On Saturday, September 22, Junya OOBA, a friend of mine, and I visited the construction site of Mr. UEDA, a timber frame builder and architect. UEDA has an architect’s license (of the highest degree in Japan), but works mainly as a timber framer.

The Japanese art of timber framing is known as 宮大工 (Miyadaiku), which literally means temple carpentry. Due the natural abundance of trees and high humidity that rusts nails, Japan has a long tradition of timber framing.

Traditionally, 荒土壁 (aratsuchikabe), that is walls of bamboo and mud plaster, are built between posts. Junya checks out the plaster mixing station: trough, mud, chopped straw.

As commercial building materials become the norm, traditional timber framing is not being included in modern building codes. Mr. UEDA is a member of a study group that actually runs experiments to provide data to building officials.



On Saturday and Sunday, September 8 and 9, I traveled to Fukushima-Prefecture Itate-village with the third year college students entering the Architecture-Regional Ecological Design Research Studio next year. The purpose of our visit was to observe what actions are being taken to revitalize rural life in Itate-village. On the way to Fukushima, I rode the bullet train for the first time.

On Saturday we ate lunch at Murakami Natural Farm and Organic Restaurant. Most of the ingredients used in the meals are produced on site at the farm.
For small orders, they cook with wood, and only use wood in their home for cooking and heating. Mr. Murakami was a farm extension agent in Bangladesh and Thailand for well over 10 years. Five years ago he began farming in Itate, and 2 years ago he and his partner opened the restaurant. Five years ago I read a book written by Murakami entitled “Gardening with Nature: a guide to farming in the tropics”. It’s a compilation of notes he prepared for extension workers.

Saturday night we were treated to a homemade feast of local produce at a community center made of mainly natural materials. Sunday we toured the farm of a high school principle who breeds vegetables.

Rather than take the bullet train home, Ebina-kun, a fellow student, and I rode the local trains home (an $80 savings and loss of half a day). Ebina-kun grew up in Yamagishi communes in several locations in Japan. It’s so refreshing to spend time with someone who thinks outside of the box.



I recently spent 6 days in the Kansai area (Wakayama, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara). I stayed with Kudo-san, a retired elementary school teacher who bailed me out on a number of occasions when I used to live in Wakayama. On Saturday, September 1 I visited friends in Osaka and Kyoto. On Sunday, I visited Mr. Yoshikazu Kawaguchi at his home in Nara-Prefecture.

Kawaguchi-san is the leader of a no-till, organic, non-mechanized agricultural movement and teaches at Akame Natural Farming School once a month. I attended Akame’s monthly gatherings when I lived in Wakayama. Kawaguchi-san also teaches Chinese herbal medicine. I hope to have the time someday to translate his books.

On Monday, I visited Mr. Susumu Hashimoto and his family.
I worked closely with Hashimoto-san for 18 months. He was one of my first agricultural mentors. He has expanded since we worked together, and now has a full-time assistant. Most notably, he now produces over 2000 liters of soy sauce a year. In addition, he’s now almost 90 percent seed self-sufficient, that is, he saves almost all of his own seed.