lovely books

A former client/ now (and forever) friend sent me her new book featuring 87 pages of photos + poetic comments of her last trip to Japan.
I always enjoy her way of seeing things: sophisticated and friendly at the same time.
But this time the present is double as her daughter (also architect) sent me her first book.

I did not have yet the time to read it and will post more info when I do but it looks like a very serious treaty about architecture. It is actually a perfect timing as I am travelling to Dubai this week and will have some time to enjoy the book. I am actually missing a mind nourishing reading and it really seems like Anke and Sarah read my mind.
And I am so proud that they are part of our community of Japanese ofuro lovers!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart ☆彡

Northern lights

Dear Iacopo,
I just wanted to send my greetings from Norway, and share with you a picture of my “little japanese corner” in autumn morning sun:) Thank you for an interesting letter about the wonderful place in Italy! I hope the world will again be open for travelling..
Kind regards,Helen

I received a kind message from Helen from Norway.
The photo is so beautiful I decided to share it with everybody (of course with Helen`s placet) It is so peaceful and poetic that I printed it out and posted on the wall behind the computer. I will look at it to relax and draw energy when in rough waters…!

I take this opportunity to share also 2 other photos from Helen. amazing shadows on the wall paneling (not hinoki but Scandinavian Aspen)
Happy coming of Autumn to all the readers!☆彡

Send a “shochu mimai” or “zansho mimai”? That is the question!

I trust you are enjoying life and managing to protect yourself from the summer heat and from the … XXX-19 based “culture of fear” dominating the news. 
If the answer is not a 100% convinced “YES!”, I would recommend either to take a relaxing bath, or to read the (fully XXX-19 free…) news below.!

Chapter 1): do`s and don`ts about summer greetings in Japan

Chapter 2): let`s help a friend building a japanese stone garden (+ open question)

Chapter 3): advice about re-heating systems for ofuros 

Chapter 1)

As you may know, Japanese have a tradition of exchanging greeting cards and presents twice a year: in summer and winter.
Especially in a business environment, suppliers would send to their clients chocolates or a box of refreshing fruit jelly – depending on the season.
Other staples for the “o-chugen” (summer) and “o-seibo” (winter) are cookies, cold cuts, packs of beer, stocks of sunflower oil, instant coffee etc. 
Further details belong to a separate topic, so I will stop here.

In any case, when you write a summer greeting card do not think of “summer” as a synonym for “relaxing vacation” or “tropical beach” or the like.
Summer is hot and fatiguing so you should “share the pain” with your party.
Something like “We would like to extend our sympathies during this hot season. We pray for your health and hope you will take it easy when the heat is most severe.”

There is another practical rule to keep in mind:
the content of the greeting almost stays the same through summer, but if you send greetings in the first half of summer (july 6th – august 5th) they should be called sho-chu mimai (I am concerned about you in during the middle of the hot season).
If you send a card in the second half of the summer (august 6th – september 5th) then you should be sending a zan-sho mimai (I am concerned about you in this final part of the hot season).

Traditional themes include fans, swimming koi-carps, watermelons and “furin” chimes. In the ecological, pre-airconditioning era, looking at water flowing (or just the thought of it !) or listening to the high pitched tinging sound coming from a “furin” (metal or glass small chime activated by the wind) were used to refresh the torrid Japanese summers.

Chapter 2)

Sensational news! 
Ricky and Serenella, body and soul of the Bio-Ryokan WABISABI are adding new features to the heavenly small hotel and cultural center in San Ginesio (Central Italy).

They have been inspiring my thoughts and influencing the course of Bartok design Japan since 2004 – when I helped them to import the first container of fixtures (one large ofuro, tatamis, shoji, futon, antiques and kimonos.
Ricky and Serenella have been following through their project with perseverance, poesy and refined taste. Wabisabi overcome a devastating earthquakes, epochal snowfalls and innumerable difficult moments, actually growing even stronger and more beautiful everyday.

And what are Ricky and Serenella doing this …XXX-19 period that is leaving even the heroes at home trembling in front of the blue screens?

Well, Ricky and Serenella are building a meditation deck!
Is`it wonderful? Is`t it mind-blowing? All our thumbs up to WABISABI!

It reminds me the story of the Medici family who were holding the competition for the design of the bronze doors of the Firenze baptistery (won by Ghiberti over Brunelleschi) – and not giving to much importance to the army of Sforza ready to lay a siege on the city.

And the Medici were right!
Luck helps the bold – and sometimes also the bald 😉 –
History is very clear about it.

Anyway, lets go back to the WABISABI brand-new feature: in front of the meditation deck, now they want to create a “kare-san-sui” rock garden !!!!!!!

I am sure you will remember the iconic images of the zen gardens of the Silver pavilion or of the Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto.
As the name suggests, a kare-san-sui consists of an abstract “dry” landscape to symbolize the presence of mountains surrounded by flowing waters. 

Now, here is the open question:
Does anybody among the readers have experience with the making of a kare-san-sui?
Technical specifications such as type of stones, layering of the substrate under the garden, diameter of the gravel, types and sizes of rakes to be used etc.
Can you advise ???

Please share your experience and wisdom directly with Ricky and Serenella by contacting them at the address below.

Zen and Meditative Arts
Via Papa Giovanni XXIII, 23
San Ginesio 62026 (MC) Italy
Tel. 0039 335 396025

Alternatively, you can also share it as a comment here below for the benefit of the whole community.

And even if you do not have advice to spare about japanese zen gardens…
remember that you can always find inspiration and recharge your batteries at WABISABI: your little corner of Japan in Central Italy.

Chapter 3)

Lastly, a very short operational communication about mechanical equipment for ofuros:

I always receive inquiries about re-circulation systems for ofuros (about once a month).
Anyway, this summer, for some reason I am receiving about 4-5 requests per month!

Well, I am completely clueless about the why of this surge in interest about re-circulation systems but our stance remains the same. 

And if you were just about to write us and ask about re-circulation systems…
well, even before formulating your question you may find magically the reply here.

Thank in advance for your feedback about zen gardens and have a safe leftover of the summer heat (zan-sho-mimai-wo-moshiagemasu)! 

All the Best//


the new spring of wabisabi

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:

Tel: 335-396025
facebook page:

I think the goddess of spring is a long stay guest here at the Wabisabi!

hinokitiol Vs. COVID-19

hinokitiol is a natural extract of asnaro-hiba wood with strong antimicrobial performance. It has been proved effective in treating penicillin-resistant streptococci and is used as a component for disinfectants, cosmetics, scalp and acne treatments etc.

It can be diluted in water and vaporized in the air: it lasts much longer than other volatile substances like alcohol.
It has been used as a local and ambient disinfectant and insect repellent.

Can It be helpful in inhibiting or treating the COVID-19?

I do not know.

But I can supply it !
(because it is a by-product of my manufacture of Japanese cedar wood products, mainly Japanese ofuro bathtubs).

I offer to send samples of hinokitiol to research institutes in case they are interested in testing it against the COVID-19 virus.

Please contact me and let me know the address and contact person information for the shipping. I will send 1g via airmail.
Product and shipping cost is on me.

For more information check this page:

  As of march, 17 2020 I already shipped a sample to:

1) Dr. Raymond Goodrich
Colorado State University’s Infectious Disease Research Center - USA

2) Dr. Maurizio Cecconi
Humanitas University - Milano - Italy

3) Mr. Joseph Payne
Arcturus Therapeutics - Torrey Pines Mesa - La Jolla - USA

4) Dr. Brooke Fiala
Washington’s Institute for Protein Design, Seattle - USA

5) Dr. Chen Katz  
Migal Galilee Research Institute, Qiryat Shemona - Israel

I do not have personal contacts within the 9 large companies who have been largely publicized on the media (nor I have big sympathy for large corporations) .
Anyway if you know some researcher who is worthy, please let me know!)

・ Inovio (USA)
・ Cure- Vac (Germany)
・ Gilead Sciences Inc.  (USA)
・ GlaxoSmithKline   (USA)
・ Johnson & Johnson   (USA)
・ Moderna Inc.   (USA)
・ Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (USA)
・ Sanofi (USA)
・ Vir Biotechnology Inc. (USA)

Anybody else you think could use the natural hinokitiol to help defeat the virus?

quickstart on zoom

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
The coronavirus emergency -> craze -> histeria is provoking an economic havoc that could damage irreversibly large sectors of the economy.

But is also giving the chance to millions of people to rethink their priorities, optimize their time and rearrange their routines.
One big discovery is definitely ZOOM meeting software (no affiliation…)

I had some tepidly disappointing experiences with s**pe or goto**ing.
The first 5 minutes of the conversation were spent in yelling “moshi-moshi, hallo etc.” the next 5 minutes were used to restart computers and inevitably the conversation took place on whatsapp.

But ZOOM is very stable and the interface is so easy to use. It is possible to have meetings with up to 100 people (and more for special users) and when somebody talks, the speaker pops up in the magnified part of the screen.
It is also possible to share documents or scroll on SketchUp models etc.

I am planning to use ZOOM also to connect with people who are interested in purchasing an ofuro or need to solve some problem I can help with.

I am still not sure on how to embed it in the homepage or if it makes sense to create periodical live webinars etc. I would appreciate your insight and opinion about it. I am still a novice in ZOOM.

I purchased the paid plan (about 200 $ per year) so I can make unlimited meetings with up to 100 people. Of course it can be used also on the smartphone so I am always reachable.
My ID is 51848377.
Let`s connect. A virtual hug to everybody!


experimental tatamis and meet iacopo in London!

Just a few words to update you about:
1) a fatal encounter with an experimental tatami maker
2) meet iacopo in London on 2/27! 

Chapter 1) 

Our schedules did not match: although we had a couple of tentative venues we did not manage to meet.
R&S: two dear italian friends and Bartok design ofuro users, always present in my mind and inspiring my activities and discoveries come to Japan for a couple of weeks.  
They come to Kansai, they were here in Nara, Kyoto and surroundings but we did not manage to meet… Such a shame…

But every cloud has a silver lining!
Before living they gave me the introduction to Mitsuru Yokoyama, young tatami maker in Kyoto.
I could not resist and called him immediately. It was a very strange feeling: like my own voice was echoing back. I immediately felt our ideas were on the same wavelength and as much as it was pleasant to talk, I felt we almost did not need to talk..! 


happy 2020!

Japan is nicknamed as the “land of the rising sun” but not everybody knows that New Zealand actually enters the new year one hour earlier than Japan.

Nevertheless, considering the landscape, the culture, the personality of the Japanese, I think that there could be no better nickname!

In Japan it is custom to spend the last evening of the year laid-back at home and get up early to climb on high ground to contemplate the first sunrise of the year.

This year I was in Shikoku, on Inoyama – also known as Sanuki Fuji for its beautiful perfect conic shape – near Zentsuji in Kagawa prefecture. The sky was clear and the angle was unobstructed. The sun is popping out as an egg yolk being tossed out from the belly of the mountain.
I can understand the sense of surprise and reverence that pre-blue-screen generations may have felt everyday contemplating the most important daily event on earth: the rise of the sun.

Even if it is only once a year, assisting to this extraordinary miracle always has a powerful effect of filling up my energy cells while grounding all the negative stress. I do not know if I can call it a mindfulness experience but I am a big fan of the “hatsuhinode”: the 1/1 sunrise watching.

Of course one could do it 365 times in a year (366 times in 2020!) but nothing compares to enjoy it from a place like this, with the mindset of january 1st, feeling the warmth of the first rays shaking the winter night.

I wanted to share with you this moment with the auspice that 2020 can be a shining year for you: bringing happiness, health, and prosperity!!

2020 is also the year of the Olympic games and I am sure you will feel closer to Japan than ever. If you want to celebrate the games with a bottle of sake, do not forget to dress it properly with our “kimono bottle covers”.
New colors, new package. Check the shop here->

meeting friends in NY

Last December 11-15 I was in NY and as I explained my plans in the last newsletter, I received many replies from 4 past and present clients.
I experimented this way of traveling to other countries last year and it is extremely rewarding!
I go abroad and you meet people with whom you corresponded, friends, people who share my path and interests.
I will never forget in summer 2018 when a Parisian architect who used Bartok design ofuros for 3 projects come to meet me in Dubai.
Or shortly after when a Japanese lover and former Tokyo resident hosted me in her house in Phoenix with a huge cactus in the garden.
Feeling at home and meeting friends everywhere you go is probably one of the sweetest experiences in life!


the warm heart of Nippon!

As a corollary to my recent trip to New York, the visit to Nippon deserves a post of its own.
Before leaving Japan, I asked a friend who used to work for Asahi television in USA for an authentic japanese restaurant in NY.
He had no hesitation in recommending me “Nippon”, on E 52nd street, also known as the “unofficial cultural Japanese Consulate in NY”.

I kept the visit for the last day (Sunday) at lunch and when I arrived I had the shocking surprise to find the restaurant closed!
Somebody was moving inside and I decided to knock on the glass and at least say hello.
They were very kind to let me in and started talking. The restaurant was closed as they were having a tasting session by the Japan Airlines officials as – yes! the restaurant Nippon is providing the food consumed on the flights back to Japan.
Hearing that I am an architect, they showed me the private tatami room near the entrance, simple but striking, built with premium material by a japanese “toryo” master carpenter.

The restaurant was opened here in 1963 by Nobuyoshi Kuraoka and his wife. Since then, they have been frontrunners when it comes to delivering the authentic japanese culinary experience to the USA.
Mr. Kuroda purchased farmland in Canada to grow soba buckwheat, installed a machine to produce tofu in the kitchen and won a 5-year long legal battle to legalize the import and consumption of the potentially poisonous (but delicious) fugu blow-fish.

All celebrities you can think are regulars here: from baseball Hideo Matsui to Bloomberg the Major. From Japan`s prime minister Shinzo Abe to tennis champion Novak Djokovic. Mr. Kuroda is also famous for having supported many athletes and golf champions who were struggling at the beginning of their careers. Too good to be true?

If it sounds like a plot for the next superman`s movie, well it is not.
Mr. Kuroda and his wife left this World in 2018 but their outstanding successes are a shining example of what a man can do when he has motivation and clear vision.

Now the Restaurant is in the capable hands of the general manager Yasuhiro Makoshi, his wife and the chef Akira Azuma, for 40 years behind the counter.

But the story does not end here. While the restaurant was closed, the manager and his wife offered me to sit on the bench in the waiting area and served me a “small snack” – service from the chef. What come out from the kitchen was a delicious soba noodles salad with wagyu thin sliced beef. I really felt like the prodigal son returning home without notice and finding the benevolent mom and dad happy to feed me with what was in the house.
This confirms that the generosity, sense of hospitality and warm heart planted by Kuraoka did not depart with them but are now part of the DNA of Nippon.

On a side story, with so many celebrities enjoying the delicious cuisine of Nippon, I suggested that if Donald Trump ate this soul food, chances were that the curse would break and Donald would turn into a nice guy…
On the other hand, I had the feeling that he would not be welcome here.
Sorry, Donald…

Anybody with a good idea? Maybe a take out?

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