Week Two

The second week of “Phase I” as I call it, the hardcore, make-it-livable part of the “reform” (i.e., renovation) work, wasn’t quite as visually dramatic as the first, but progress was nonetheless made.

The most noteworthy developments involve the former genkan passageway-future dining room and former stable-future annex bedroom, each of which had some water damage to their respective ceilings. Once those were removed I began to think how much nicer each of those rooms might look with the high ceilings retained, especially as they exposed additional long ceiling beams running the length of the house.

Week 02 08
Hard to believe it now, but this is a look at a part of our future dining room’s high ceiling. It’ll get better. Believe me.
Week 02 07
An interesting discovery in the servant’s quarters. The non-matching wood at the top left I think must originally have been an open space, allowing the maid to deposit fresh linens directly into the master bedroom’s futon closet
Week 02 02
The ugly, postwar sink is no more

My pal Jeff Flugel paid a visit to the Hanase minka for the first time, and while he was there we tried climbing the long ladder in the doma 18 feet up to the small sliding door that leads to the loft area. But even stalwart Jeff confessed to being a little nervous so high up, and having to squirm into the tiny space up there.

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But a long piece of floor bracing, leaning against the futon closet in the bedroom annex got me thinking: Why not put a much shorter ladder to the loft right there? The climb up into the loft would be a much less daunting seven feet instead of eighteen. Further, a simple collapsable step-stair of the sort associated with attics could be hidden out of sight in the futon closet.

Big, strapping Masutani-san – he must be around six feet, five inches tall – continued his work with the flooring, adding insulation between the original beams before nailing the flat wood base that will rest under the hardwood flooring, and full sheets of insulation where the tatami rooms will be. For much of this, he used a red laser to reposition and ensure a completely level floor. What would the original builders in 1810 have made of such a device?

Week 02 04

Meanwhile, I did what little I could to save the crew a little time and trouble. Monday was a national holiday so Yukiyo, Sadie and I drove over to barbecue. Later in the week, I cleared several hundred pounds of muck that had through the years been building up behind the house, almost all of which consisted of endless rocks, roots, muck and mire. Soon after I began work on a multi-stepped gravel pathway, an intended shortcut for the crew (and, later, us) from the secondary parking directly to the doma, but my efforts were so pathetic I’m not ready to post any images just yet.

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We also made a final decision about which stove company to hire for the purchase and installation of our wood-burning stove. It was an agonizing decision. We got three estimates, and each company a) came up with a plan completely different from the other two, and b) insisted the other two plans were totally unsafe. We went with the plan that made the most logical sense in terms of safety and, naturally, it was also the most expensive.

We also found a place to send our two dogs, Maisie (a 15-year-old Papillion) and Edie (a six-year-old Boston Terrier), to for a little remedial education. Much as we really want them to be able to run around the area without a leash and have the time of their lives, Edie particularly is so stupid it’s easy to imagine her running off merrily into the mountains, never to be seen again, or Maisie latching onto a snake that turned out to be poisonous.

Each day on my way to Hanase I’d pass a dog-training center, and finally we stopped by and said hello. Turns out the owner-trainer, Fujii-san, knew exactly where we lived in town from my annual Halloween Haunted House shows. And it turned out he’s training a German Shepherd two blocks away and also trained Oscar, the dog that lived in our house in town before we did. Small world, this.

The real fun came on Sunday. With most of the house’s interior looking like the inside of a Brontosaurus skeleton, I thought it would be fun to take Yukiyo and Sadie out exploring the countryside near our minka in the mountains. First we stopped by a big summer festival at the public campgrounds about five minutes from our minka. Farmers brought produce from at least three local communities: Hanase, Hirogawara, and Momoi, and we feasted on grilled ears of corn, and Yukiyo and Sadie enjoyed some barbecued squid. My American eyes latched onto a booth selling burgers but it was only after I ordered, “Hitotsu, onegaishimasu!” (“One, please”) that I was to be given a choice: wild boar or deer. I opted for the wild boar, and I must admit it was the best burger of any type I’d had in a long while.

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Later, we drove through the mountains past some really spectacular scenery to Miyama, a medium-sized town to the northwest famous for its little sub-hamlet of restored straw-thatched minka. During the long drive back into Kyoto both Sadie and Yukiyo, as they always do, fell into a deep sleep. Must be all that fresh air.

Miyama 26
Near the summit above Hirogawara, on the road to Miyama
Miyama 25
Spectacular scenery at a local rest stop

Miyama 24

Miyama 23
Wedding photos taken with Miyama positioned in the background
Miyama Panorama
Miyama approaches!
Miyama 21
Sadie dips her toes in a foot-cooling stream, seats provided
Miyama Stream
So, too, does the writer of this blog

Miyama 20

Miyama 18
Local bread-shop, apparently 
Miyama 17
Sadie poses in front of one of Miyama’s powerful water cannons (to guard against fires), discreetly disguised as a mini-minka
Miyama 16
An old-style public mailbox, a rare sight in Japan today

Miyama 15

Miyama 14
Thatched-straw roof detail
Miyama 12
In Miyama, it’s impossible to take a bad picture

Miyama 11Miyama 10Miyama 09

Miyama 08
Sound advice inside the local folk museum
Miyama 07
An important exhibit (square hole in the floor, as it turned out)
Miyama 06
The loft of the museum is almost identical to how our minka in the mountains look, though our straw is more blackened from years sitting above a burning irori
Miyama 05
Tea break

Miyama 04Miyama 03

Miyama 01
The ride home

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 “Week Two”

  1. Thanks for the progress report. Very impressive work happening and it’s good to see new ideas forming. This is the most important part and once it’s done, things to do will get smaller and more and more decorative. Your house is well situated in a beautiful area. Enjoy and anon.


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