Progress: Phase I, Days 3-7

Work on the minka in the mountains continues at an impressive clip. The reform crew removed the old, far-too-tiny wood (and wood-burning) bathtub out of the bathroom, which appears to be in good enough condition to use outside, in addition to the new and much larger one that will replace it indoors. They also removed the old, very dangerous wood-burning stove that had been sitting atop the former iyori, along with the crude piping. Incredibly, there had been no chimney per se: the hot smoke and soot emptied into the loft. I’m told this isn’t unusual as the idea was that the black smoke would keep the thatched straw under the tin roof dry and the insects out.

By now nearly all the flooring had been removed, much of it useable firewood for our eventual stove, and since there was a literal ton of it (or more), it made sense to begin sticking it all on a firewood rack I had ordered online and assembled at the house. While the reform crew did their thing, I tried to help out by moving firewood around, and swept out debris in the various floorless rooms, as well as the bathroom, ahead of its major reconstruction.

I also tried to rake and shovel the muck and mire behind the house, thinking to eventually supplement the stone retaining wall with a French drain. It was hot and humid, but nonetheless I wore big rubber boots, heavy jeans, and a long-sleeve shirt owing to the many snakes, mukade, and especially wiggly black leeches back there.

What I discovered was that the ground behind the house seems to consist almost entirely of 1) rocks; 2) tree roots; and 3) slimy muck. However, the previous owners must have succeeded in making that back area nice at some point. There was, unusually, a small engawa that, I discovered, looked out over a small garden, its stone border still in place, if completely overgrown.

But Matsuda-san, our chief carpenter, made the most interesting discovery of the week: two coins, dating back to Japan’s Edo Period. (see below)

Next, the crew tackled the ugly, impractical postwar kitchen sink, a back-breaking job as the sink turned out to be virtually a huge cement block with a sink on top. While they worked, I thought it would be a good idea to remove all the firewood under and adjacent to the okudosan, as Mrs. Fujimura pointed out that was extremely dangerous once the stove became operational.

Moving all this firewood, I couldn’t help but wonder how long these dry pieces of wood and been stored there. Five years? 50 years? Then, as I was reaching deep under the stove, I experienced something very much like what happens at 1:45 mark of this:

At first I thought it was an enormous spider, but it turned out to be a hand-sized colorful cricket-like insect. I was so startled by it lunging at my face that I let out a yelp loud enough for the crew to hear it over their jackhammering and stop to see what it was.

Finally, the lumber for the flooring framing arrived and everything was off-loaded and made ready for next week’s work!

Day 3-5

Reform - Day 04h
The main room minus the old stove and all the ugly piping. Looks bigger now
Reform - Day 04g
Another view of things with the chimney gone
Reform - Day 04f
The bathroom with the tub out; years of ash and rusted components underneath
Reform - Day 04e
The tub removed (notice the little oven at the bottom where one would stick wood or charcoal to heat the water)
Reform - Day 04 d
A rainy day, with covered discarded lumber
Reform - Day 04b
Bowls of charcoal in stainless steel strainers, which will be placed under the floorboards to help keep it dry
Reform - Day 04a
The bathroom minus the tub. I suspect most of this will be gone by next week, too
Reform Day 05c
Like something out of Law & Order: SVU, Matsuda-san printed and posted images from other restored minka, as a guide to what I’d like various things (plasterwork, type of flooring, bathroom ideas, etc.) to look like once renovated. Below that is a floor plan indicating where I’d like the electrical outlets to be
Reform - Day 05b
The main room all tidied up, awaiting our final decision as to where the wood stove foundation needs to be
Reform - Day 05a
Required wear for outdoor work in the summer. On this exact spot a few days earlier I was sprinkling salt on the leg of a young woman trembling with fear after a three-inch leech attached itself.
Reform - Day 06b
Under the kamado, no one can hear you scream
Coins found 2016.07.16
The two Edo Period coins Matsuda-san found while tearing out the kitchen. The one on the left is a 4-mon coin, made of brass and dating sometime between 1769-1859. The one on the right might be a 1-mon coin from the same period. The hole in the middle is so that one could run a piece of string through one’s change and keep it all together. 

Author: stuartgalbraithiv

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian, writer, and publisher-editor of World Cinema Paradise. He is the author of seven books, including The Emperor and the Wolf (Faber & Faber, 2002), the joint-biography of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune hailed by Martin Scorsese as "a must read." Peter Biskind, in The New York Times Book Review, called it "a rare feast for lovers of Japanese cinema [and] a monumental job of research . . . infused throughout with an affection for its subjects that is contagious. Best of all, it does what all good film books should do: returns us, with an enriched appreciation, to the movies themselves." "One of the best industrial histories of Japanese cinema available in English," adds Catherine Russell of Cineaste. And Bill Kelley, in The Sarasota Herald Tribune, had this to say: "Not many film books deserve to have the adjective 'extraordinary' applied to them, but Stuart Galbraith's The Emperor and the Wolf is nothing less than that. In fact, it's more . . . this 823-page achievement wants to be all things to all admirers of its twin subjects, and, incredibly, it succeeds. Reference work, scrupulously thorough filmography, exhaustive biography - all are here . . . A graceful, economical writer, [Galbraith] is also a first-rate critic and film historian. [The Emperor and the Wolf] is a wonder of clarity and organization, and an enormous pleasure to read . . . [a] magnificent book." Galbraith's other books include Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo: The Incredible World of Japanese Fantasy Films (Feral House, 1998), The Japanese Filmography (McFarland & Co., 1996), Motor City Marquees (McFarland, 1994), and Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (McFarland, 1994). In 2007, Galbraith's The Toho Studios Story, was published by Scarecrow, while his latest, Japanese Cinema, was published by Taschen in 2009. From 2004-2009, Galbraith wrote a monthly column for Japan's Daily Yomiuri on Region 2/Japanese DVDs. Within the home video field, Galbraith has written essays for Criterion's three-disc Seven Samurai DVD and Blu-ray, Optimum's Rashomon, BCI Eclipse's The Quiet Duel and Subkultur's The Long Good Friday. He provided audio commentaries for AnimEigo's Musashi Miyamoto - The Ultimate Samurai and Tora-san, editing the accompanying booklet for the latter. A commentary recorded (with Steve Ryfle) for Godzilla vs. Megalon but suppressed and aborted due to legal problems became an instant collector's item. In 2011, he co-produced Message from Earth, a short documentary on the making of Kinji Fukasaku's Message from Space. In 2015, Galbraith recorded an audio commentary and wrote and produced a new short documentary, Rashomon at 65, for the British Film Institute's Blu-ray of Kurosawa's 1950 classic. Concurrently, he served as an consultant on Oscar-winning director Steven Okazaki's documentary feature, Mifune - Last Samurai (2015). Also in 2015 Galbraith wrote an essay for Arrow Video's The Happiness of the Katakuris, shot interview material and provided an audio commentary for their Battles without Honor and Humanity boxed set. He was an associate producer for the DVDs of the classic poolroom drama The Hustler and Sidney Lumet's The Verdict. He provided audio commentary (with director Richard Fleischer) for the Special Edition DVD of Tora! Tora! Tora! (all for 20th Century-Fox), and interviewed Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond for his audio commentary track for The Sadist. Galbraith also contributed commentary tracks to The Horror of Hammer and Tales of Frankenstein, all for All Day Entertainment. Galbraith's audio commentary for Classic Media's Invasion of Astro-Monster was released in 2007 and nomiated for a Rondo Hatton Award. Holding a Master's Degree from the University of Southern California's prestigious School of Cinema-Television, Galbraith worked as an archivist and researcher at both Warner Bros. and M-G-M. At Warner Bros., Galbraith implemented preservation projects and procedures at both its USC-Warner Bros. Archives and the Warner Bros. Corporate Image Archives. At M-G-M, Galbraith worked as a "film detective," tracking down the original camera negatives to more than three dozen "lost" films. Born in 1965 in Detroit, Michigan, Galbraith was a film critic for the Ann Arbor News, a daily newspaper. In addition to writing film reviews and feature stories, Galbraith also wrote a weekly column, "Video View," which ran from 1990-1993. Between books, Galbraith wrote for such film magazines as Filmfax, Outre, and the French film magazine HK Orient Extreme Cinema. Since 2003 he has lived in Kyoto, Japan with his wife, Yukiyo, and their daughter, Sadie.

One thought on “Progress: Phase I, Days 3-7”

  1. It’s a great, vicarious pleasure to read your blog – what a challenge! I have a comfy but tiny condo right at exit 2 of Sanjo Keihan and have lived in Geino, Mie, for the past 10 years, so I know a little about country life, especially how the nighttime robs us of the normal pleasures of the urban living! I am a musician and play Irish fiddle, and so without the ability to go out at night, there’s nothing to do but stay in, practice, read books drink at home, etc. etc. Urban people don’t even think about this privilege they have every night.
    I just got back from Kyoto to Naperville Illinois, where my wife and I are renting a house while she works for an American company based here, but we go back-and-forth. I hope that you might consider having a live music night of Irish and American music with fiddles, concertinas, etc. to celebrate when the house is done. If so, count me in! (I played at USJ 5 years with Jay, Felicity, Atsuko, Akazawa-san…we’re not bad!). Meanwhile, keep the boots on, mind the leeches, and enjoy the process! All the best!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s