidence there were also just 2 manju dumplings left from the afternoon.
It was such an emotionally intense atmosphere, looking at the garden in the dark out of the window and the old lady noted that this was “the last tea served in the tea-room.”

Then, after 3 days of thorough consideration, Hamish gave me the GO sign to take my place in the contract and carry on the demolition and reconstruction project!
I am SOOO happy for him, for the house, for the owner. AMAZING.

A sukiya-zukuri house is a traditional construction but is light weight and more energy efficient compared to a massive “kominka”.
Permaculture gives importance to ecological materials as much as the energy efficiency and this tea house represent a good balance of the two aspects (ecology and high performance).
Hamish is considering to use the tea-house as a guest house in the Permaculture project. “As a guest house it would be a beautiful gateway into a world of recycling and self-sustaining systems.” he says.
He is considering rebuilding the walls with natural clay mixed with momigara (grain chaffs), restoring not only the shape but also the authentic soul of the building.

Since the plan of the house will be modified, he is not going to reuse the roof tiles but the great news is that he is going to transplant as many trees as possible to Chiba prefecture!
All the stones and accessories in the garden and even the bamboo fence (!) are going to be transferred and reused as well.

In the end I think this solution will be great also for the owner. She will be able to visit the house easily and maybe also help with the design of the garden that she is so skilled at.
And I am looking forward to the “first tea served in the tea-room” after the reconstruction!

The house will be probably rebuilt in 2017 and I will keep you informed.
Meanwhile, visit the links below for additional pictures.
http://igg.me/at/teahouse
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.975630152515639.1073741832.168006413278021&type=3

Thank you everybody for your great support, encouragement and advice.

Feel free to add your comments here below. All the Best!

6 hours (and a miracle) can save the Fujisawa tea-house

It is now 5:56 am in japan and I am giving up the campaign to save (and enjoy!) the sukiya-zukuri tea house in Fujisawa.

In 3 days of indiegogo campaign I received: 2 Contributions, 498 Visits, 135 Referrals.

http://igg.me/at/teahouse
I know that many of you sent hundreds of mails to spread the voice, and I commend you for all your advice and help.
I converted to cash my life insurance policy to have the funds to sign the contract tomorrow but the there is not a solid option to bring the project to completion.

The house will not be touched until 2/10 but we will not have time to organize the meetings required and to meet the deadline offered by the new ownership.
They may accept a lump sum to buy some time but of course there is no guarantee they would consider such an option alltogether.
Besided, if I could not realize the project with so many interested and proactive prospects (like this time), it is not likely that 13 days will change the final result.

Time is running out and I have to take the hard decision.
There is no point to bring all the parties to the meeting tomorrow so I will call everybody (the contractor, the new owner, the old owner, the shipping company) at 12:00 JST.

Said this, my mind is repeating an italian saying: “la speranza e` l`ultima a morire”
(lit. translation: hope is the last to die)

If you have one more idea, one more contact to propose this project, please do it now.
The short link to the campaign is:

http://igg.me/at/teahouse

Thank you for everything!

short update about heritage building relocation projects

I hope you had a great start of 2016.

Please note:

  1. starting new homepage dedicated to relocation projects:
    Sorry, I am a little behind. It has been very busy and I am giving priority to the matching for the tea house since we do not have much time.
    I will keep you posted. I am still in doubt about the naming of the new activity. I am undecided between “re-heritage.org” and “save-japan.org”
    I would be grateful to hear your opinion once again.
  2. temple: the owner/priest is now busy alienating another property and it is better not to mix the two topics as she could get confused. The religious association will cease to exist around mid of january. The closing for the other property will be at the end of february so I am planning to proceed with the site inspection and quotation in the beginning of march 2016.
  3. tea house: I uploaded some pictures and videos.

Video (here below)

Please let me know if you are interested in adopting the tea house.
Demolition work must start at the end of january.

All the Best//

iacopo torrini

demolition cost quotation about the fujisawa tea house

Here is the quotation for the demolition.
I added below in red the costs which are not included in the above.

Here is a schematic plan of the building.

click here for an aerial view of the site

Please refer to the previous entries on this topic for more details.
Contact me asap if interested because I will will not be able to commit to the demolition company without an official backing.

contact iacopo -> japanbartokdesign.com

Last rush to save the fujisawa teahouse.

This is an update about the tea-house relocation project.
The land will be sold at the end of january and the new owner is planning to demolish the building and garden.

DEMOLITION SCHEDULE:

january – 1st week: I will go on site to meet the old owner and new owner. (I will also take detailed pictures and measurements of the building) january – 2nd week: I will need the decision and commitment from the perspective foster-owner january – 3rd week: we will start demolition. (I am already in touch with two specialized companies)

COST: from 4 to 6 million yen (36,000 USD ~ 50,000 USD)
Of course the more detailed is the demolition (to reuse also roof riles, flooring planks, ceiling framing etc.) the higher the demolition cost. Anyway this will result in a more original building and enable savings in the construction phase.

The demolition will take about 4 weeks and I am planning to obtain the approval from the new owner by convincing him he will save the money and time for the demolition anyway.

SHIPPING SCHEDULE:

to avoid storage fees, I am planning to load all the material directly on containers so we would be ready for shipping as soon as end of february. Ocean freight takes about 1-2 months according to the destination. I think one 40′ container should be enough but considering also items from the garden and to stay on the safe side, I am computing 2 containers, drayage and devanning. COST: 2 million yen (17,000 USD)

CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULE:

Construction would take about 5 months (if it was done in japan). According to local legislations / construction methods / availability of manpower and materials it may take more.

The company doing the demolition is also available to go abroad to coordinate the construction! I think that there are 3 options:
1) bring all the craftsmen from japan
2) provide one experienced carpenter to instruct/supervise and use local workers.
3) a mix of the two options above.

COST: from 20 to 25 million yen (170,000 USD ~ 210,000 USD)

In both cases, I would travel together with the contractor principal about once a month (five times) to coordinate the work.

COST: about 2 million yen (17,000 USD) + airplane tickets

Please contact me by email at japan@bartokdesign.com if interested.
TOTAL COST: about 35 million yen (300,000 USD) + reinbursable expenses

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