Where Chimneys Are Seen

The original estimate from the builders was three months and a little more, so I figured they’d finish around October 10th if I was lucky, October 20th if they were running behind. I was, then, startled in conversation with them some weeks ago to learn they were actually hoping to finish this month, September, though they cautioned they might run a few days into October. Best news of the week!

The maki sutoobu (maki stove or, wood-burning stove) crew arrived, allowing me my first good look inside the loft level. I’d tried before, but the space was so dark and so huge, no flashlight or lantern gave off enough light to see much of anything. What we found was a revelation!

Neighbor Simon appears dubious about our chances getting out alive, as he peers in from the sub-level leading to the main loft
Photos don’t begin to suggest just how huge the space is up there, nor how profoundly quiet it is, The straw really deadens the sound. It’d make a great recording studio
We marveled endlessly at the gassho zukuri framework of the roof, such as this intricately-tied roof beam. The spike to the extreme right is typical of what holds the tin roof covering in place


Supervisor Kitada-san and his assistant begin work clearing the straw to make way for the chimney and to ensure its safety from fire. A nine-hour day was planned. It took two
Blue tarp captures 200 years worth of soot!
It was a hot, laborious job, trimming 50cm of radius to ensure a safe-operating stove


One of the main loft beams, with its layer-upon-layer of soot
Lowering down a bag of cut straw
A view of the loft sub-level, and the annex bedroom below that
A basketful of straw, presumably from the last thatching perhaps 50 years ago
Kitada-san ascends the roof. One really gets a sense of just how big the house is when one sees his tiny figure atop it!


Week two of work began with the arrival of their heavy-duty van. 
Back on the roof
A hole in the tin roof is cut, and preparations are made to carefully install an aluminum foil-like wrapper of insulation around the chimney pipes
Building the framework for the chimney
A view of the west side of the loft. I hope to restore this space in 2017 and turn it into some kind of media/guest room
Prayers tied to one of the main posts, possibly dating back to when the house was built 206 years ago


Up the flue as seen from the main room below
Chimney coming down!
Two-for-one: Maki stove supervisor Kitada-san’s assistant works on the chimney, right, while the plasterer lays his first layer between the beams
This Is Stovearama – A wide angle view of the workday
The chimney is finally visible, poking through the roof
While inside, the bottom-end of the piping anxiously awaits the arrival of the stove itself!
Via Richard Hodge, I located some period-appropriate pendant lights for the main bedroom
And, via the Yoshimura Family, a wonderful Shinto shrine for its proper place in the main room!
A wide view of the main room, with the kitchen cabinets awaiting their installation 
Founds some pots for our kamado, courtesy the Yoshimura Family
A wider view of the doma, with the kitchen to the left
In the kitchen I was surprised to find this can of tuna, left by the previous owner…
…and guaranteed fresh until June 17, 1994!
Evolution of a kitchen….


The new walling in place
Matsuda-san and Masutani-san prepare the cabinets I assembled for placement
Note Matsuda-san’s footwear. He was stung twice in the foot by a yellow jacket a few days before while working outside, and wasn’t taking any chances
The cabinets in their proper place, if still not quite finished
A Cinerama-like view of the doma, facing the kitchen
The sink finally gets its faucet, a new one that nonetheless blends in with the early 19th century doma. Still no running water, though!
Want to visit our minka? For the past five years I hosted The Haunted House of Hataeda, most years a walk-through haunted house attraction every Halloween season. This year it has evolved into The Haunted House of Hanase, and promises to biggest, scariest attraction ever. (Indeed, far as I know it’s still Kyoto’s only original haunted house (Toei Eiga Mura’s haunted attraction notwithstanding). Three nights only – be there! (The gorgeous signage is courtesy diversely talented neighbor Simon.)

Meanwhile the wood flooring for the annex bedroom, genkan-turned-dining room, and main room arrived, and Masutani-san set to work carefully installing it.

Annex bedroom pre-flooring
Next, the future dining room. Once installed, it along with the main room flooring will get a dark ebony stain


I was greatly impressed by Masutani-san’s dedication to the task at hand. Apparently the dining room flooring was a millimeter or two high relative to the sliding fusuma tracksand so he carefully planed each piece of wood so that it’d match
The finished (if pre-stained) floor. Sadly, he covered it almost at once, in preparation for other construction in the room


While Masutani-san worked and I mostly watched, a huge typhoon swept through Hanase:

Water gushed from the stream next to the house like a broken fire hydrant
…the normally clear river was muddy brown…
and the water level had risen so much…
…that, for the first time, I could see the rising water from the comfort of my engawa (veranda). Stay safe, Hanase!

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.

5 thoughts on “Where Chimneys Are Seen”

  1. Great work, Stuart and the gang. It’s really taking shape and is looking very already beautiful. I’m really impressed by the space under the roof and all the possibilities it shows.
    You’ll be ready for winter.


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