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find your “love at first sight BELT” on indiegogo!

With smartbiz we are finally free from the neckties but at the same time with less space to express our individuality.
This is one of the reasons behind the project to develop men`s belts from high quality silk & gold nishijin ori kimono fabric.

jump to igg.me/at/kimono-belts to learn more about the why and how of this project and choose your “love at first sight” Shu-Ha-Ri kimono belt!


server problem

We experienced a server problem that brought the homepage offline for almost 48 hours, from June 9th to June 10th.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Please report to us any remaining problems such as missing photos, broken links etc.

Thank you for your cooperation.

new product: hinoki kumiko beds!

It finally happened!
After relaxing in a hinoki bath, now you can relax for the rest of the night in a hinoki bed! ☆彡

Another fruit of the collaboration with Murayama-sensei: here is … the kumiko bed!

For the time being, we have 2 sizes available (queen and single)

Both are available in the following versions:
1) as a full bed including frame (no mattress)
2) bed head only (the type commonly used in hotels)

The bed can be lit from behind (but no electrical fixtures are included from our side)

For sizes/prices/design options, check our product page:


art auction in Tokyo (4/29@11:00 JST)

This is an out-of-the-ordinary announcement and I hope that also those not interested will forgive me for the intrusion.

I was invited at the preview of an art auction on a part of the private collection of Mr. Ise, president of “Ise foods” and legendary 94 years old entrepreneur who is leader in the market of poultry and eggs in several countries (Japan, USA, Singapore, HK, and other south Asian countries)

There would be many things I would like to share with you about this extraordinary experience, anyway the urgent information I would like to transmit for your reference is that the auction will take place on Saturday 29th from 11:00 JST.

Apart for a painting of Marc Chagall, Renoir, and other giants, there are several amazing Japanese folding screens, rolls, and other pieces of Japanese art.
I have the feeling that especially these are underpriced, but also the Western art masterpieces may be really good deals also because of the weak yen.

Apparently, there is also the possibility to join the auction online.

Please check more photos at the link below.


Even if this news is not directly hinoki bath related, many of our driends at bartok design are art lovers and collectors and, while I do not have personally the expertize to assess the value of the items in the action, I felt it is a valuable information also for the level of the other guests that attended the evening.

Let me know if you need any help or additional info.



waiting for you at the Ko-minka summit

happy Easter from Japan!

Just a note to let you know that also this year I will participate to the Ko-minka summit (this year near Nagoya)

I hope to see you there and for all who cannot make it to Japan, I will post photos and videos of the event.

Minka Summit 2023

Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd April

Buy tickets

Following the success of the first Minka Summit, we are delighted to announce that our 2023 event will be held at the Aichi Prefectural Citizens’ Forest in Shinishiro.

Minka Summit 2023 will include presentations, panel discussions, workshops, tours of local minka houses, our famous “Minka Mall”, meet & greets and keynote dinners – and plenty of opportunities to talk about all things minka.

Language support will be offered in English and Japanese.


february 2023 newsletter

happy Valentine from Japan!

Well, it is not the love that you think… (;゚Д゚) … anyway, for sure a feeling of profound respect and enthusiasm to work together blossomed among us…(⋈◍>◡<◍)。✧♡

And receiving the mandate to distribute Shinichi Murayama`s amazing KUMIKO shoji products WORLDWIDE is even better than a box of choccolate candy hearts!!!


Collaboration with Shinichi Murayama

A common friend introduced me to a genial wood craftsman from Western Kyoto…
And it was love at first sight!

Bartok design Japan Co. will be the official distributor for the products of Murayama Mokko worldwide!
-> to the shop page

Shinichi Maruyama is specialized in the “Kumiko” technique which is used to create shoji and other traditional interior items. (See below for more details)
But Maruyama-sensei pushed the technique towards new unimaginable horizons with curved kumiko, three-dimensional kumiko, and stunning interiors for leading hotels such as Ritz Carlton, Prince Hotel, ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, FAUCHON L’Hotel, and others.


december 2022 newsletter

yoi o-toshi wo o-mukae kudasai!

The phrase above is used towards the end of the year to wish a “good approach to the new year”, while once entered in 2023, “shin-nen akemashite omedetou gozaimasu” is used, which means: “the new year started to shine, congratulations”
In any case, everything that has a start will also have an end.
But the end is also the launching pad for a new start!
And we wish that 2023, the year of the rabbit will make you jump into wonderful new stories, new experiences, and maybe also in a new ofuro!

(You can scroll towards the end of this email to see my rabbit-themed proposal for the “haiku-yu” model with ceramic plates made by Nanzan Itoh)


september 2022 newsletter

HAIKU-YU pre-release (for your eyes only!)

(use this link to open a zoomable version of this image)

Well,  it is my habit to weave the backstage stories into my messages to slowly add the strokes that complete the picture and provide you not only with the news but also with the process and the emotions behind it.
Anyway, this time is different.

I am impatient and overwhelmed to announce a new, ofuro model.
Simple, yet revolutionary!

As you can see from the image above, it originates from the collaboration between hinoki wood and the ceramic works of Itoh Nanzan, a 4th generation Kyoto ceramist.
You can see his skills in a video here (scroll down the page)

Nanzan-sensei will make limited series of ceramic plates to replace the copper “kugi-kakushi” of our Edo-style ofuros (with the copper plates detail)

To be honest I am wordless.
Why did it take me so long to come to this idea?!
It makes me feel ecstatic, thrilled, and also a little confused.
Is it an idea or more like a celestial download?

Let me explain more in detail why with the HAIKU-YU, the world will not be the same: the ceramic plates have a double magnet on the back side so they can be scrambled, mixed, or replaced to match a seasonal theme or a color scheme.This is probably the most fun thing that happened in my life!! and almost does not let me sleep at night! 

On top, consider that the HAIKU-YU ofuro comes with a hinoki tray and a sake set (one “tokkuri” pitcher and two “choko” cups or with matcha cups to savor the ofuro experience with the 5 senses.
But how about the 6th sense?
Please be patient, I am getting to it. As the name HAIKU-YU suggests,  all this is pure poetry. And you can also play with it!
A haiku is an impressionist type of short poem made by 17 syllables (5-7-5)
You probably heard the immortal Matsuo Basho verse:
“Furu ike ya – kawazu tobikomu – mizu no oto” – At the old pond, a frog junps in, sound of water. -As there are 18 ceramic plates, every composition can be read symbolically as a haiku poem which is completed by a plate with the monogram of Nanzan-sensei.As the tea ceremony master picks the decor and accessories to match the season, you can now choose the haiku that best fits the occasion – or your mood!

In the quest of the 7th sense…Well, sometimes less is more.
Some other times more is more!HAIKU-YU (YU stands both for “hot-water” and also for “you” – to remind you that – you – are empowered to customize your ofuro experience.
And as you can guess, the possibilities are limitless. 
A 12th-generation sake maker from Fushimi (Kyoto) already jumped into the project with a special formula, slightly sour sake that is like bread and butter with a steamy ofuro.
A ura-senke tea master and producer of rare “Kyo-Tanabe Gyokuro” tea is also excited to collaborate together. There is no rule that forbids to have a tea ceremony in a bathtub! 

Contact me by email if you want to know more about the HAIKU-YU.

I recommend a 1500mm long ofuro (fits 2) with thicker planks to avoid the need for the top frame border “kamachi” which would not fit well with the simple harmony of the colorful plates.

M-7) hinoki tub with 42mm planks: 970,000 JPY
 500L / 132 US gallon 1500L x 750W x 630H (D550) (59.1” x 29.5” x 24.8”)

hinoki tray: 30,000 JPY
one set of 18 plates: 220,000 JPY
one sake set with 2 cups: 110,000 JPY
one bottle of tsuki no katsura sake (since 1675): present

All the best and happy HAIKU-YU!
with love and enthusiasm//

from iacopo

june 2022 newsletter

Why are Japanese destroying their temples?

How are you? 
You may remember my appeal to find the right person to adopt a 150+year-old Kameyama temple:

photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/q9kDS2pQ3GcqppxXA
Well, the good news is that there is concrete interest from a party in Australia.
I cannot reveal the details now but I have a clear feeling the project is going to materialize.
The reason I am anticipating this “scoop” is that this could become an important precursor of more similar projects. Yes… the not so good news is that what is left over of the construction heritage in Japan is depleting quickly like snow under the sun.
Let alone the governmental policies to encourage demolition of unoccupied buildings, the hyperbolic depopulation of rural areas, and aggressive marketing of prefabricated house makers and governmental grants scavengers.

The next wave of demolitions is not going to spare even temples and shrines.
Actually, there is a weird cause triggering a trend of demolition of old temples all-over Japan and the Kameyama example is just the tip of the iceberg.
Let me explain.
Some temples are being demolished because of a decrease in the population of Buddhist priests or Shinto “guji” to take possession of the building. Sad but probably inevitable.

But what shocked me is that many temples are being demolished for the purpose of rebuilding a new ones. 
In rural Japan, the local families (danka) support their temple or shrine both with yearly donations but also with special crowdfunding for particular occasions such as repair of the building, additions, and reconstruction but also to cover expenses such as the wedding of the son of the priest, rebuilding of the house of the priest etc.

Needless to say that this system can be taken advantage of … and actually it is often abused by unethical priests. A rural family may be asked to pay a special contribution of 10,000 USD or even more to buy a house for the son of the priest. Unbelievable as it sounds, it was common sense in most rural Japan. Needless to say, the grip of traditions, moral burdens, and social customs do not affect the younger generations and the priests (both the greedy ones and the ones in good faith) understand that if they want to raise a large amount of money, they can only appeal to the 70, 80, 90 years old practitioners.
And every time there is a changing of the guard in the head of the families, the temple loses a sponsor.To cut a long story short: the priests understand that this is their last chance to plead for large donations, while the old guard is still alive…
The irony of the fate is that these Japan traditional social customs is now one of the causes of the destruction of the cultural heritage. 

As it is useless to cry over the poured milk, the question on the table is: 

What can we do to turn this tragedy into an opportunity?

Action 1:
I will try to use the Kameyama temple example to gain some visibility in Japan and find out about other submerged realities of temples on the verge of being destroyed and for which we can still propose an alternative plan. 

Action 2: 
I need help to spread the word, network, gather information about possible host locations for Japanese temples (and maybe also traditional houses).

Will you help me?
Often a local park or botanical garden can provide the space available to relocate the temple, and governmental authorities, local businesses, and art patron may raise their hand.
By giving a new caring home to a traditional Japanese building, your city may gain an extra feature that can bring tourism, cultural activities, media coverage, and new business opportunities.

Ride the cheap yen!

(I am sharing a photo kindly participated from M&M who purchased from us an ofuro back in 2005.
More info is available in the testimonials gallery)

Lumber had a cost increase at the beginning of 2022, after about 6 years of fixed prices. Shipping costs are now increasing on a monthly basis…

Nonetheless, this is probably the most convenient period to purchase an ofuro!
As you certainly know, the dollar and the euro exchange rate soared in the past 2-3 months and gained 20% or more on the Japanese Yen.
Experts say this trend is going to last for a few years but I think the biggest gains on monetary fluctuations can be made in the first period before all other economical factors came into play and balance the situation.

The message is: if you are considering buying an ofuro, NOW is the best moment \(^o^)/
Contact me for an updated quotation or for any questions!

 Let`s meet in NY in July!

Because of Covid, (and also because I am not vaccinated), in the past 2 years, I could not travel as I wished to…But I think it is now time to spread my wings again!
I will travel to NY from July 7th to July 14th.

I have a few meetings but I will have time to meet old and new friends. 
Please let me know if you are available and it will be great to get together for a coffee or a green tea!

One of the reasons I am traveling to the USA is a non-ofuro related business.
As an architect, I am now proposing projects that use artificial lagoons (kind of very large pools) to revitalize the rural and stranded property.

Too many of Japan`s 2500 golf courses are now being sold for a few pennies and becoming the prey of solar panel farms, land infills, dumps and other speculations to earn state subsidies.

And from the governmental side, it is shocking to see the huge rise of green field developments, useless industrial parks and “white elephant” projects despite the surge of vacant industrial and commercial land (brownfields).
The economical crisis is apparently the excuse to immolate well-preserved pieces of nature for the brutal … though useless pork-barrel type of developments.

 As an alternative, I aim at creating smart cities, retirement communities, and resorts that can sacrifice a small piece of nature in exchange of large economic output, local employment, and a lifestyle that can ensure more contact with nature while respecting it.

One of the most ambitious projects is to create a smart city in the Kyushu region,
10 Km from Oita airport that – with its 3.0Km long runaway – is not only a convenient hub for transportation but is also a candidate for the space industry with collaborations with Virgin and Sierra Space.

If interested you can watch this video: https://youtu.be/H3gfMfKrAiI

Please let me know if:
1) You have an interest in investing in smart real estate projects in Japan
2) You have a way to connect me to “Virgin Orbit” or “Sierra Space” companies

I know that this is not the most proper vehicle for this type of information but as my favorite motto says: “give life a chance”!

Have a wonderful summer and … I hope to meet you in NY (or in Japan)!

All the Best//iacopo

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