Square One ストローベイル

September 23-27, I was in Higashikawa Town of Asahikawa City in Hokkaido, the island farthest north of Japan's four main islands. I was working on Toby and Maiko's straw bale home, "Square One". In August, I installed sensors in the north wall. Below are photos of the boxes housing the dataloggers before and after the first coat of plaster.


Japan Minka Revival Association

September 22 attended a workshop in 塩山(Enzan), Yamanashi Prefecture sponsored by the Japan Minka Revival Association (JMRA). "Minka" means house in Japanese, but refers to traditional Japanese timber-framed homes with wattle and daub walls. Takeru YOKOKAWA, a friend of mine who I met at the international ecovillage conference in Tokyo this past April, has just been appointed school principle of a Minka School associated with JMRA. The main teacher is 大沢匠先生(Mr. Ohsawa), a architect living and working in Kamakura. The workshop consisted of two parts, 竹小舞(takekomai) and 茅葺屋根(thatched roofing). Takekomai is the wattle of Japanese earthen plastered walls.Before the second world war, many rural Japanese villages were self-sufficient in terms of roofing materials. Each individual home would cultivate its own reed field and harvest yearly. The year's harvest would be gathered and used to re-thatch one or more buildings in the community. Thatching was done as a community.

However, most of the reed fields are no longer cultivated and there are very few thatch roofers. Japanese thatched roofs are framed with poles and bamboo lashed together with straw rope. Also great for taking naps.


Travels with Ikuta-san in Chiba Prefecture

September 15-17 traveled in Chiba Prefecture with Shigeyuki IKUTA, secretariat of the Japan Straw Bale House Association.
Ikuta-san at "Love and Rice"
On September 15, collected data from Furyu, the straw bale cafe/gallery built last summer for Ikue MASADO (formally Saya TAKAGI).Ikuta-san and I spent the evening at "Love and Rice", an intentional community in 鴨川 (Kamogawa), Chiba Prefecture.Their motto is "Life is a Journey, not a destination". Fitting for a community that began as a collection of buses and vans.They're now in the process of building a home, and I was asked to consult and help with the production of abode.Inspired by a project in Norway called the Eco House, I've proposed the use of abode made of light-straw-clay. Light-straw-clay provides better insulation than traditional cob or adobe. It is also lighter than cob and traditional adobe, which may be more suitable for seismic zones. Light-straw-clay, having more organic matter (straw) than cob and adobe, is also more susceptible to moisture and decay, which will require greater attention to construction details. On September 16, we made test adobe of various sizes and compositions entirely from local materials within 1km.
Copped straw
Clay slip
Pack into a form
The width of the bricks was determined by the width of the framing members. Kamogawa has a heavy clay loam, suitable for light-straw-clay and rice cultivation.

On Septebmer 16, visited the construction site of a home being built using traditional Japanese timber-framing.
Construction drawing used by Japanese tiber-framers

Had lunch at 鴨川自然王国 (literally, Kamogawa Kingdom of Nature), a sustainability center, cafe, and working farm founded by Toshio FUJIMOTO, leader of the "student movement", a student antiwar movement in the 60's and 70's, who's noncompliance closed universities in Tokyo. Fujimoto spent a couple of years in prison as a result.
Passive solar design at Kamogawa Shizen Oukoku
In the afternoon, visited Riko HIRATA, a carpenter by trade, but spends most of her time farming. Returned to Fujisawa late Thursday night.


藍染 (Indigo dye)

Today we had an indigo dye workshop at the research center. Raw leaves were harvested at the research center and processed in a blender (500ml of water for every 50g of leaves). Then 5g of hydrated lime and 5g of Sodium hydrosulfite (Na2S2O4) were added for every 100ml of liquid processed indigo leaves. Apparently textiles of animal origin, such as wool and silk, don't require the hydrated lime and sodium hydrosulfite, but we were using cotton textiles. 500ml can dye approximately three handkerchiefs. Textiles are soaked in the mixture for 2-3 minutes, and then exposed to the air for 4-5 minutes. The process is repeated until the desired concentration of color is achieved. Textiles are then lightly washed in water and allowed to dry.



September 6 met with Dave of Namaiki, an artistic permaculture garden design team http://www.namaiki.com/. In the afternoon, met with Shunro Yoshida of Transition Japan http://www.transition-japan.net/. Transition Japan is a member of the international Transition Town movement, which helps to create sustainable communities in a world facing climate change and prospective energy shortages http://www.transitiontowns.org/.


September 2 traveled to Hokuto City(北杜)in Yamanashi Prefecture with Itonaga-sensei and members of BeGood Cafe. In the morning visited Egao-Tsunagete(えがおつなげて), an amazing NPO reviving rural communities through sustainable agriculture and forestry. In the afternoon visited the site where Amita Corporation plans on establishing their third forest dairy operation. In Kyotango(京丹後)in Kyoto Prefecture and Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture, Amita has established organic dairy cattle and forestry operations. Dairy cattle clear under brush and the timber is sold FSC certified.
September 3 traveled to Myokokogen (妙高高原)in Niigata Prefecture, near the Japan Sea. Installed temperature and relative humidity sensors in Mr. Genzo SUGIURA's (杉浦勇二さん)straw bale home known as Warishinoya(藁石の家) http://blog.livedoor.jp/warayar9/. Warishinoya utilizes a "rain scree" to prevent rain and snow from direct contact with the straw bale and earthen plaster walls. I suspect rain screens would help reduce interstitial humidity levels in straw bale walls in Japan, but have no data to support that opinion. In one location, I installed three interstitial temperature and relative humidity sensors: one near the exterior plaster, one in the middle of the bale wall, and one near the interior plaster. I also measured straw moisture content at two different heights and various depths. Given that August and September are generally the months with the highest relative humidity within straw bale walls in Japan, Warishinoya had very low moisture content measurements.
September 4 traveled to Kobuchizawa in Yamanashi Prefecture and collected data from Waraya (藁舎). Have collected two full years of data and have decided to discontinue monitoring Waraya. Removed the sensors, packed up, and traveled to Kawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture, near Mt. Fuji. Visited Earth Embassy http://www.earthembassy.org/, which includes a cafe, guesthouse, and organic farm run by Jake Reiner. I visited Earth Embassy seven years ago in August 2002. Jake also directs Eden Homes http://edenhomes.blogspot.com/, which renovates Japanese timber-framed homes with environmentally friendly materials.
Spent the night at Earth Embassy and returned to Fujisawa on September 5.