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Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum

I am dedicating this post to my friend Anke who is an architect like me and I am sure would love the architecture and displays of this museum.

Takenaka Komuten Co. is one of the most famous “super-general contractors” in Japan, having built the Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Dome Stadium as well as other major airports, public buildings, skyscrapers.
Being founded in 1603 it is definitely the oldest of the “big 5” general contractors (with Obayashi, Kajima, Shimizu, and Taisei)
After the WW2, when Japan was exposed to power tools, reinforced concrete and steel frame construction, Takenaka felt the need to preserve the heritage and the memory of the glorious japanese timber frame construction techniques and culture and founded this “Tools Museum”
https://www.dougukan.jp/information?lang=en

It was transferred 7 years ago to an idyllic location just a few minutes away from the shinkansen “Shin Kobe” station making it easy to visit even if you have to make a detour. I am telling you: it is definitely worth a visit and after having a clear understanding about japanese construction culture and details you will appreciate much more your visits to the temples in Nara or Kyoto.

The beautiful high-tech and warmly handmade building by Takenaka Komuten is a must-see in itself, featuring maniac woodworking details, huge glass openings framing the luxurious green and the plasterwork of the master Akira Kusumi.

Big news within the news: I will be offering a guided tour of the museum in english for visitors coming to Kobe on a cruise. The organizer is JTB the tour operator and at present we are looking at a schedule of about once a month starting in january 2020.
For this purpose I was showed around by the museum director himself: wonderful man formerly member of the design section of Takenaka Komuten. I took some 224 pictures and I would like to share them with you hoping they can provide a good enough excuse to bring you to Kobe.
I am not going to share all of the 220+shots, but they will still be too many for a normal blog post. I will try to use a photo gallery plugin hoping it works. Please let me know of any usability or compatibility problem.

information about the location and opening hours, please visit the museum homepage: https://www.dougukan.jp/information?lang=en

ancient artworks

In the past year I have been developing a friendly relationship with Mr. Kitayama: an art collector and art broker from Kyoto.
He has amazing pieces and he would be interested to know foreign art collectors interested in purchasing/trading. Of course he is very cautious but he agreed to this blog post. I hope I can act as a bridge between him and western collectors who can appreciate his pieces.

Most of the information is confidential but he allowed me to publish here 3 photos just to explain the type of items he can offer.

He has many Buddha statues. One even from the Nara Period, with some minor fire damage (but I could not publish the photo). Some statues are slightly unfinished and were never displayed. Also I saw many photos of kakejiku scrolls, byobu screens ceiling decorative panels etc. from the Muromachi period (XIV century) to the Edo period (XIX century)

The reality is that most japanese art collectors are now very elderly.
Their heirs are not interested in those pieces and they are scared at the thought that their jewels could be sold in bulk to some Chinese trader for 1/10 of the value.

His network includes many owners of collections of hundreds of baroque violins, french impressionist paintings and ancient chinese porcelain.
Of course, I cannot swear on the originality of every item but I have trust in Mr. Kitayama and know of too many scrolls and porcelain thrown in the dump together with the debris of the house after the owner passes away.

He does not have an homepage and most of the items are hidden in “kura” buried among old furniture and cardboard boxes. For those interested, please contact me by email.

ofuro details page

We are ready to proceed with the tub but have a few more questions. Does it need a copper apron? What’s the iron for? What are the dowels? Will it survive out doors in NYC Acid rain etc?

Please note:
1) apron:
https://bartokdesign.com/5-tub_details/hinoki_bath_details_shape_and.php

we can provide both copper apron and oil treatment for the tub bottom.
Copper makes it very resilient also as per the english saying…
https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/copper-bottomed.html

2) iron brand:
This is our logomark applied with a hot-seal.
https://bartokdesign.com/5-tub_details/hinoki_bath_details_drain_and.php
If you prefer we can omit it.

3) dowels:
they are wood pegs to conceal the stainless steel screws that reinforce the corners.
https://bartokdesign.com/5-tub_details/hinoki_bath_details_drain_and.php

4) outdoors use:
please purchase a custom made thermal cover in the US.
The ofuro needs to be protected while not in use not just from the acid rain but especially from direct sunlight exposure.
When the ofuro is full of water there is no problem, but while it is empty it is vulnerable to dehydration which may lead to dryness damage and cracks.

Please refer to the INFO -> DETAILS AND OPTIONS menu for a comprehensive list of our standard details and feel free to contact me for any other question or problem.

durability of different woods

I was told that sawara has poor durability compared to hinoki and kouyamaki is better durability,… can you clarify? which is better for longevity and mold resistance and cracking?
Hinoki contains more aromatic oil than sawara so in a test environment it can be said that it is more resistant… Anyway the secret to have a long lasting ofuro is love and care. Like a nice pair of leather shoes: it is smart to prevent problems with a constant even if easy maintenance. In case you need to repair a problem it will be costly and time consuming and you will never be able to restore the original condition 100%. It does not matter too much which type of wood you use. Just avoid contact with soap and dry condition. And ventilate well to avoid mold. It is that simple.

about aggregated shipping

I have been waiting for several years now to decide whether to completely renovate our ensuite bathroom, or if it’s not worth it because we are considering selling our house and moving. When I saw the dimensions of this tub I realised there was no need to wait, it will fit in the existing bathroom, and if we move we can take it with us.


With regard to shipping, I am not in a hurry, therefore I would be happy to wait until you have several customers in Australia, or for whatever method you recommend as the most cost effective.

Dear A.
I am glad you understood the spirit of the japanese wooden tubs. Yes! they are modular, light weight and portable. Of course you can move it to your next house or you can even enjoy baths on the terrace or out in the garden in the good season just by lifting it up and taking it outside!

About the aggregated shipping, unfortunately it is very difficult to match the schedule with another client in your area.
It sometimes happens that some friends decide to purchase products from us together.
In this case we can make a unique shipment and the local forwarder can deliver them separately as needed.

But for air freight shipping (which is the most convenient option for 1 or 2 tubs) the cost is proportional to the volume, so the shipping rate does not vary so much depending on if you are shipping the tubs together or not.

In any case, please wait few days for our all inclusive quotation and then we can start from there to decide how to proceed.

Off the beaten track Japan

Naegi Castle Ruins (Nakasendo Trail area Gifu / Nagano)

We’re huge fans of this beautiful country. Japan has so much to offer, from gorgeous scenery to historical places to stunning centuries-old temples. You could spend decades here and not see everything (as we can attest to).

Unfortunately, like many places around the world, Japan suffers from a new phenomenon, overtourism.


Overtourism describes destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably.

https://responsibletourismpartnership.org/overtourism/

If you’re like us then you probably don’t love crowded places and you definitely don’t want to experience first-hand the devastation caused by overtourism (litter, graffiti and a general disrespect for the place).

But at the same time you have a bucket list with things on it. We get it, you want to see Kinkaku-ji and the Great Buddha or Todai-ji.

A photo at Fushimi-Inari-Taisha … would be epic but did you know there is an even better place to see these iconic red tori gates? Motonosumi Inari Jinja is “an impressive sight” in a beautiful location, in Yamaguchi prefecture.

Bartok design fans tell us they love Japanese architecture. While you are in Yamaguchi you must visit the Kintaikyo Bridge it is “quintessentially Japanese”.

And we all know that one of the BEST things to do while in Japan is visit an onsen hotspring. Check out these off-the-beaten-track places: JNTO onsen recommendations. Our friends in Beppu speak highly of the new Intercontinental hotel there. Oita is full of more budget-friendly places too. We wrote about that.

The Japanese Tourism promotion board is serious about welcoming wonderful people of the world to this fine country but also wants you to enjoy your trip and not have to deal with the negatives of overtourism. They’ve created this whole website for just that. We love their categories: Onsen & spa, Meditation & mindfulness … our suitcases are packed if JNTO wants us to visit 🙂

Post towns in Magome and Tsumago are wonderful: Nakasendo Trail, Gifu / Nagano
Nakasendo



The team here at Bartok design love off the beaten path destinations in Japan. This past year we visited the Kumano Kodo sacred pilgrimage trails and the historical Nakasendo Trail. Check out our blog posts about these trips.

Tell us where you are planning to visit and why you chose that location? We’d love to hear more. If you post to Instagram tag us so we can share snippets of your trip to Japan!

Sustainability and the Japanese ofuro bathtub

Hinoki forest of Japan
The great hinoki forests of Japan’s Kiso Valley

In a world where it is as easy as a click of a button to start the process of a bathroom renovation, it’s equally easy to overlook where the products you’re using were sourced from and where the products you will dispose of actually end up.

It’s important to us that you know your Bartok design, wooden Japanese bathtub comes from sustainable resources and is ultimately a biodegradable item at the end of its lifecycle.

Japan is only a small country, roughly the size of the state of California. With its huge population of 120 million people, would it surprise you to learn that Japan is almost 70% covered in trees?

With such massive forests and few other natural resources, it is no surprise that trees and the wood they provide have an important place in history. Wood is the main building material used in the construction of houses, buildings and religious buildings such as temples.

Historically the five trees of Kiso were most prized. Hinoki, the king of trees, was reserved for use by nobility. Whole mountains were claimed as the property of feudal leaders and of temples in order that the wood needed for new construction and repairs would always be available.  

Starting in 1600s Japan began to view theses natural resources as worth caring for and conserving, mainly at the behest of a conservation-minded feudal lord. Huge swathes of forest were designated as national parks and native species came under the protection of the lord (with severe penalties for illegal felling or even gathering wood from the forests).

We note that this is way ahead of other civilisations!

Wood remains an important material in Japan and is also viewed globally as being a sustainable material. 

Of course, there is an economic motivation behind this as well as a conservation perspective. In any country, forests provide a source of income for rural areas. Our operation at Bartok design is made up of several smaller companies each taking a role in bringing your bath to you. Your purchase enables us to continue supporting our local artisans and craftsmen.

The hinoki (and other native wood) we use in the construction of our Japanese soaking tubs is generally from ancient forests. The trees are between 250 to 300 years old. Understandably we need to be careful not to overuse these ancient woods so we trust our lumberyard partners to abide by the regulations that govern the use of this wood. In most cases, as part of a healthy forest management program trees of this age either fall naturally or are part of the cull to ensure the maximum health of the surrounding trees and healthy undergrowth, which contributes to overall biodiversity in the forest.

Trees prevent soil erosion and landslides. Trees help maintain a clean supply of water, sequester carbon and produce oxygen. It’s been said that an initiative to plant just 10 million trees on earth would offset global warming in a major way.

We recognise the role wood manufacturers that play. Governing bodies accept the responsibility they have in offsetting climate change and global warming but at the same time, without a market for the wood that is grown, it’s hard to convince the private sector to take part.

When you buy a genuine Japanese wooden ofuro you can rest assured that the wood has been sustainably managed over its growing period, right through to how it was harvested and processed.

You are adding a thing of beauty to your home and are adding one less chemically derived product to the world. Bartok design ofuro are not varnished or lacquered so we do not use any unnecessary chemicals in the manufacturing process. Your ofuro will continue to breathe in your home, absorbing moisture and toxins from the air. Read more about our wood here.

Properly cared for your bath will last ten, twenty or even thirty years. When you’re finished with it you can safely recycle it into firewood or feed the pieces into a wood chipper to create mulch for your garden. The whole bath could become a planter for herbs in your garden. It’s a full circle environmentally safe product.

If sustainability is important to you then get in touch today to start designing your wooden ofuro soaking tub.

0 size – outlet tub – SOLD OUT

(sorry, sold out)

As the famous movie title goes “Some like it hot”.
Some like it “large”, some like it “small”.
At Bartok design we produce custom made ofuros without the “custom made” option cost!
Said that our most convenient deals are of course in the “outlet tub” corner.
Immaculate brand new, never used ofuros either resulting from clients changing their mind or produced in between orders thus optimizing the costs beyond the reasonable.

In the case of outlet ofuros, of course, you cannot change the size but who knows: sometimes the perfect match comes as a gift from the destiny!

Some like it curvy like Sofia Loren who stated: “everything you see I owe it to pasta”. Some like it minimal like Kate Moss and the contrast between the minuteness of her body and the depth of her eyes.

This outlet tub is definitely the Kate Moss type. It uses the most refined hinoki lumber, has a very compact size but is deep inside: offering a perfect comfort even in a tiny bathroom space. The quintessential 0 size!

(more…)

The power of scent

When asked to smell a piece of hinoki wood many Japanese people appear to be transported back to childhood or to a happy memory in their lives of being with family at an onsen resort or visiting grandparents.

In this video, Iacopo hit the streets to ask people for their impressions of our Hinoki Essential Oil.

A new study has shown that people feel more energized when smelling citrusy scents. Productivity increases by up to 54% according to a Japanese study.


Our interviewees overwhelmingly said they felt relaxed and they all smiled when they smelt the oil = Happiness!

There is research underway in many areas of neurology including studies into Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment, mental health, workplace happiness, the list goes on.

We’ve provided hinoki bathtubs for eldercare homes. The combination of the scent, the buoyant quality of the water and the improved circulation from being in hot water all contribute to overall health in the elderly, especially on brain function and memory.

From our own personal informal research, we have heard from our clients that the presence of a hinoki bathtub in the home emits a sense of calm and happiness. Guests will note the fresh smell when they enter the home — these are benefits without even soaking in the tub which has endless positive effects.

At Bartok design, we can build baths of all shapes and sizes, from a variety of native wood. In order to elicit maximum benefit for your olfactory system, we recommend hinoki. Sawara and asnaro are closely related scent and appearance-wise. We also supply our own 100% pure hinoki essential oil.

Pocket Onsen Set with Two Oils

None of our wood is varnished or coated which means it continues to absorb moisture and give off its scent, it contracts and expands depending on the air around it. Wood in this natural state contributes to healthy air in the home. It actually absorbs and filters toxins, according to some studies.

We’ve compiled this article from a number of sources. Check the Global Wellness Summit page for more references.

Get in touch with us directly if you would like more information about Japanese soaking tubs and health benefits.

the True Heart of Japan

via VMG hotel management group, Nipponia Hotels Japan

Sometimes a name keeps popping up that intrigues you but doesn’t register on a deeper level. Such is the case for the word or name Nipponia. I first came across the Nipponia Hotel in Kushimoto, Wakayama. One of the newest hotels in the chain, it’s not quite on the radar yet – watch this space!

We’re huge fans of Wakayama with a couple of our own projects in the area.

With the name Nipponia coming up more and more often I started to do some research. I immediately fell in love with the concept of this hotel group and I think you will love it too.

You may not know that Japan is in the grips of a crisis that shows no signs of abating. The problem is that of the ageing population, with 30% or more people over the age of 60. Another problem that exacerbates this is rural-urban migration. Japan is littered with small rural towns barely eeking out an existence after jobs dried up and young people moved to seek work in cities like Tokyo or Osaka.

via http://www.nipponia-takehara.com/

Enter companies like Nipponia

(parent company VMG)

“… creates tourism demand through the use of old houses in Kushimoto-Cho, Higashinada-gun promotes exchanges utilizing the rich nature and food of Kushimoto-Cho and makes use of local resources for income or employment. The purpose is to make efforts to increase the number of people and to revitalize the region”

Nipponia Hotels are being developed right across Japan with a keen eye towards nostalgic stays and memory-creating experiences. Traditional homes and buildings are lovingly converted into hotels and restaurants, preserving as much of the history as possible to retain the unique charm of the era and the area.

We think a couple of months stay in Japan should be enough time to experience each of these rich historical areas. We’ve created an itinerary for you. This is an unbiased, non-sponsored post. We just love the concept and want to share it with you. With most of their resources in Japanese, it’s hard to discover these gems by yourself.


First stay near Tokyo

Start your adventure in Tokyo, flying into Narita or Haneda.

Your first hotel is:

佐原商家町ホテル NIPPONIA / Nipponia Sawara (link)

Nipponia Sawara

The merchant town Edo Experience, staying amid the 600-year history of Sawara.

Merchant town Sawara, which flourished by taking advantage of water transportation on the Tone River in the Edo period, has been designated as one of the Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings, and the Sawara Festival, which has been held since the Edo period, has been registered as UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Sawara Merchant Town Hotel NIPPONIA portrays Sawara town as a single hotel with buildings, including at least one merchant home built more than 200 years ago, in various parts of the city.
The atmosphere of Edo, which has been lost in Tokyo through the changing times, remains fresh and alive here in Sawara, with nostalgic but fresh spectacles appearing before your eyes. As you stroll through town with a fresh breeze blowing, imagine the history of Sawara and experience the culture of this living merchant town.

VMG group

Next stop, Nara

You’ll make your way west to Nara (by train) where you will stay at the:

NIPPONIA HOTEL 奈良 ならまち / Nipponia Naramachi (link)

Nipponia Naramachi

Experience the charm of sake and the ancient capital in Nara, the birthplace of sake.

Nara is said to be the first place in Japan where sake was brewed using rice. Realizing the concept of a “sake hotel,” NIPPONIA HOTEL Naramachi stands in the Naramachi area in the former grounds of Gangoji Temple, in a precinct that retains distinct townscapes from the Edo to Taisho periods.
In line with this concept, the hotel was renovated from a grand traditional residence and the former brewery of the Toyosawa Shuzou company, which was founded in the Meiji period. Dine at a counter in the hotel’s Restaurant Le Un in a space renovated from the former doma earthen floor part of the residence. The restaurant has an extensive cellar, including rare sakes exclusive to Restaurant Le Un and raw sakes delivered directly from Nara Toyosawa Shuzou. Enjoy to your heart’s content the pleasure of pairing sakes with dishes highlighting the local produce of Nara.

Saseyama Area

Bypassing Osaka, you will head directly to your next destination (again by train):

福住宿場町ホテル NIPPONIA / Nipponia Fukusumi
(link)
OR
篠山城下町ホテル NIPPONIA/ Nipponia Saseyama
(link)


Nipponia Saseyama

Northern Hyogo

Heading further into northern Hyogo prefecture, towards the sea you’ll stay in a slightly different place:

オーベルジュ豊岡1925 / Auberge Toyooka 1925
(link)

Auberge Toyooka

A town-center auberge located in the center of Toyooka.

Auberge Toyooka 1925 was renovated from the building used as the Toyooka Branch of the Hyogo Prefectural Agricultural and Industrial Bank (formerly Toyooka City Hall Southern Building). It is now modernization heritage designated a National Registered Tangible Cultural Property.
Offers rooms designed to preserve the modern architecture of the early Showa period, and French cuisine prepared from local produce. The hotel also has a sweets shop and a bar.
Get in touch with the history of Toyooka at Nakajima Jinja Shrine, which enshrines the sweets deity Tajimamorinomikoto and is not far away. Tsuiyama fishing port is close, so guests can enjoy the delights of seafood from the Sea of Japan, while the fertile soil has also made famous such brand produce as Tajima Beef, Kasumi Crabs, and Kounotori Rice. One of the best parts of your stay will be to stretch your wings and do a tour of the hot springs at Kinosaki Onsen. We hope you enjoy a relaxing time.

Western Japan

Your journey continues to take you west, this time to:

NIPPONIA HOTEL 竹原塩田町 / Nipponia Takehara
(link)

Hotel Takehara

Relive the days of the “Hama-danna” in Takehara, made prosperous by the bounty of Setouchi, salt, and sake.

Takehara is a salt town that retains the beautiful townscapes of olden times when the salt industry flourished. The splendid residence of the wealthy salt farm owners, known as the “Hama-danna” (“salt magnates”), sits at the heart of the townscape today. Their scholarly attainments were extensive, they had very discerning tastes in food, and now Takehara’s food culture thrives. Thanks to the Hama-danna, the town has an extensive historical legacy of development.
NIPPONIA HOTEL Takehara Salt Farm Town lets you experience the life and culture of the Hama-danna. Superior local sake made by 3 long-established sake breweries established more than 150 years ago. Produce such as seafood, citrus, and olives nurtured in the mild climate of Setouchi. Expand your gourmet horizons by combining a variety of sakes and produce with the different tastes of salts from different areas made using different methods.
Experience a journey of new discoveries through the cultivated lifestyles of the Hama-danna in a city that retains this culture.

Kyushu?!

If you think you will make it as far as Kyushu (why not?!!) then the last in the chain is:

HOTEL CULTIA 太宰府 / Nipponia Dazaifu / Hotel Cultia
(link)

What do you think?

What an incredible tour of the pockets of Japan. Let us know which ones you plan to visit. You could take advantage of a Japan Rail Pass for this trip!

See the entire list here on Google Maps and you’ll see how much of Japan’s magnificent landscape and history you can experience:

https://goo.gl/maps/42VW9iuDSzh5x7Nk7

Post by Bartok design team member Jacqui

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