A Traditional Japanese Home

While visiting some friends in Wakamatsu-ku a while back, one of my former students had arranged to visit this very traditional home in Tobata-ku, Kitakyushu-shi.

My friends in Japan have always know how much I like Japanese antiques and textiles, so this private visit was especially arranged for me. I got a tour of this stranger’s home. It was amazing to see her home fully furnished the traditional style, it was like stepping into a museum. Many Japanese prefer western style housing, some of them so modern, they have lost their Japanese touch (until you get to the fully automated toilet).

Here we are in the genkan (entry way), filled with old farming tools.

genkan

genkan

The traditional Japanese homes generally have no so-called bedroom, as the futon (sleeping mattress) can be rolled out anywhere on the tatami. The rooms are separated by sliding doors. Dark wood frames each room, with kasuri (indigo dyed fabric) patchwork tapestries on the wall, a blue and white hibachi for decoration. etc.

Antique Japanese interior

The owner takes great care of her museum-like house and everything is very neatly arranged.

Antique Japanese interior

A big old tansu (cabinet) holding many old textiles, such as kasuri, chirimen, shibori, etc. What a treasure.

tansu

tansu

This hibachi is a very traditional heating device: a charcoal hibachi, most often made from cypress wood for its durability.

Hibachi

hibachi  火鉢

This was a great experience to visit this lady’s home and it reminded me of my favorite pastimes while in Japan. Those were going to antique shops, looking for old textiles in factories where recycled material was handled and sold by the kilo, patchwork lessons taken in Japanese (my sewing vocabulary became quite impressive), and buying jitai ningyo (dolls from the *Taishō period), and much more.

*The Taishō period (大正時代 Taishō jidai) is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 1912 to December 1926, named for the Emperor Taishō reign during that time.

Interwoven Wood – a Japanese Mosaic Design

When I was in Japan this past month, again I was given a lot of cultural gifts, such as kimono, kasuri fabric, hankies with sakura blossoms, etc.

As much as I appreciate these presents, it became time for me to start rearranging a few things around our home. While reorganizing my collectibles, I found this Yosegi-zaiku parquetry box. I would have just moved it aside, if I had not read an article about this special skill just a few days before.

Parquetry box from Japan

Yosegi-zaiku parquetry is a craft combining colors and grains of wood to create mosaics.

The different types of wood used are macropoda holly, zelkova, lacquer tree, or camphor tree.

The very first yosegi-zaiku is said to have been made by the artist Ishikawa Nihei of the Hakone region in Kanagawa Prefecture in the later part of the Edo period.

This traditional craft is done by Japanese with a deep understanding of the nature of wood.

Mt. Aso on Kyushu

Back in 2008, we tried to get to the top of Mt. Aso, an active volcano on the southern island of Kyushu (Japan).  Due to heavy sulfur fumes, the top of the mountain was not accessible to the public.

Just this month, we were fortunate to visit Mt. Aso on a sunny morning.

On our way up, we stopped at this roadside stand selling blocks of sulfur.

Blocks of sulfur for sale on Mt. Aso

Notice the shade of green in the bubbling hot water.

Mt. Aso in Japan

This is one of my favorite pictures showing volcanic rock formations and a man-made rail.

Volcanic formations around Mt. Aso

Last, but not least. I have again become a fan of Japan’s unusual fusion food, strange concoctions, and unlikely flavorings, such as this one…. black sesame ice cream.

Black Sesame Ice Cream at Mt. Aso

Out of the unusual ice cream flavors I had sampled during this trip (Black Sesame, Wasabi and Corn), I liked the wasabi flavored one the best (more about that on my post about the Taio Gold Mine near Hita).

Nakatsue Village in the Mountains near Hita on Kyushu

One might wonder how we ended up in a small village high up in the mountains (600 m above sea level). Well, as a volunteer at the Kokusai Center in Kitakyushu, I came to know one of the city employees.

She is retired now and lives with her husband in a log cabin in Nakatsue. With her help, we secured a fairly inexpensive overnight deal in a Minpaku. Our charge was 3000 Yen per person (about 30 euro per person).

What is a Minpaku you might ask. Definition of Minpaku taken from Kyushu Educational Travel Net:

This Minpaku experience, which allows visitors to experience rural culture as typified by local cuisine, beautiful scenery and abundant nature, has been becoming popular. In Kagoshima Prefecture, a NPO organization coordinates more than 700 individual homes.

Staying in a minpaku is the cheapest form of accommodation, next is the Minshuku, topped by a Ryokan in convenience and comfort.

With our Minpaku arrangement, we had a whole log cabin to ourselves, it came without breakfast (instant coffee and tea were available), and it was just great!

Minpaku log cabin

For some reason, I did not take any photos on the inside. Our minpaku was fully equipped with heaters, flat screen TV, and all the amenities one could ask for.

Come warmly dressed though as these arrangements high up in the mountains can be rather cold even in April. The thermometer read – 1°C at 10 p.m.

Mountains of Hita, Oita-ken

On my next trip to Kyushu, I will book a Minpaku again.

Usuki Stone Buddhas – a National Treasure

Here we are visiting the Stone Buddhas in Usuki (more about this National Treasure at Kyushu Tourist Information).

Usuki Stone Buddhas

Usuki Stone Buddha park surroundings

Cherry blossom petals were everywhere near the end of the hanami season.

Stairs in Usuki

Bamboo forest in Usuki

Wandering crabs in Usuki

While watching our step going up the stairs, we also noticed quite a few river crabs working their way down.

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