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The Cat’s Pajamas

Our customer James sent us a fun video of his cat contemplating diving in for a soak in the ofuro. Thanks for the giggle James! Ofuro fun for the whole family. You can see it over on our Facebook page. It’s a beautiful bath, so tranquil.

Send us your pics! We love them!! japan(at)bartokdesign.com is our email address.


https://www.facebook.com/japanese.ofuro/videos/2273150919622731/

Photo credit: Photos generously provided by James Reinke

Wandering the Nakasendo

According to the newspaper it’s popular among tourists to hike the Nakasendo trail between Magome and Tsumago post towns. We opted for the easy way – rented a car. But still, the views were stunning and having a car afforded us the opportunity to see more than just the trail towns.

The Nakasendo is an ancient foot highway that connected Tokyo (or Edo as it was known then) with the rest of Japan to the west. Follow the whole road and you will eventually arrive in Kyoto. It dates back to the 1700s.

Our interest in this area stems from two things: we enjoy learning about and appreciating Japanese history; and we are enamoured with the forests of Japan. The portion of the Nakasendo which is best preserved is in a geographic area called the Kiso Valley. In this area you will see the massive forests of conifer trees, Japanese hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa), sawara (Chamaecyparis pisifera ). These are just two of the Five Sacred Trees of Kiso which are favoured by bathmakers.

We started our trip in Nagoya, which is centrally located between Osaka and Tokyo. It made a convenient meeting point for our party of three. Getting an early start towards Gifu prefecture was made easier for being only an hour or so away.

Day One

We took an express train from Nagoya station to Ena station. We had arranged to pick up our car from Ena. The map showed where the rental place was but we were not sure if it was walkable or a taxi was a better idea. Calling into the Ena Tourist Information centre gave us our answer (taxi) and a whole host of other information.

Following the advice of the Tourist Info Centre, we spent the morning walking along a part of the Nakasendo that isn’t as well preserved as what we would later see, but still a nice stroll with enough interesting facts to get us excited about the rest of the trip.

After lunch, we took in the view from the Shinonomeo Bridge, which overlooks the Kiso River. With free parking nearby and quite an elevation, this was a great tidbit to learn.

You can see how high we were because look at the tiny car on the right! And this was our first glimpse at the forests!

Shinonomeo Bridge
Overlooking the Kiso River

Our next stop was the ruins of the Naegi Castle. This time we were immersed in the forests and got to experience the feeling of shinrin yoku briefly (forest bathing), although being a public holiday it was busier than usual.

The short hike from the carpark was worth it. Look at the views over the Kiso Valley! Look at the trees!

Day Two

The first post town of significance we visited was the beautifully preserved Magome Juku.

Magome Juku – these homes are between 100 and 300 years old
Magome Juku on the Nakasendo in Gifu Prefecture
A souvenir shop on the Nakasendo
It’s not a long hike between the post towns – this was about halfway, near the Odaki Waterfalls

Our next stop was Tsumago Juku. One of our favourite places was the old school – built from wood of course! It closed in the late nineties.

Kyu Nagisocho Tachitsumagosho School
Kyu Nagisocho Tachitsumagosho School
Each building and shop is decorated with flowers

A lot of effort has gone into preserving this area and piece of Japanese history. According to Wikipedia the area prospered until a major vehicle highway in the area bypassed the towns. Facing demise and economic ruin a few of the towns’ forefathers elected to renovate the old houses and buildings. In 1987 the central government granted them historic status.

This whole area is fascinating especially if you’ve come to Japan and are hoping to see some history but are feeling overwhelmed by the number of temples and shrines. The Nakasendo / Kiso Valley area is very much a piece of history with roots in commercialism – the trade routes of Japan. It makes for a nice change of pace because it’s more recent history than the temples which date back thousands of years. It’s actually possible to imagine walking along these routes, stopping for a night in a ryokan inn, grabbing a plate of local soba. I highly recommend you visit!

Sacred Trees of Kiso Valley

In my next post I will talk more about the trees, forests and how important they are both now and then, to the ofuro makers, such as Bartok design.

If you are interested in tracing our route please take a look at the custom map I created on Google maps of our stops. I am more than happy to give more information on anything. -Jacqui (Bartok design team member)

https://goo.gl/maps/wv9v81eWKyu5bu9x8

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.


Bringing water to the desert

Airport shuttle bus all to myself
A limousine bus to myself!

This weekend I will be at The Hotel Show at the Dubai Trade Center bringing some much-needed ? onsen water to the desert! As I mentioned in my last post I am jumping all in to explore the b2b side of things. Orders have been increasing from hotels, bars, restaurants and spas so I thought I should come to answer all the questions about japanese ofuro in person.

You might know that our area of Japan was hit by a super-typhoon (tropical storm) a couple of weeks ago. So many flights were cancelled after the bridge to the airport was damaged as well as some flooding of the airport. It is happy for me that the shuttle bus was empty and I could enjoy a beautiful sunset as I take off from Osaka, Kansai Airport. The airport is only just resuming flights so I am very lucky.

See you on the other side! Come and say hi if you are at the Hotel Show too.

sunset over Osaka Bay
Sunset over Osaka Bay

“moon shaped tub” crowdfunding campaign

I spoke about this project with some friends back in january.

They have been contacting me regularly for updates.

I finally squeezed in the 3-4 days necessary to prepare the material and launch it online….

ladies and gentlemen, the crowdfunding campaign for a new generation of hinoki bathtubs is alive!

https://igg.me/at/moon-shaped-bathub

tsukiburo-banner640wide  They are curvy and sexy, they are cutting edge, they are hand-made. Here is the beginning of the new “KAKEHASHI” collection!

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

new prices for the bath accessories

I would like to call your attention on 2 changes in our lineup of japanese bathroom accessories:

1) the design of the ladle (small bucket with handle) was updated with the use of a braided wire.
This gives more stability even if it makes the look different from the large bucket which still has the flat copper bands. On the other hand, the new ladle coordinates with the round foot bath.oke-hi2

2) there will be few adjustments (prices increases) in the accessories due to the cost increase of the stools and new pricing categories of the EMS Japan post service.
Please find the new prices below.
170601-hinoki-bath-accessories-pricelist
This new price list will be effective from june,1 2017 so if you are ready to buy some accessories, I recommend to place the order by 5/31.
The shopping cart will be updated with the new prices on 6/1 at 0:00 JST

rural kabuki in Kobe

Today I went to the gorgeous Minatogawa Shrine in Kobe.
The building was rebuilt in reinforced concrete as many other examples thru-out the country but the balance, its setting in the green in the center of Kobe always gives me a sensation of wellbeing. Incidentally, here is where I got married, 15 years ago… but this is a different story…

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This time I was not a normal visitor: I came to participate to a casual festival as a … Kabuki actor!
Actually I have been impersonating the character “Nango Rikimaru” from the play “Shiranami go nin otoko” for over 18 years!
It all started when I visited a traditional festival and forgot on the ground my note-book.
It was promptly returned to me and one year later I was recruited to be on stage!

Nouson-kabuki (rural kabuki) is a standard (or maybe I should use the past tense) of local festivals and the amateur actors (in the past mostly peasants) were dressing up and making up their face to entertain the community.

CIMG6265 20170525_175143

The five characters are thieves that are surrounded by the police and are giving their testaments before the final fight. Some of them had noble origins, some of them are played as onna gata (with an effeminate makeup). Nango is a rough pirate hiding on ships and popping out all at the sudden and threatening the crew with his shining sword. He is not repented and showing off his red underwear he draws his…umbrella preparing to sell his life dearly!

CIMG6280 CIMG6278

nemophila blooming

Roses are red violets are blue, sugar is sweet…
I studied this short poem as 1st grade junior high student in Torino some 33 years ago: what a flash back!
But this is just to say that flowers in japan are not only sakura.
A friend went to maihama seaside park in ibaraki prefecture (north of tokyo) and sent me some shots. I did not know it so I felt I had to share it with you! I am enclosing here some photos.
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moon gazing

moonAre you a moon-watcher?

Today it is matsu-yoi-no-tsuki.

Did you know it?

The day before the full moon is a special day because … we can look forward to seeing the full moon the next day!

In japan (before the advent of TV…) japanese were big fan of enjoying the change of seasons and natural processes. See below: (more…)

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