Celebrating new found freedom, provided by a faster computer with more hard drive capacity, I am committed to posting a lot of photos this spring. “My Stairs?” marks the 5th day in a row of posts with photos.
Sunday I was in Ise (伊勢) and wanted to get a peek at a house and some apartments we are considering for my upcoming relocation. We arrived at the listing realtors’ only to find they close at lunchtime, so we also sought respite on a trendy street in Kawasaki (河崎). Most of the buildings lining this narrow street near the river are old minka (民家) or kura (蔵), which were converted to shops and restaurants. We have a special relationship with the owner of a coffee shop in a kura – which is a story of its own – so when we were paying the bill, she interviewed us about our plans for the afternoon. Hearing about the house hunting and knowing my interest in traditional homes (民家), her attitude elevated tremendously; after asking permission, she contacted some friends about a house on this street.
Within minutes there was a man wanting to show us around the house. Currently the place is abandoned and in need of tremendous repair and improvement, but they are only asking 5 million yen. The owners refuse to sell to someone, unless they plan to remodel and keep the traditional feeling. Any hint of a desire to tear down and rebuild would kill the deal for them.
All of these factors made it intriguing. Entering the home, I notice many features of great interest to me: tokonoma (床の間), traditional staircase, exterior halls, very traditional toilet room, closets to store fusuma (襖) or shoji (障子) when not in use, wooden grille over front windows. I had walked into my 130 year old book about homes.
Required repairs and remodeling were widespread. None of the doors nor windows would slide in their tracks. Closer inspection showed that many tracks were chewed up and worn to a point indicating replacement. Also, this concerns me because the house may be a little bent. There is a service that will come check if a house is crooked. All of the walls were faded and worn. The absence of a bath might also present some challenges. Traditionally, one would walk to the public bath and a lot of homes didn’t bother installing one. The floor plan really wouldn’t allow for one to be added, so really a room would have to be added off the back hall, leaving a yard the size of a postage stamp.
Some of the surrounding homes are completely run down and vacant, which didn’t give a good feeling, but I imagine they will get torn down and replaced in the not too distant future, because this area is so trendy. Lack of parking would necessitate renting a parking space somewhere as well. Needless to say, this fixer upper is a tough sell. If there were a little parking and a bath – even one needing repairs – I think I would get sucked in by the chest of drawers cum staircase. Funny how something so simple can be so powerful. Anyhow, it doesn’t look likely that this will be my house anytime soon.