The Project: 古民家

The new year brings with it a couple of new projects for Goto Experience.  The one I am excited to finally post about is the purchase of a traditional folk house in Fuefuki Town, on Ojika Island!

IMG_2619

I had been thinking about potential spaces for living/operating a business in Fuefuki practically since first coming to Ojika in 2008.  Noting the vacant houses, their condition, size, age, etc. while strolling the narrow streets was like a fun game.  Though I knew next to nothing when I first arrived, through reading books, the internet, and first hand explorations I gradually began to understand some things about the way older Japanese houses were built, what materials were used, how to take care of them, and how much it might cost to buy or rent one.

Although I had been casually pondering it for quite a while, it wasn’t until last year that I decided the time might be right to actually look in earnest.

I believe that in the next 5-10 years many of the affordable old folk houses that exist today will fall to a state of disrepair such that restoration will be nearly impossible.  Water damage, termites, and time itself is quickly returning these unique and characteristic homes and shops to the earth from which they came.  Many of these homes are still salvageable if some basic steps are taken to see to their maintenance.  Roof and siding repairs to keep out the rain is absolutely critical, and can mostly prevent the further degradation of these structures while buying time for more proper restoration.

Water Damage
Water Damage

In humid Japan, moisture is the source of most of the major issues which lead to the degradation of the primarily wood, earth, and bamboo structure.  The key is to keep it dry, and to allow it to breathe!  Much of the modern building materials available these days strangle the building’s natural ability to breathe and exchange moisture, which causes rot, mold, insect infestation, etc.  It may be tempting to use a cheaper laminate flooring for example, but the glues prevent breathing and air exchange with under-floor space.  Mold and dampness, followed potentially by termites are the result.  Concrete is also a source of moisture and other issues when used with older houses.  These more “modern” materials can work in structures designed with them in mind, but they can also be the ruin of a traditionally designed folk house when applied without giving thought to its inherent natural qualities and design.

So, with that in mind, I decided that I wanted to buy and restore a house in the Fuefuki town area in Ojika.  Fuefuki is the main town of Ojika and is where the ferry terminal is located.  I wanted something that would be convenient for guests visiting the island, and could potentially be the business hub of “Goto Experience”.

Through chance I was told that this particular house was empty and the owner was looking to sell or rent it.  I had kept my eye on this house for a while now, as its distinctive “mochi-okuri” near the doorway and “doma-genkan” entryway had intrigued me.

"Mochi-okuri"
“Mochi-okuri”

After a few months of uncertainty followed by many ups and downs (mainly ups) which could be another whole post in itself, the house is now successfully in my name!

 

From here on out begins the long task of cleaning, sorting, repairing, refurbishing and remodeling this Meiji Era home!

What to do with the kitchen?
What to do with the kitchen?

 

 

The house is in reasonable shape, and has a nearly brand-new roof with no leaks which is no small thing, as I mentioned earlier.  There is evidence of damage caused during the period before roof replacement, however.  Some of those areas will need work sooner rather than later.

The kitchen is both exciting and perplexing… the kamado cookspace is exciting and I look forward to firing it up with our charcoal, however I’m wrestling with how much of the kitchen space to replace/remodel.  Time will tell, and more pondering will certainly be required!

Kamado Cookspace
Kamado Cookspace

I’m excited to take on this challenge and see what path it takes in the coming months and years!  Expect to see a Goto Experience logo outside as it becomes the starting point of at least some of our programs in the future.

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