Tag Archives: japanlife

Japan Generational farm house and cottage story

+ Introducing our compound in Tsuchida, Okayama +

I joined a Kominka (trad Japanese country home) renovation, acquisition & enjoyment group and made a video introduction – sharing here in case you are curious.

‘Tis a little intimidating cause a load of people are doing incredible detailed projects in remote locations with all sorts of hand-tools and techniques but hey, i am adding to the generation story of our land – its all about the cycles.

Riff includes parents’ renovated farm house and our “cottage” under construction.

In brief: Both of these homes were empty from the 1990s until about 7 years ago when my (arborist/jazz singer) wife re-opened the cottage, the parents followed and the dilapidated old farm house was reno’d keeping all the beams, much character and details.
Now the cottage (which sits where other buildings did in the past) is getting a big new room plus a load of other upgrades to add to the story. A mix of trad joinery and materials and a few touches from the parent’s reno (genkon doors etc) and also insulation, woodstove, tea ceremony area, and big doors out to the carport as i hope our place becomes the local hangout for our son Ichiro’s pals in years to come.

Also a peek at wife’s Naya toolshed and glance at garden. Oh yeah, i also ramble on about my “origin story” of coming to Japan in early 1990s and working as a mushroom farmer in Tottori before running away and hitchhiking from Shikoku to Nagano where i first experience renegade inaka living.

Very pleased to add to my local community and respect the work of the ancestors.

the “Sistine Chapel” of kura granary barns

PS If curious i have time-lapse video of the roof raising and other artifacts from the kura which is now my arts and crafts studio and music lounge.

panorama of the backyard with garden, kura barn and bamboo grove

 

 

Artifacts: Commemorative item-making devices at Korakuen

Stamping documentation at Korakuen Garden here in Goldilocks Okayama Japan. Tip: Always have a notebook with you (and/or buy postcards) and stamp to remember your times.

Sure there’s lots of nature and plants and trees and bridges and gardens and tea houses and turtles and cranes and flowers going back to the Edo period here at Korakuen Gardens… but also machines of various mechanical, electronic and analog persuasion to commemorate your visit to Korakuen (1 of 3 “top official super official great special” gardens in Japan) in pleasant Okayama, the “Goldilocks“ of Japan. Also postcards and tea (naturally).

Examples, lightly annotated below:

* Stamp your notebook with a commemorative stamp and an extra stamp with today’s date (checkmarko)

* Buy a Okayama Momotaro pin (check mark)

* Buy a coin to commemorate your visit (checkmark)

* Engrave the coin you just bought with a special message (checkmark) {note: this machine was so interesting with mix of digital and mechanical-ness, and clackety-clackety sounds]

Diary: 3 wooden stick projects (sign post, postbox, wind phone)

Mounted three pieces of raw wood into Tsuchida tsuchi (soil) with concrete (or is it cement? – which do you mix with sand and water to make the other?) for 3 different, but vaguely-related, projects:

* sign post with arrows pointing distances to favourite/special places (there is a list but…  need to re-earn my orienteering compass badge so I can point the signs in the right direction. Resisting the urge to be really obsessive about this but worried more engineering-minded friends will come double check my work and you know, if it’s not within 2° of accuracy you know I’m going to hear about it  – I can hear the “well actually…” in my head already. And then any US people who come will be confused by the KMs as well – sigh!)

* post box for (un)secret messages the kura barn >> atelier, lounge & Cascadia consulate

* phone to the wind as a shrine & refuge for conversations with those passed or possibly lost {further evidence}

PS Transplanted two trees today. Super fun being arborist Ryoko’s assistant and father-in-law’s “co-worker”. Yeah, used a shovel and a wheelbarrow and *everything*.

Yes, it seems I’m really “nesting” and getting ready to live here forever.

Kitchen: making Miso from scratch (ready in New Year)

Pretty sure I earned a Japanese merit badge today. Made our own Miso from scratch! Will sit in this old crock (found in the tool shed & same one used for umeboshi last year) for 8 months.

Summary: Soybeans, Salt, Koji & no air.

Here’s how it went down (lousy photos with annotations): 

Soaked for 24 hours and simmered for 4 hours and cooled down

Oh, this is what the salt and koji (culture) looks like

Mince up the beans with a, ummm mincer

Yup mix it all (salt, koji, miso) up

Squish out the air whilst making tennis ball sized chunks

Squish squish squish into the crock, no air remember

Fill a bag with salt to weigh it down and seal off the edges from air

Put on a label and wait for 8 months (cool place please, in our case, the kura barn) check in later to tell ya how it turned out

Diary: Rocking out (buying stones)

Note solar array and tile roof kominka house in background of snap {past / present / future}

 Wife (arborist/ trad landscape designer) let me tag along on some rock shopping expedition. I am amused at logistics of this supply chain as stones from from around Japan and world here to Okayama.

Also for your amusement, 3 types/varieties of stones observed (& sampled) for use at our home project and Ryoko’s work projects

Snaps: Korakuen Gardens (Mother’s Day out)

4 (more) views at Korakuen Gardens, Okayama  – One of three “great, official, significant/something“ gardens in Japan built during the feudal Edo period. Saw turtles in cranes amongst the tea houses, bridges and trees.

Went to hear some old-timey music (recorded some audio “bootleg”) and celebrate Ryoko and Junko (m-in-l) with a pleasant stroll around the park. Stopped for tea and postcards (of course) and Ichiro was the star (of course). {oh i’ll add some snaps of him…}

Anyhow, ergo:


* trad rock zen space

* bridge over placid water


* “crow” castle yonder


* detail of temple roof

Tsuchida Cottage Construction Roof Raising (time lapse + snaps)

After a 3+ weeks of digging out and laying foundation, connecting to various systems and preparing all the timbers with specific joints, as well as removing walls, clearing out eaves of giant beehives and adding insulation, on an auspicious day, a crew came and assembled the main structure (walls and roof) of the house addition.

Basically a new room where previous was a car park which now sorta connects the existing house with a carport and naya (tool shed). Overall, there will be a new genkon (formal entrance), a woodstove, handwash station, the piano and desks will move in here too along with a heavy big table. Skylight and windows including a “patio door” etc anyhow… T

here was a small ceremony involved (salt purification) and the architect Morioka-san chief builder Ishii-san and others were on site with a variety pack of workers. I (daveo) did a “coffee ceremony” with 3 types (both beans and preparation method) for the crew which was very pleasant.

We (the family) also went to tell Grandfather Ichiro and Grandmother Tomiko about the action at their ohaka (grave).

So…. during all this “Amish Barn Raising” event, i put an olden PhoneRobot on a tripod with extension cord – being careful to stay out of the way of workers and equipment – and ran a time lapse for various parts of 2 days.

The aim is/was to commemorate the happening and show the different construction tools and methods utilized. Nothing fancy… oh i’ll tack on a few still frames snaps at the end with minimal annotations. Possibly some of the lil trucks coming and going, i don’t know, i’m not at that part yet, we’ll see when we get there…

this snap is well-after the video above but was handy to add to the post…

 

Ichiro: cards #61~65 “5ive Set / Farm, Minako, Canadian, Rice, Superstar” 12.2~9.2020

5 – count ’em 5ive – new #Ichiro cards for your on-going collection from early Dec. 2020 (Reiwa 2), series includes:

Ichiro: card “Farm guys” hanging out at uncle Mac’’s goat Emporium Rural Caprine Farm with a haiku post box in the sunshine
Ichiro: card “meeting Minako-san” the remarkable elder lady proprietor of the finest tiny restaurant with ridiculous Okonomiyaki & a completely psychedelic painter (minus the psychedelics)
Ichiro: card “Officially Canadian“ no big deal, came with an awesome sweater and a citizenship certificate
Ichiro: card “Let’s try rice!“A.k.a. “Snacktime“ or “spoonful of wasabi…“ Yep, trying a little bit of sort of solid food in the form of smashed up rice soup. Next step, pierogies
Ichiro: card “Okayama superstar” our prefecture ain’t so famous (unless you count peaches, peach boy legend, denim and school uniforms…) but that’s changing with this dashing dude

Ichiro: card #60 “Child Prodigy-ish” 12.1

Ichiro card 60 / “Child Prodigy-ish” (Glenn Gould Redux)
Won’t say he is *concert-ready* quite yet but he’s using fingers not fists, posture is solid, chord shapes developing… another couple months he should be ready for Okayama Symphony Hall.
 
Will let you know when tickets go on preorder.

Ichiro: card #59 “Generations of Fujitas”(in Tsuchida) / 11.28

Ichiro: card #59 “Generations of Fujitas”(in Tsuchida) / 11.28

These shining lights continue to connect the centuries of culture & community The family gravestones go back so far the words are obscured / we wash (sometimes), light incense (Nag Champa in this case), clap and bow + bit of a conversation > In this case, namesake Grandfather Ichiro & Grandmother Tomiko’s ohaka / note: this “ohaka” has served as an important destination and part this year’s actions as documented in this archive.

Ichiro: card #58 “Capn’s Chair”/ 11.21

Ichiro: card #58 “Capn’s Chair”/ 11.21

This chair helps strengthen up his back for sitting up and such fun!  

Ichiro: card #53~57 “Dapper, Nice, Out n About, Gathering Stories, Rookie”/ 11.5

5 new Ichiro cards #io in the ongoing series… Coming from the last fortnight in spectacular & pleasantly autumnal Okayama, Japan. 

This assortment includes:

Ichiro: card #52~56 “Fancy hat and mustache” (dapper, esq)
Ichiro: card #52~56 “Nice to meet you” (dandy man)
Ichiro: card #52~56 “Out n about” (in the stroller towards the post office)
Ichiro: card #52~56 “Gathering Stories” (with Frederick)
Ichiro: card #52~56 “Rookie of our year” (with jersey of the goat)