This is the third time I am going to talk about the project of starting a program to teach traditional construction techniques to japanese and foreign nationals: a “Craftsmen Academy”.
There are some organizational, legal, financial and study curricula issues to be sorted but we are finally planning to get started! We are going to start with an experimental phase, here are the main conditions:
term: September 1 – September 30 (extension is possible)
content of the course: mainly wood carpentry techniques
fee: free of charge
lodging and food: at your own expense
transportation costs: at your own expense
tourist insurance: at your own expense (compulsory)
VISA: not provided by the Academy, at your own expense
We will receive applications up to August 25 so if you are interested please hurry. If you have questions or other requests regarding the schedule etc. please contact me. We have some flexibility and I will try to accommodate your needs.
About the lodging, there are few Airbnb in Kameoka and they are quite expensive. The low-cost alternative would be to stay at a guest house in Kyoto downtown and commute by train (about 30 minutes one way)
It would be great if students find shared accommodations. I will try to connect those interested but cannot take any responsibility for the organization/jury in case of problems etc.
About the legal issues: we are not yet established to be able to sponsor students to obtain working or study VISA. Please come with a 3-month tourist VISA or a working holiday VISA if your Country has an agreement with the Japanese Government. You must make this application yourself and we are unable to assist you with this.
The experience we intend to make available at the Academy is officially an “experience tourism” program so it is not in conflict with your VISA status.
About legal issues, liability issues etc. we are preparing a simple contract of agreement that will regulate our relationship with the students.
This post is not about the bio-ryokan “WABI SABI” in the Marche Region (which by the way features a large bartokdesign knotty hinoki bathtub and other japanese architectural details such as tatami/shoji etc. – and which of course(!) I strongly recommend).
I have an American friend living in Switzerland and she is really my secret muse (well, no more secret now…) I never met her in person but her prose is so experimental, so strong and inspiring that every mail I receive is like being struck by a 10,000 Volts lighting bolt. I am not saying it is painful. Of course it is pleasant, but every other perception is obfuscated by the absolute power of the message. I do not know exactly her age but I would say he is not in her twenties. When I thanked her for her insight in the last email she signed herself:
Your co-conspirator (in radical creativity)
Maybe her magic only works on me, I do not know. But I would like to share some information she gave me about a wonderful reality in Italy that I did not know.
Japanese kimono style bottle cover (fit the vast majority of bottles from wine to champagne to sake! – a part for magnum bottles) smart idea for an unforgettable present. Witty and original! 100% reusable. To amuse the guests at your home party or to surprise your friends, you will find your favorite color and style within the 30 items collection. Easy to apply, fun to play with, can be stored to be used again in its exclusive pauwlonia wood box!
In the Wakayama area of Kii Peninsula, there are a number of ancient walking trails which are collectively known as the Kumano Kodo. Traversing mountains, passing through lushly forested gulleys and crossing racing rivers, you’ll see some of the most spectacular nature Japan has to offer. But enjoying nature is just a side benefit. This area is deeply spiritual and is steeped in history. For more than a thousand years pilgrims have used these trails to reach the three Grand Shrines of Kumano: Kumano Hongū Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha (source wikipedia).
We love being close to nature so took a couple of days off work during rainy season (July 2019) to visit the Kumano Kodo. Here is our account of the trip.
My travel companion joined me from Tokyo so my first stop was Kansai Airport to pick her up. From there we got directly onto the ‘Hanwa Highway’ which is the direct route to Wakayama and the Kii Peninsula. It’s an easy drive of about an hour and a half to Nanki Tanabe Interchange which is where we left the highway.
Are you planning to drive in Japan? Here are a few things to remember:
the speed limit on the highways is a maximum of 80km per hour but on rainy or windy days it can be reduced to 60km per hour, this is indicated by round electronic signs reading 60 or 80. You might not see many police cars or speed cameras but this highway is patrolled by unmarked vehicles and hidden cameras so for your safety and to avoid a ticket, stick to the limit.
along the highway, you will encounter toll booths. If your car is fitted with an ETC machine you can drive through the electronic reader lane, usually purple signage. If you don’t have the machine you’ll need to go through the manual payment lane, indicated by a green light. You can pay using cash or credit card. The amount due will be displayed on a sign next to the toll booth after you hand over your ticket.
toilet breaks and snack pitstops are possible at the many ‘rest areas’ which you can enter freely without having to exit the highway. Use these because you’ll save money by staying on the highway until your final destination.
We were booked to stay at a mountainside cottage which we had booked through AirBnB. It was raining heavily on and off all day so after a quick lunch at a local noodle place, we grabbed a few groceries and headed to our accommodation.
The purpose of our trip was not hiking given that it is rainy season. Landslides and flooded rivers are a real possibility at this time of year so rather than hike we simply planned some R&R. Our cottage was just perfect for that and I highly recommend it.
It has a hinoki clad bathroom with a view over the mountains! Gorgeous.
If you are planning to hike the Nakahechi Trail and are starting at Takijiri-oji then this cottage is a great location for that. Link to more info.
Following all the talks in April and May, we are finally ready to start with the enrollment of students interested in learning the traditional japanese wood construction crafts!!!
We are starting a new renovation project and are ready to enroll students. Officially we are aiming at July 1st but if you are planning to come to Japan in June, we are basically ready to welcome you anytime.
The students will both the taught the principles of the craft and will also have the possibility of working in the actual construction site. It will be an experimental phase with the following conditions:
Thank you again for the smart ideas and the kind support about the project of infusing new functions in the Kiwata-house in Wakayama.
Last month I presented the conceptand we are now discussing on how to implement it. Apologizing for the delay in getting back to you, let me summarize the main points.
The first chart exemplifies the structure of the project. Striking a parallel with the cycles in agriculture: *rooting = 5 basic ideas I illustrated in the mailing message *seeding = based on the (biased) opinions of all of you who replied I selected some concepts and lines of intervention *watering = many of you gave me great indications for the overall branding *growing = some ideas about the promotion and management *reaping = goals to be fine-tuned, reached and further developed.
In the PDF (see below) I am also including a selection from the comments I received from all of you.
The concept that stuck me the most are: ONE DAY IN LIFE: * the house provides the experience of “just a normal day in prewar Japan” * second meaning: one day in the life of each visitor. We want to leave a memory that can entangle with and become part of their personal story-roll.
TOTALLY TRADITIONAL – TOTALLY CONTEMPORARY: * the house is historical and original therefore should not be faked. Any addition or modification should be in harmony but cutting edge.
MUSEUM OUTREACH / COLLABORATION * we should explore the possibility of operating in connection with a famous museum. This could widen the scope of the project and hopefully make it become a model for other beautiful houses in Japan that could be rescued and preserved.
This is all for now. We have more meetings coming up this month and I will keep you updated on the solution that the owners chose and about the next steps of the project.
From the beginning of this year I have had the privilege to associate with Jogan Yoshio, kimono designer in Kyoto. I visited his atelier, had the chance to attend some events with him and we are also starting to collaborate on some projects (such as the one in Wakayama) .
He is really the quintessential Japanese artist/craftsman: soft spoken, passionate and humble. His right arm is the charming Hiroyo, with feline eyes riding high heels and sports cars: it feels like she could have just come out from a 007 movie or a Lupin III cartoon. The matching and the positive contrast of different elements is somehow a trademark of Jogan sensei.
He practiced since his childhood in the ateliers and along the water streams of Nishijin, the area where Kimonos are woven, dyed, block-printed, painted and embroidered with the collaborative work of dozens of separate companies. Kyoto is famous for its rigid and at the same time soft structures. Rules are not written but are so strongly encoded in the social behaviors that create a kind of invisible system of relations that puzzle the westerner. The secret is to learn every thing with the body rather than with your rational mind.
Rules are not there to be discussed but can be interpreted. Traditional patterns cannot be modified but of course are filtered through the sensibility and the DNA of each individual artist. I think you will understand what I mean by watching this video:
check below for more photos and info to purchase the book.
We made a new production of hinoki oil, both DSB quality (young trees) and SR (special reserve kiso valley old growth hinoki)
I bottled 100 – 10ml. flasks per type, and I am willing to sell the rest in larger bottles at a discounted price. DA – DA – DA -DADADA DA ! A) 1 bottle 100 cc of young trees oil (plastic bottle, no drip cap) = 12,000 JPY B) 10 bottles 100 cc (1 liter in total) of young trees oil (package as above) = 80,000 JPY C) 1 bottle 50 cc of special reserve oil (glass bottle, no drip cap) = 12,000 JPY D) 10 bottles 50 cc of special reserve oil (glass bottle, no drip cap) = 90,000 JPY
*) packaging and shipping worldwide 1,000 JPY per parcel (air mail – no EMS) – one parcel can hold up to 300 ml in any combination –
stock is limited so if you are interested please contact me at email@example.com asap!!
I received some beautiful pictures from Helen, a lucky owner of a Bartok design`s ofuro. Here is her story: When we travelled in Japan in 2013, we never stayed in hotels, but in Airbnb’s (of course, the price too is favorable) and once in a ryokan (in Nara). This gave us the best of all our Japan experiences on that summer!
We stayed with an elderly couple in Okayama prefecture, and I asked the woman (no English, just body language:) to show me how to tie the obi, as we had bought some old kimonos at the market in Kyoto.
This led to the most beautiful experience, as she was so engaged and happy for our interest, she collected all kimonos she had, showing them (her daughter is a textile artist, and had made a masterpiece of a hand painted kimono as an art project) and dressed us up – I think the pleasure of this was indeed mutual.
Then she persuaded us to wear them during a visit to a special restaurant in the forest, very traditional – and there we all sat, on our knees in our kimonos, eating all the strange and beautiful dishes. We will NEVER forget it. Well, now you got this long story (just an example, I have got so many!)…sorry for this! I just feel so passionate about making this kind of experiences available, as I enjoy them so much myself! Good luck! I look forward to follow the project! (see all the splendid pictures here below)