Kominka

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BrettRas
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Kominka

Post by BrettRas » Thu Oct 01, 2015 9:02 pm

For me personally, countryside living in Japan goes hand in hand with the folk house.

Curious if anyone else on this new board has experience fixing up or living in kominka.

Maybe you'd care to share stories, photos, thoughts of your kominka experiences??

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Brett Rasmussen

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Re: Kominka

Post by BrettRas » Thu Oct 01, 2015 9:59 pm

I'll start by sharing a little about the kominka I am currently fixing up.

The house's name is Yukuzasama, as referred to by the neighbors. Nobody has been able to help me with an exact age, but early Meiji is most likely.

It had been lived in until about 8 months before I purchased it. The previous owner was an elderly woman who passed away and the son who inherited it no longer lives on the island and wanted to sell it ASAP. I happened to hear about the owner wanting to sell it through a friend and decided I shouldn't pass up the chance.

I have a series of blog posts about the ongoing progress over at my website, so I won't re-write it all here, but if you are interested you can take a look at https://gotoexperience.wordpress.com

I'm interested in fixing it up as a useable/livable space, not for rental like Ojika town has done with a few places in partnership with Alex Kerr and his crew.

The idea is to hopefully have it be an example of what can be done with very little money to fix up and bring out the beauty of these old houses of which there are still many on this small island.
The town spent an obscene (in my opinion) amount of money on the Alex Kerr restoration houses, and it has made them less flexible with what they can do moving forward.

I think in order for people to live in these houses again they need to see that they can be renovated affordably, while respecting and preserving the original beauty and function of the home. People coming to live in Ojika are not likely to be wealthy, and they certainly are not likely to get wealthy while living here! The house can't be a burden to them living a happy and successful life here.

Anyways I could go on for hours and hours, but I'll just toss in a few pictures of the house and progress for now!

Fairly current photo of the front of the house. Aluminum doors and false wall removed to expose the veranda, as it was originally built.
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The garbage pile in the entryway was huge!
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Entryway after cleaning, although the camera is facing the opposite direction.
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Tomorrow I'll be attaching a fence type rail that I built for in front of one section of the veranda. If all goes well I'll post a photo.
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Re: Kominka

Post by Zasso Nouka » Fri Oct 02, 2015 8:36 am

What an awesome project to be undertaking, originally we wanted to do something similar but the number of second lifers in these parts has push kominka prices up astronomically so we weren't able to go down that route. However it's been really interesting to share in your restoration work by reading your blog and both of us have been impressed by the transformation you've managed to achieve in such a short space of time.

No disrespect to the town council but throwing large amounts of money at a project doesn't make that inherently interesting. Working on a more realistic budget without a big team of craftsmen is far more likely to inspire other people to give it a go and try themselves and is also more personally rewarding IMHO.

I know you say in your blog you knew next to nothing when you first thought about starting a restoration have you learned all your skills along the way or did you already have some of the skills needed ? I must confess that I use Youtube or Google a lot when I'm unsure about doing something.

What have you used to stain/protect the interior and exterior wood and what was the material you used for plastering ?

Looking forward to seeing more.

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Re: Kominka

Post by Makichan » Fri Oct 02, 2015 11:14 am

You have made a really nice job of the kominka Brett. I have just read through a few post on your blog and it looks as though you have done all of that work this year. You must have been working really hard to reform so much of the house in such a short time, Tim and I are both really impressed with what you have achieved.

Did you find many interesting things when clearing the house out ? Any chests of old coins maybe ? The loft area looks like it might have been a treasure trove of antiques or was it mostly trash?

I think the work you have done there goes to show that restoring an old house doesn't need to cost lots of money and can be done on a sensible budget. I feel that what you have done with your house has remained far more in keeping with its original spirit than some of the modern make overs that require lots of money and is much more realistic for a young couple wanting to do the same.

Thank you so much for sharing

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Re: Kominka

Post by Lazi » Fri Oct 02, 2015 12:42 pm

Outstanding Brett, absolutely outstanding.

We'd really like to do something similar if we can find a kominka for the right price and in the right location. Really inspiring to see what can be achieved by doing the work yourself. The picture of your clearing the loft almost had me choking as well.

When one is looking at potential kominka to buy what sort of things should you be looking out for ?

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Re: Kominka

Post by gonbechan » Fri Oct 02, 2015 1:09 pm

BrettRas, I read your blog with absolute interest. It was actually what made me look up shikui and find out if we could use it in our not so ancient house.

Looking forward to more reports from the kominka.

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Re: Kominka

Post by BrettRas » Fri Oct 02, 2015 3:11 pm

BrettRas wrote: People coming to live in Ojika are not likely to be wealthy, and they certainly are not likely to get deathly while living here!
This should have been: certainly not likely to get WEALTHY... autocorrect :D I don't seem to be able to edit the post any longer so I guess it will stay that way!

Zasso Nouka wrote: I know you say in your blog you knew next to nothing when you first thought about starting a restoration have you learned all your skills along the way or did you already have some of the skills needed ? I must confess that I use Youtube or Google a lot when I'm unsure about doing something.

What have you used to stain/protect the interior and exterior wood and what was the material you used for plastering ?
I have always had a knack with fixing/building things, and growing up on a small farm I had the chance to help out with small things around the farm. Basically though, coming to Japan has given me my first opportunity to do this type of thing on this larger scale. The technology and techniques are quite different as well. In working with older houses I am trying to use techniques and materials that fit with the house, and these are certainly different than anything I was exposed to in America.

I do reference Youtube quite a bit myself, it has been invaluable in learning techniques for using the good old hand tools!

The stain/wood protection I use are all blends of 3 simple natural ingredients: astringent persimmon juice (kakishibu柿渋), pine soot (shouen松煙), and red iron oxide (benigara紅殻). The kakishibu is always the base, and I often use this alone. I mix the other two in varying amounts depending on the color/effect desired.
I will then often use a beeswax and plant oils mix for a finish.
Makichan wrote: Did you find many interesting things when clearing the house out ? Any chests of old coins maybe ? The loft area looks like it might have been a treasure trove of antiques or was it mostly trash?
There have been a number of treasures found in the house! During the purchase negotiations I specified that I wanted everything inside left as it was. I knew that this included a major amount of garbage, but I didn't want the owner to think he was doing me a favor by throwing out all the "old" stuff, and accidentally toss the great finds! There are old coins, tools, pots, boxes, enough dishware for several families, hibachi, sashiko fishing coats, and fishing and diving related gear from long ago. I've still got quite a task ahead of me sorting through it more thoroughly.
Lazi wrote: When one is looking at potential kominka to buy what sort of things should you be looking out for ?
Many things to pay attention to will depend on the specific type and age of house.

You really need to see the structural framework of the house. The most important parts are going to be under the floor, and the roof. Water damage and termites are two of the main things you'll want to look for. Just because one or the other exists does not mean the house is a lost cause, but you need to be aware of what you are dealing with and have a plan on how to handle it.

If you go to look fairly seriously at a potential kominka, you should go prepared to lift up the tatami mats and the floorboards beneath. You'll then want to crawl around with a good light beneath the floor inspecting all of the main beams and joists. You are looking for rotting, wet wood, and termite tubes. Many of these trouble spots are going to be located in areas where synthetic materials such as laminate flooring, plywood-like veneer walls, etc. have been used during remodels or repairs as they don't allow air to circulate properly among other problems.

You'll also want to get a good look at the roof, top and bottom. You are looking for signs of water infiltration and/or cracked or crumbling tiles (if applicable). Water infiltration from the roof is the root cause of many other problems, so you'll want to make sure of it's condition ahead of time. Go visit the place during heavy rain if at all possible.

Roof repair is inevitable of course, but it is one of the biggest expenses so it's important to know if you're going to need to tackle it right away or not.

gonbechan wrote:BrettRas, I read your blog with absolute interest. It was actually what made me look up shikui and find out if we could use it in our not so ancient house.
Shikkui, what a versatile and interesting substance! Plastering can be a relaxing way to spend a day!


Thanks everyone for your comments! Look forward to sharing more!
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Re: Kominka

Post by BrettRas » Fri Oct 02, 2015 3:19 pm

Today's addition:

I built this new railing/fence for the street side of the veranda and attached it to the house today.

Aside from 4 screws securing it to the house itself, there are no metal nails, screws or glue used in the construction.

I'm really quite pleased with the way it turned out!
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Re: Kominka

Post by Zasso Nouka » Sat Oct 03, 2015 7:38 am

BrettRas wrote: This should have been: certainly not likely to get WEALTHY... autocorrect :D I don't seem to be able to edit the post any longer so I guess it will stay that way!
Fixed that for you. The default edit time on phpBB is quite short, we can extend that if it would be useful ?
BrettRas wrote: I have always had a knack with fixing/building things, and growing up on a small farm I had the chance to help out with small things around the farm. Basically though, coming to Japan has given me my first opportunity to do this type of thing on this larger scale. The technology and techniques are quite different as well. In working with older houses I am trying to use techniques and materials that fit with the house, and these are certainly different than anything I was exposed to in America.

I do reference Youtube quite a bit myself, it has been invaluable in learning techniques for using the good old hand tools!
I'd say you've developed that knack to a whole new level man.
BrettRas wrote: The stain/wood protection I use are all blends of 3 simple natural ingredients: astringent persimmon juice (kakishibu柿渋), pine soot (shouen松煙), and red iron oxide (benigara紅殻). The kakishibu is always the base, and I often use this alone. I mix the other two in varying amounts depending on the color/effect desired.
I will then often use a beeswax and plant oils mix for a finish.
Do you make or buy the individual ingredients ? Would this be suitable for exterior siding ? We have to paint the outside of or house this winter and currently exploring various options, would need about 15 - 20 litres in total.

The fence looks awesome man, what joints did you use ? Looks like the horizontal runners pass through the uprights, possibly mortice and tenon for the uprights into the upper and lower rails ? Love the hammer, that's a tool that has seen a lot of service by the looks of it yet still hale and hearty. Really nice job, looking forward to seeing more when you have the time.

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Re: Kominka

Post by BrettRas » Sat Oct 03, 2015 3:00 pm

Thanks for the edit Zasso. I do think extending the editing window might be helpful.
Zasso Nouka wrote:Do you make or buy the individual ingredients ? Would this be suitable for exterior siding ? We have to paint the outside of or house this winter and currently exploring various options, would need about 15 - 20 litres in total.

The fence looks awesome man, what joints did you use ? Looks like the horizontal runners pass through the uprights, possibly mortice and tenon for the uprights into the upper and lower rails ?
I'm buying the ingredients, though they can also be made/gathered depending on what you have available. I may start making kakishibu at some point, but don't have the excess astringent persimmons at the moment.

As for the fence, thanks very much!
Yes the horizontal runners do pass through the uprights, kinda like threading a bunch of needles. The tenons on each end of the uprights fit in to the mortices of the upper and lower rails. Then everything is snugged together with that "hale and hearty" hammer!
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