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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

On the edge of Tokyo

JAPAN | Saturday, 30 September 2006 | Views [1426]

Yuki's father at the entrance to their home with Riu & Kai.

Yuki's father at the entrance to their home with Riu & Kai.

It's just a house on the edge of Tokyo, a timber house constructed to withstand the frequent earthquakes, a house I lived in for a little over a year, a house that we return to with our own family now, a house full of memories, a house cluttered with decades of accumulated belongings, a house that still reverberates to noisy family parties, wooden floors polished simply from decades of wear. This house you wear like that old pair of comfortable jeans that you bought when you were 21 and simply can't let go of.

The whole house is constructed of cedar, and the craftsmanship is extraordinary. Yuki had told me before that it took two carpenters over a year to construct and they swore they'd never do it again at the end.

I lived here 16 years ago when my girlfriends' family welcomed me with a level of hospitality that is perhaps rare in Japan. We have visited many times over the years, but the other day we were trying to chat over dinner between squealing kids demanding attention, and Yuki told me about the real origins of this house, which makes the achievements of those two patient carpenters even more remarkable.

Yuki's father is an architect and after their youngest daughter Rie had found the small plot of land on which to build the house, he headed up to the top of a mouintain to select a single, large tree. He had this tree processed into timber and the house was built from the one tree. The concept and intention was about keeping the spirit together, be it that of the tree or that of the family. Simple, elegant, philosophical. Wonderful.

I was flabbergasted as this was the first time I heard this and could never feel the same way about this house ever the same again. Next time I visit I'm sure it will feel very different.

The way you see ... changes over time as you change and grow and as the world around you changes with history and is constructed from infinite shades of metaphorical grey.

Tags: architecture, culture, philosophy of travel, tokyo


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