“Minka: my farmhouse in Japan”

John Roderick has published Minka: my farmhouse in Japan, which gives the story behind Yoshihiro Takishita‘s first minka. I’m just starting to read it, but I’m already prejudiced in its favor – by the book jacket that evokes a hand-tinted photograph, and by the excellent typography. For a bit of background on the author, see the Japan Times article. You can read the first chapter online.


Renting a minka on Sado Island

A letter to the Los Angeles Times about the Replanting Farmhouses article says:

My nephew lives on Sado Island, off the coast of Niigata prefecture. He has a master’s degree in architecture and has been interested in preserving ancient farm homes on Sado.

While visiting there last year, I learned that farmers who wish to move into more modern houses do not want to destroy their old farm homes, which are like shrines to their ancestors.

The farmers rent out the homes inexpensively as long as tenants keep the structures in good condition.

“the perfect cup of tea”

The Economists’ “more intelligent life” magazine has an article on “the perfect cup of tea”. The picture has a guy in the desert with a shaved head, dressed in red, doing something with a thermos jug. The article talks about a gizmo for making the perfect cup of tea.

But it’s good to see an appreciation of fine tea: “over the past 16 years, tea-sales in the United States alone have grown from $1.8 to $6.5bn, with the largest growth in the high-end and specialty sectors.” (Although the author is a bit confused about green tea: it’s not “lightly fermented” but rather “lightly steamed”.)

Anyway, this reminded me of Omotosenke’s website, and its article on tea rooms and other aspects of traditional Japanese architecture (Omotosenke is one of the three main schools of tea in Japan). Although tea rooms might seem to be very far from traditional country architecture, the tea rooms often evoke a rustic quality. And Takishita-san has incorporated them into some of his reconstructed minka.



Japanese gov’t to encourage “200 year” houses?

The Economist writes that the Japanese government has drafted a policy to discourage the Japanese from rebuilding houses after only 20 to 30 years.


I remember telling some Japanese friends that my house in Vancouver was 50 years old and I expected it to last for another 50 years (and the joists might be used even longer, as high-quality large beams are very rare now). There seems to be a belief that Japanese houses are especially high-maintenance; but more likely this is because of shoddy construction. The Japanese buildings that are repaired and renovated tend to be expensive, such as Buddhist temples — so Japanese people perhaps think that renovation is so expensive that replacement with the latest modern conveniences is better. Nevertheless, renovation is catching on, as a Google search for “リホーム” shows (I wonder — does this word come from “reform” or “re-home”?)