Dog Days

Today was another hot summer afternoon in Hanase or, as I like to call it, The Day the Earth Caught Fire. The workers had been off a record 12 days – first there was Japan’s latest holiday, “Mountain Day,” and then oban and then, well, it was quiet on that front for a while. But now they’re back, allegedly planning on working pretty much every day through to the end of the month and perhaps beyond.

I’ve been busying myself with various small projects: trying to hold the line against the weeds, some of which seemed to surge to a meter in height before I pulled ’em out or hacked away at them with my mighty sickle.

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A couple of Sundays back, we introduced ourselves to the Murata family, a few doors down, as their kids were slightly older and younger than Sadie, perfect for playing with down at their stretch of the river.

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In the best tradition of Green Acres, farm living with the life for Mr. Murata, who gave up his city job to become a farmer. Mrs. Murata is happy, too. At the kids’ elementary school, there are just 11 students and one teacher, and the kids couldn’t be happier. 

We’ve also met the nice couple next-door to Simon and Keiko-san, who live and work in Osaka, but come out as often as they can. We invited them over for BBQ ahead of the matsuage, Hanase’s local fire festival.

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I grilled up some steaks and corn, but Simon really hit it out of the park with his marinated chicken breasts, which Yukiyo described as the best chicken she’s ever eaten in her life!
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Boss was there, too!
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This being Hanase, there was but this single tent selling an unimpressive selection of food and drink; they had already run out of beer before we arrived!
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Conversely, a big police and fire department presence, drawn from all over Kyoto Prefecture apparently. They made up their rules as they went along. 

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Photos can’t do justice to seeing the real thing in person. Specially selected volunteers – Mr. Murata was down there, somewhere – throw giant lit tassels into the air, trying to ignite the platform on top. It took maybe a hundred throws over 15 minutes to get it alight.   

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The next day, Simon presented me with a tassel used in the event by Murata-san, who generously had given him two. A treasure indeed!
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Meanwhile, back at the minka, the workers gradually sanded, cut, leveled, and otherwise made all the sliding fusuma and shoji screens slidable once again. During this process, they even figured out that the ugly, mismatched ugly modern ones could be replaced by the original ones now bordering the living room and doma. Obviously, new paper is needed for their shoji, but it sure looks a lot better, and it was nice to get a sense of what the dining room will look like with all the doors closed. 
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For my part, I made the journey to IKEA in Osaka, ordered, and eventually took delivery of our future kitchen cabinets and sink. It was fiendishly complicated getting the right combination of parts and components, and putting it together has taken me three full days. Here’s a diagramical preview of what’s to come.
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And that damn kitchen had me working late into the night some nights. But I didn’t mind; I had the Milky Way to keep me company. 
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I’m also glad to say that I was able to help Matsuda-san carry the last wheelbarrow loads of rocks and boulders, and then pail after pail of cement, to top off the foundation for our cast-iron, wood-burning stove. 
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I just know you’ve been just itching to see this photo: our compost toilet. We’re thinking of switching to a septic system within a few years, as our “reform” budget won’t allow the expansive and expensive plumbing work involved. This’ll do for now.
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And you just gotta love the name. 
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On a more aesthetically pleasing note, I was happy to find this nice little table lamp, a photo of which I had seen in an issue of Kominka Style.
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Things really began to pick up steam when tall (probably 6’4″) Masutani-san began assembling the framework where, eventually, white plaster will go. The white plaster will help bring out the beams while reflecting light (and keeping heat in) our minka‘s dark interior.

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Incredibly, I found him pulling a Karl Wallenda, precariously balanced on 2 x 4s resting on ladders of different sizes, sawing and hammering without a concern in the world.

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The end result – looks great!
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The crew has also been hard at work on the “gray water” piping. Matsuda-san and I tried unsuccessfully to find where it all drained, and it appears the workers opted to build an almost entirely new line instead, rather than dig up the whole property in search of the original.

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Finally, Lauren and Pat (right), joined Simon, Sadie, Yukiyo, Keiko-san, and myself for a wonderful day. Lauren and Pat heard about this blog, and contacted us because they themselves are restoring a minka in the Noto Peninsula of Ishikawa Prefecture. Between slices of watermelon we swapped stories of our adventures and misadventures as foreign-born (most of us) minka owners. We all share the same passion for these sadly neglected structures yet, interestingly, each of the three families involved is working on a minka entirely different from the other two, and our approaches to getting the job done is also quite different. Still, I think we learned a lot from one another and really enjoyed sharing our love for minka with kindred spirits!

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.

2 thoughts on “Dog Days”

  1. I really am amazed at the progress in Hanese. I look forward to all the pictures and of course your commentary. I thank you for sharing this adventure!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the update. The house is beginning to look like something!! And your network of friends and neighbors is growing. Good signs!! Enjoy!!



    Liked by 1 person

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