Minka: My Farmhouse in Japan
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In 1959 journalist John Roderick joined the Tokyo bureau of the Associated Press. There, he befriended a Japanese family, the Takishitas. After musing offhandedly that he would like to one day have his own house in Japan, the family—unbeknownst to John—set out to grant his wish. They found Roderick a 250-year-old minka, or hand-built farmhouse, with a thatched roof and held together entirely by wooden pegs and joinery. It was about to be washed away by flooding and was being offered for only fourteen dollars. Roderick graciously bought the house, but was privately dismayed at the prospect of living in this enormous old relic lacking heating, bathing, plumbing, and proper kitchen facilities. So the minka was dismantled and stored, where Roderick secretly hoped it would stay, as it did for several years. But Roderick's reverence for natural materials and his appreciation of traditional Japanese and Shinto craftsmanship eventually got the better of him. Before long a team of experienced carpenters were hoisting massive beams, laying wide wooden floors, and attaching the split-bamboo ceiling. In just forty days they rebuilt the house on a hill overlooking Kamakura, the ancient capital of Japan. Working together, they renovated the farmhouse, adding features such as floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and a modern kitchen, bath, and toilet. From these humble beginnings, Roderick's minka has become internationally known and has hosted such luminaries as President George H. W. Bush, and Senator Hillary Clinton. John Roderick's architectural memoir Minka tells the compelling and often poignant story of how one man fell in love with the people, culture, and ancient building traditions of Japan, and reminds us all about the importance of craftsmanship and the meaning of place and home in the process.
ceremonies. The first lines of the poem are an elaborate attempt to deceive the god of fire. Since it is made of frost, ice, and snow, the god would waste his time trying to burn it down. As the resting place of the sacred sakaki tree, to persist would add sacrilege to folly. Nomura gave me a heavy wooden mask of the fire god so fierce and frightening it was immediately understandable why the good citizens of Ise nourished such a fear of him. When, with an air of gravity, he then handed me an
Kamakura. But it is not suitable. You won’t like it.” The sun had begun to set as we rolled through a tunnel in the residential area west of Kamakura station and headed up a steep dirt road past a Shinto shrine. Sweeping under a canopy of trees in an unfamiliar park, we emerged onto an uninhabited hill covered with tall grass and a few trees. The city of Kamakura lay below us, the sea glinting under the rays of the fading sun. We felt faint. It was everything we had been looking for and hadn’t
too was dead, some say by his own hand, others of a broken heart. Yochan and Reiko are wed, 1983. After all these tragedies, there was a bright note. Yochan married Reiko, his secretary of several years, and began a new and exciting period in his life. In 1985, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a gala black-tie dinner in a Tokyo hotel. I was asked, as a former president, to be the master of ceremonies. The honored guests were Crown Prince
rubble to make it all flat, or build the gallery over it on reinforced concrete pillars. He chose the latter. Though his love affair with minkas was undiminished, his experience with the Gate House gave him pause. The steep snow roof he envisioned would put it slightly higher than the limit. A painter living on a hill 500 yards away vowed to act if he exceeded it by a jot or a tittle. She feared her view of the distant sea would be blocked if he did. What to do? Yochan’s solution: a white,
debriefing on China. He could and did, arriving with his wife Barbara, the American ambassador James Hodgson, and his wife, after taking half an hour to negotiate the sharp curves to the Great Peak in the embassy’s stretch limousine. It normally takes three minutes. As president, he would never have been allowed by the Secret Service to do it. The road, narrow and twisting, is a certifiable security nightmare. Over tea and cakes, Yochan and I entertained the Bushes for two and a half hours. The