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a toilet to match your kimono

Well, I am not talking about the interior design of your powder room: I am actually meaning the actual sanitary equipment.
That is the link between a toilet and a kimono?

Mr. Yoshio Jogan, the director of the Kyoto Design Factory is turning state of the art Japanese automatic toilets into works of art.
Jogan-sensei started actually a kimono designer. Traditionally the production of kimonos is carried out with the coperation between several highly specialized craftsmen. The product takes shape as it is passed on from the binder to the dyer, to the weaver and then to the block printer and/or designer.
Jogan Sensei was involved in block printing and design of the kimonos and he shaped his culture and sensibility thru years of apprenticeship. In the world of Japanese crafts, you first need to become a master of the ancient shapes. You need to let go your individuality and absorb the basic of the traditional imagery and sense of composition. Only after tens of years and after you become a perfect copier you are allowed to start breaking the rules.
And this is what Jogan sensei did. But as his design retains a very traditional (and extremely delicate) touch, his revolutionary step is more structural than formal.
In order to save the declining kimono culture he decided to make a pact with the devil. He threw away the wood blocks for stamping the kimono outline pattern and started to use intensively the computer and ink jet printing.
A part for optimizing time, cost and energies, his revolution enabled him to bring the kimono culture outside of the clothing world.

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slaughter of a delicious house in Kobe


I cannot sleep. I just want to cry. I can`t forgive.

In a central area of Kobe they started to demolish a beautiful traditional house.
Along a high traffic street but screened by green, it was a 2 story house with traditional ibushi roof tiles.
It was my favourite, I saw it almost every day. 5 years ago, the old building to the right was demolished and replaced by a tasteless, plasticky prefabricated house. But the beautiful old house remained and the contrast between the smart and refined house and the new unbalanced and basic new house was even more striking.

I always wanted to look inside. But there is no place to park the car, besides I figured it was occupied by an elderly person and I imagined they would have felt scared to see a stranger (and caucasian foreigner…) at their door.

But if I went I could have known their plan, maybe I could make an offer to rent or buy the house.
But everything was so abrupt I just could not take any action.
The greens were manicured until the last day, there was no sign that the propery was abandoned or was on sale.
In my optimistic mindset I just could not conceive that somebody may decide to demolish that beauty.
But the same thing happened 5 years ago with the house to the right. I should have been realistic.
At 46 years old I should have the power of judgement to risk hedge. But now I can just cry on the spilled milk.
I really cannot forgive (myself)

It is a real shame.
There is nothing I can do to stop this slaughter. No time to think what are the options.
Therefore I asked the demolition company if I could take the nice entrance door and maybe even the stone lantern.
The guy was friendly and said “take everything home!”
I called my handiman Israeli friend who has a small truck and we started to load windows and doors.
He was repeating “don`t be greedy…” but all pieces were just so beautiful, so unique that we ended up bringing back 3 loads. Maybe 30 or 40 fixtures and one stone lantern.
I do not have a place to keep this material but will figure out.
Maybe I can share some with the japan lovers in the bartok design community.
My dream at the present is to buy that land and rebuild the same house and reuse the parts I could salvage.

The house was splendid but its compact and airy layout, the smart use of the inner space and its balance with the garden is a example of what architecture should be.

In the back garden, a beautiful stone retaining wall protects the privacy and becomes the magic landscape that could be seen from the north side room. A tiny moss garden with a grand stone lantern. And there was even a little cave, not really a well but a natural small pond of about 2 feet x 2 feet of pristine water coming from the Rokko mountain. I am sure it was used for the tea ceremony.
The stone lantern is very old and has the symbols of the 12 animals of the chinese zodiac. This one already has a buyer. An antique shop bought it for 10,000 dollars. But I think this space in its perfect balance is worth 10 millions…

I hope the people who will buy the land will understand this and will create a beautiful and sensitive house, even better than the previous one. I am in tears not just because this house was pictoresque, of cute, or nostalgic. The real value of this house it that it was very well thought. The builder understood the environment and created a perfect match. Respectful but dynamic. Simple but artistic. Pure intelligence.

I am praying that this sacrifice will not be in vain.

Come for the rugby, enjoy the onsens

If you’re a sports fan and a fan of Japan’s favourite pastime (visiting hot springs) then you’re in for a treat. 2019 sees Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup for the first time in history. This amazing event will be held over a six-week period with games hosted in regional stadiums across Japan.

Did your team make the cut?

If I had to pick which games to attend based on the location of the stadium I would go with Oita. This prefecture boasts the largest number of naturally occurring hot springs in all of Japan! What better way to relax after an exciting match?

The games kick-off at Oita Stadium on October 2nd with favourites New Zealand playing the Repechage winners (I trust you know who that is). Australia, Wales and Fiji will also play in Oita at different times over the series.

Not too far from Oita, also on the island of Kyushu, you’ll find matches being held in Fukuoka and Kumamoto. With fantastic highways as well as the world’s most efficient train system you could easily spend your entire Rugby World Cup “trip of a lifetime” only in Kyushu, tripping between these three stadiums.

I know you’ll want to get to the main games in Tokyo and the final in Yokohama but those tickets are going to be hard to come by. Plus, Tokyo, meh.

Visit Oita! Visit Kumamoto! Visit Fukuoka! Don’t think of these locations as playing second fiddle to the bigger venues. Visiting one of the lesser known areas of Japan promises an experience that you won’t ever forget. Not many can say they’ve been to Kyushu.

This probably sounds like an advertisement for the rugby but as you’ve probably guessed I don’t know that much about rugby. I am however a fan of hot springs and the beautiful Japanese countryside. If you’re coming to Japan anyway …

Also, a little bird has told us that a new hotel is due to open in the area in 2019. It’s the ANA Intercontinental Beppu Resort. Take a peek!

“With its natural beauty and more than 2,400 natural springs, Beppu has built a reputation throughout Asia as one of Japan’s most renowned onsen destinations” via Hotel Online.

Hinoki barrel bath? Check out this one. Gorgeous.

So are you convinced? Will you come to Japan for the Rugby World Cup in 2019? Will you consider making Oita one of your stops if only to experience this wonder of the world, the onsen? Let us know your rugby plans and which team you are rooting for.

Adventures in Phoenix and about

After many years of courting, this year I decided to participate to the ISPA exhibition: the world`s largest and most affirmed show dedicated to the spas industry. Usually it is held in Las Vegas but this year it`s going to happen in Phoenix.


It is a show reserved for the ISPA members and first of all I had to join ISPA as member. Next thing they tell me is that as a vendor I cannot just visit the show: I have either to exhibit with a booth or become a sponsor of the event.
It was just one month before the beginning and I was not going to bring bathtub samples just for 3 days. I explored some alternative options and finally I desided to rent a booth and planned to have a table with some chairs to show photos and samples to interested visitors. To add a Japanese touch to the booth, I obtained a “shimenawa and shide” from a local shirine I know. They gave me the real thing with hemp, the natural fiber material used to tie the rice paper suspended streamers to the rope.
This is used in weddings or ground-breaking ceremonies to create a kind of “sacred zone” where the evil spirits cannot enter. (if you do not know what I am talking about, see below.)
My flight was Osaka-Honolulu-Phoenix. As I had some 120 tablets of wood and few kits of “pocket onsen”, I decided to declare my samples even if they do not have commercial value. I could not imagine they would open all my sutcases and did not remember I had also my blatant wrap of natural hemp (also known as cannabis…!)

Fortunately the custom police did not notice it and I could reach Phoenix with my “spicy” suitcase.

Now, back in august as you may remember, I shared my plans about the Phoenix trip with the Bartok design Community and a woman (whom I never met) offered to have me as a guest in their guest house in Phoenix. They also offered to help me setup the booth (which was a real headache for me at that time) and I accepted the kind invitation.

The following of the story is one of the most amazing and rewarding experience of my 15 years in dealing with ofuros.
you can also read more detail on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/itorrini/posts/10217503173270308 (more…)

Report on Dubai trip

From 9/16 to 9/18 I went to Dubai to visit the Hotel show.
It was my first to Dubai and it is the first step on a new action plan that will bring me to Phoenix next week and to Jakarta in december.
It was a very nice experience and if you are interested in the daily highlights, you can check my facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/itorrini/posts/10217433854577384 and following.

I went on top of the Burj Kalifa (the highest building in the world as we speak), the aquarium in the Dubai mall, the suks in the old Dubai area and even made a quick round trip to Abu Dhabi (the capital of UAE) but what is definitely the leitmotif of this trip is the people I met. Let me be more specific.
Before leaving I announced thru the Bartok design mailing list (1413 members) of my plan and I received 2 emails from people currently in Dubai who were happy to meet me. We agreed on a having dinner with one and on a morning appointment in my hotel with the other.
It was a very pleasant feeling. I am going for the first time to a city on the other side of the world and I have friends there waiting for me!

But the nicest surprise was still to come. Before leaving, a Parisian architect who used my tubs 2 times (year 2008 and 2013) said that he might be able to come to Dubai to meet.
By the time I reached Hong Kong, another mail was saying that all flights were fully booked and it might be difficult this time.
When I reached Dubai at 6:30 in the morning, I found a message saying that Antoine was indeed coming that evening at 23:30!

I offered him to stay in my hotel room but appearently he also has a cousin working in Dubai who insited to have him staying there.
Therefore we arranged to meet in my hotel for breakfast. It was a big emotion to meet in person after 10 years and dozens of emails exchanged. But the surprise increased more and more when I started to understand the size of the man.

His family is cosmopolite starting from his grandmother generation… Antoine can speak Arabic, he graduated from the MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology), he likes to work directly on details. For this reason, he took over a wood working workshop, a metal work workshop, and creates bent glass himself. Antoine works for the president of Gibuti, Saudi tycoons and Kuwaiti princes…!
here is a link to his atelier homepage: http://klam.fr/
and here`s a link to his daughter`s japanese paper shop`s: https://www.adelineklam.com/
He overwhelmed me with his honesty, enthusiasm and passion. And the most stunning element of the story is that he come all the way to Dubai just to meet me! Appearently his Japan-enthusiast wife insisted that he should change his schedule and make room for coming to Dubai.

After the breakfast, we went to visit the Hotel Show together then we drove to the Gold souk and crossed the river with a motorboat to reach the Old souk.
In the evening we had a mint lemonade at Madinat Jumeirah and we went together to have dinner with my second client.An airline pilot and his japanese wife are considering buying an ofuro and we went to see their house.
They were really delicious people and it was very touching to be able to immerse for few moments in the daily routine of a client that suddently is becoming also a friend: checking the layout of the bathroom, having a glass of wine, the kids returning from pool, the gossip about other expats, the shortcut to reach the restaurant.
We had an eccellent lebanese food dinner all together and the conversation went on smoothly while Antoine was ordering in Arabic and talking with my clients naturally as if we had known eachother for years!

The next day Antoine joined me again for breakfast while we were waiting for another perspective client. He came at 9:30 in the hotel and we started to talk about his estate in New Zealand and plans to install a japanese bathtub.
We had exchanged some mails 3 years ago and the renovation project is still on paper as he is busy attending his business on the 5 continents. Former NY lawyer, the client now deals with companies acquisitions and M&M. He has a great sense of humour and while his background is very different from mine or from Antoine`s, we are there again, chatting as 3 old friends.

When the meeting ended, Antoine come with me to the Japanese Consulate where the commercial atachee kindly met us. A graduate from Kobe University, he was very caring and I am sure that the Japanese Consulate is very capable and dedicated in promoting the interests of Japanese companies in the UAE.

Finally we visited together the acquarium at the Dubai mall and said goodbye as I had to rush to the airport to catch my flight.
It was a very productive, life changing experience as I was talking with Antoine all the time and learning about his family, his business and his wonderful life philosophy.

I have always cultivated my independence. I think it is a value to be with other people but not to depend on other people.
When you are independent it is easier to be proactive and be less vulnerable by the circumstances.
But this trip (and once again the action of tapping in the beautiful community of the japanese lovers hiding in the Bartok design mailing list) though me that there is a higher value to be cultivated: that of interdependance.
Even if you are independent, there are just so many things you can do. But doing it together opens a miryad of new and surprising options!

Thank you Antoine for the nice days together!

Our newest, our favourites and our classics

I’m excited about the next few months of the year, making a special ofuro for you! Find our newest, our favourites and our classics here.

At Bartok design we like to push the envelope. Our newest design is not our design at all, it’s yours. The ‘kakehashi‘ technology allows us to create the bath of your dreams in any shape you can imagine! View the PDF here.

Our favourites? Well it’s hard to choose because we love them all but the Gyo Pocket Onsen has a special place in our hearts because it makes Japanese-style ofuro bathing so accessible to everyone. Simply add a few drops of our hinoki oil to our handcrafted wooden orbs then toss them into your hot bath water.Bliss!

Our classics? We just love the retro feel of this one: (kadomaru tub)

Kadomaru Retro Tub

From one desert to another! Next stop Phoenix, Arizona! ISPA Conference and Expo

It’s been quite an eventful couple of weeks for us here at Bartok design. It’s kind of last minute but we couldn’t be more excited about our trip to Dubai for the Hotel Show, followed by our attendance at the ISPA Conference and Expo in Phoenix, Arizona.

Trade shows are a new frontier for Bartok design but we are confident that we can rub shoulders with the big guys. Wish us luck!

You’ve supported us for over 15 years and rest-assured we continue to value every customer big or small, to handbuild one bath or ten. That’s the beauty of our bathtubs. They are handbuilt, one by one. Our craftsmen take pride in every single bathtub that they produce. We guarantee our workmanship on every bathtub produced under the Bartok design name.

Thank you for your continued support!

If you are an architect, a designer or working in the spa or hospitality industry we’re glad to make your acquaintance. Even though trade show attendance is new for us we are no strangers to working within the profession – our founder Iacopo Torrini is an architect (Studio Dodici) in Japan – and we have supplied several bathtubs for hotels, restaurants and spas around the world. Check our B2B section for details.

We’ll be at the Dubai Hotel Show from September 16 – 18 and then we will be in Phoenix Arizona for ISPA Conference and Expo from September 24 -26th – Booth #1718

At the shows we’ll be talking about our amazing Pocket Onsen ‘Gyo’ experience which gives just a small taste of the Japanese bathing experience. With our Hinoki essential oil kit you will instantly be transported to Japan without leaving the bath!

Our NEW Kakehashi tubs are sure to be the talk of the show. Imagine being able to design a bathtub for your hotel or spa in ANY shape you desire. YES, it’s possible. You have to see it to believe it! Sneak peek here.

And of course we will be proudly explaining the benefits and standout points of our ‘standard’ ofuro, which as you know are anything other than ‘standard’. They are handcrafted pieces of magic. Click here for a quick summary but really this page doesn’t do them justice.

We wrote a short publicity piece below. Could your spa be more zen? Could this be the competitive edge you need?

Find us at The Hotel Show Dubai, September 16 – 18 and ISPA Expo, Phoenix, September 24 -26.

 

Zen Spa Bartok design

Phoenix ISPA for Bartok design

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

15 years with you!!

Hi everybody~
Here is a brief update on the recent developments @ Bartok.
I have been designing, producing and shipping japanese ofuro bathtubs worldwide since 2003.
(about 500 ofuros sent to 49 countries and counting!).
Recently, B2B projects (hotels, spas and other commercial uses) have been increasing to about half of the yearly sales.
Yet, I have never participated to a specialized trade show – with the exception of a brief visit to the Spa & Beauty Exhibition in Paris in 2013.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Bartok design, I decided to be present at not one…
not two…
actually three! specialized trade shows before the end of the year.
Here are the dates: it will be wonderful to meet you if you happen to be around (who knows, life can be unpredictable…)
(1)
I will be in Dubai for the Hotel show from 9/16 morning until 9/18 afternoon (plane leaving at 17:00) I will also have to go to Abu Dhabi for a meeting so I think I will have to postpone to the next occasion that camel tour in the desert you are about to recommend me…!
(2)
I will also visit the ISPA in Phoenix (AZ) from 9/24 – 26 (arriving on 23 evening and departing on 27 morning). Do they have camels in Arizona?
(3)
Finally, I will exhibit at the Hotelier Summit Asia in Jakarta on 12/5 and 6.
Exciting! I have never been to Indonesia!
I hope to see you there … and if we miss eachother I promise that I will bring back a suitcase full of presents in terms of new ideas and products that can enhance your bathing experience and japanese style wellbeing.
Of course I will be delighted if you will write me to share any advice you may have about Dubai or Phoenix.
For the chat about Jakarta I will catch up again with you later in october or november.
Please contact me by email at japan@bartokdesign.com
Thank you in advance for your help!
All the Best//
Bartok design Japan Co.
iacopo torrini

pocket onsen ‘GYO’ campaign ending tomorrow!

IMG_2029

I should have written this earlier, but life is busy also in this part of the world…
Tomorrow the indiegogo campaign is closing (the project is founded! thanks everybody!)
If you are considering to purchase a “GYO” for yourself or to give as a present, this is the last chance.

After the campaign is finished, I will add the GYO to the Bartok shop but the price will include a profit margin. I was considering 1.5 times (which is still very reasonable). For instance, the basic set with young trees oil will become 45 USD instead of 30 USD.
On the other hand, the cost does not really take into account the time for packaging, labeling etc. so I might set higher prices.
Also, 2 operators are interested in distributing the pocket onsen (maybe OEM) so I will have to protect their prices. In brief, I am now considering to set retail prices to about 210% of the production costs (which is still very reasonable!)
pocket onsen GYO – young trees → 6,000 JPY including shipping (now 30 USD + shipping)

pocket onsen GYO – special reserve → 9,000 JPY including shipping (now 50 USD + shipping)

pocket onsen GYO –  compare set → 12,000 JPY including shipping (now 65 USD + shipping)

(more…)

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