Last 31st December I created an open connection with zoom with Bartok design clients and friends which was very pleasant and full of surprises. The best and happiest of all was when S. made me virtually climb the stairs of their beautiful home and conceded me a virtual tour of their stunning bathroom featuring one of our tubs. A well balanced minimalist ofuro in front of a huge Palladian window opening on a perfectly virgin corner of paradise! And now they are doubling the pleasant surprise sharing some beautiful photos with all the community. Thank you soooo much!
Soaking in our Ofuro is still a special occasion every time, even after 2 years of regular use. It is not only a treat for the body, but a beautiful object that one can tell was created with great mastery and care. We know how privileged we are to own one, and we will never take it for granted!
I stumbled upon a fabulous hanko shop in Osaka, just steps from the moth of Osaka castle. Of course, I love traditional craftsmen and their ateliers, the air filled with history and the romantic scent of a lost world.
But this time it is different and it is even more uplifting. Mr. Mitamura established this atelier some 30 years ago and although he has the skill of a sculptor, he calls himself “hanko designer”. The reason his seals (made in wood, horn or marble) are so beautiful is not just because of his manual ability and mastery of the chisels.
The cultural center and ryokan in S. Ginesio (central Italy) re-opened in the post-corona era on May 20th.
And to celebrate they cleaned and re-sanded their knotty hinoki 15-year old bartok design ofuro.
I leave the photos to describe the whiteness of the regenerated hinoki and the colors of the springtime filling it completely.
After the Corona virus I think that long haul flights and trips to faraway countries will be pursued less. We will assist to the spread of the “micro-tourism” model as theorized by the President of the hotel chain “Hoshino Resort”
If you are in Europe, what other excuse are you waiting to visit the Wabi Sabi Ryokan? For questions/ reservations, contact Ricky and Serenella as per the details below:
On the quest of a woodworking atelier that can help me create the right furniture for a super-brand store I am working on, I met with Toshio Tokunaga.
His atelier is in the Kobe countryside, next to his residence (who he built himself 25 years ago) and in front of a vegetable garden is also adjoining a temple which hosts a festival once a year.
We arrived there in a winter afternoon and the setting was just like stepping on a stage of Kurosawa Akira. Smoke, sharp strokes of light from the dying sun, country sounds. The atmosphere was primed with an explosive concentration of poetic charm.
Tokunaga sensei was surrounded by young apprentices, friendly, understated. But the wood board floor showing the scars of thousands of births, the table we sit at, stained with sweat and passion and the religious dedication of his apprentices were clear signs of the genius.
Tokunaga sensei was himself disciple of a giant: the Kyoto based woodwork artist and “Japanese National Cultural Treasure” Hekigai Takeuchi. Tokunaga`s core concept is based on the use of the japanese hand planer (kanna). With this tool it is possible to cut sharply the wood fibers (as opposed to the use of sandpaper) thus conferring shine, hardness and durability to the object he finishes which do not need any paint finish. Here below is a comparative microscope photo.
Let me mention two other points about his “kanna thoughts” I really found enlightening.
Tokunaga sensei uses the plane also to finish curved, three dimensional and organic shapes. “When you use the plane on a curved surface, you create narrow faces of a polyhedron. Each face reflects the light and provide sharp edges to guide the eye. When finished with kanna, a curved shape becomes more iconic, its line is crisp and meaningful.”
using kanna is not only finishing the wood, it is more like communicating with the material. While planing, you feel the wood direction, its soft and hard spots. You interpret the message already contained in the wood, you help revealing the shape that is already there. He goes as far as saying: “It is difficult to become a good craftsman if you do not have an understanding of nature. All people that played in a river in their childhood (before turning age five) have the potential of becoming a skilled craftsmen”.
(I read a similar concept about mindfulness from a 3rd century Chinese classic “Prince-Wen-Huis-Cook” and his technique in cutting meat! – but this is another story…)
Mr. Tokunaga speaks English so you can contact him directly for any information/project/quotation etc. If you need some help, let me know: any alibis is welcome for me in order to be able to work with these incredible craftsmen who reveal the deep philosophy of life through their hands.
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.
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 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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.
Hinoki Esential Oil is both calming and uplifting. Like the scent of a forest on a warm summer day, the scent of Hinoki is earthy, lemony, fresh.
Our original Bartok design Hinoki Essential Oil is the purest you will find. We extract the oil ourselves from off-cuts, shavings and wood chips – all real wood. There are no twigs, leaves or bark in our product resulting in a pure clean scent that is unparalleled. The complexity of our oils is exceptionally deep.
The Bartok design Pocket Onsen Set contains a choice of two oils:
Hinoki Cypress is extracted from trees roughly 40 years old. A ‘young tree’ used in construction, for decorative items, religious artefacts and furniture. Our bath accessories are made from this wood which gives us a good supply of offcuts from which to extract the gorgeous essential oil.
Special Reserve Hinoki 250 is extracted from mature growth trees, usually at least 250 years old. The wood from older trees is compacted tightly which makes it ideal for use in wet zones such as the bathroom. Therefore we use this wood to make our Japanese ‘ofuro’ soaking tubs. Like a fine wine, cheese or whiskey, the aged product has a complexity and depth not seen in younger wood.
*It is also possible to order a ‘compare set’ with one of each oil.
If you’re in Japan this summer and are craving some time away from the city then we highly recommend Awaji Island. From the city of Kobe, it’s just a short drive or bus ride across the world’s longest suspension bridge, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
Once on the island, you can hire bicycles, hire a car or use public buses to explore. The island is a lot bigger than you might expect, so don’t think you’ll cover it all in one weekend. However, you can easily plan your trip around one or two tourist attractions then finish your day with an evening swim before heading back to your hotel for a soak in the hot onsen bath.
Food highlights include an abundance of fresh seafood and world-famous Awaji Beef (similar to Kobe beef or wagyu with marbled fat throughout). Onions are also grown locally so don’t miss the local speciality onion tempura.
As far as it being a tourist mecca, it’s far from it. We observed a lot of young people enjoying time on the beach, driving to the local cafes that are popping up along the coast and riding rented bicycles while enjoying spectacular coastal views. Everything felt leisurely and stress-free.
For the ultimate in stress-free relaxation, we would start trip planning with a visit to a hotspring. Find a few on this page.
Made in Awaji
Our Su~ Daybed is made on Awaji Island. The slow pace and relaxed lifestyle there really lends itself to creating a quality product with attention to detail. See more about Su~ Daybed here.
The world’s first daybed made entirely of wood, with no metal parts
Oder this stunning piece of furniture for your home.
Minimalist Japanese homes typically don’t have a lot of furniture in them but when they do, it’s a simple yet stunning piece such as the Su~ Daybed.
A classic piece such as a daybed is at home in a modern environment where wood adds warmth to the room. The leather cushion is timeless and can be a little bit edgy and unexpected in a family home.
Place the Su~ Daybed in your office to greet clients over coffee and sneak in an energizing nap after a long evening at the desk.
Imagine lazy afternoons in front of a picture window, perhaps overlooking a Japanese garden, cozy with a throw rug and the newspaper.
You have an appreciation for fine craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The Su~ Daybed is made according to centuries-old Japanese furniture-making techniques and does not include even one metal part – incredible! It’s definitely a talking point. No nails, no bolts or screws, just beautifully shaped wood.
Each Su~ Daybed is handcrafted from a piece of lumber chosen for its beautiful grain. No two are alike due to the unique voice that is lovingly coaxed from the wood. The wood from which it is made is somewhat rare – keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) and is chosen for its beauty.
The process of assembly requires precision and attention to detail as each piece must slot together perfectly. It requires the patience and training only a master craftsman displays.
Each Su~ Daybed takes about 7-8 weeks to make and a week for delivery, via seafreight. The Su Daybed is made to order.
The product specs
The Su~ Daybed has a keyaki frame (Japanese Zelkova) a native hardwood prized in furniture making.
The slats are soft yet durable, aromatic hinoki (Japanese cypress).
The external frame size is the same as a “kyoma” size (Kyoto-module) tatami, the golden ratio of tatami mats is 1910 x 955mm.
The daybed is a comfortable 410mm high which accommodates all heights of people when seated.
The leather mattress is 1810 x 755mm. The leather is joined with simple double stitch quilting and through stitching to keep the tufting in place.
The mattress is finished with fine full-grain leather (other versions with Japanese traditional fabrics etc. may be available upon request). The filling consists of 90mm of hard chip urethane and 20mm of low repulsion urethane. The whole thing is wrapped with acrylic non-woven fabric which allows the leather to move smoothly. The mattress side is tightened at 90mm thickness while the filling is more than 110mm. This results in a sharp and tight edge and a soft yet supportive super comfortable mattress.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or problems.
I am Iacopo Torrini, an Italian architect and designer living in Japan. My company, Bartok design, custom-builds interior furniture items such as wooden bathtubs, sliding doors and the Su~ Daybed. My passion lies in sharing the history and traditional craftsmanship of Japan with the world.
We have been in business for more than twenty years and have an established reputation for superior quality and exceptional customer service. I invite you to get in touch with me directly so we can get to know each other and I can understand what you are looking for in a daybed.
Get in touch today to start the order process. Or order directly from our online store.