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!