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Summer in Tsukahara

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gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Friday, June 24, 2011


The dream of a bed and breakfast or a weekend café in Tsukahara is a long way off. It’s just not practical at the moment. A decision had to be made. If we moved to Japan without selling the house, then we had to work in the city during the week and enjoy Tsukahara on the weekends. If we waited to move to Japan until we sold the house, then we could remodel  the home in Tsukahara, but we still would have to have an income. Either way, we needed to spend some time in the city. Which city? Nakatsu ended up being the choice because of its location and schools. I’ll write more on this topic at a later time. Where in Nakatsu? We had to consider that we would have a business (an English school) in our rented house. Rented, because we could not afford another house. Since we had dogs and we wanted to have a business, we could not rent an apartment. So we needed to rent a house.

Finding a house that allowed piano, guitar, lots of kids, and two dogs was not easy. The house needed to be located near schools so that kids could easily come to our business. The house needed to be located near a park for the dogs. The house had to allow for extra parking for the business. The house couldn’t be too expensive to rent since we didn’t have an income. The house couldn’t look too old or run down or no one would come to our business. The house had to be large enough to accommodate two classrooms and a place to sleep and cook. As I mentioned in an earlier article, finding anything that had to do with real estate was a difficult task. Finding a house that met all of our requirements was an impossible task.
Erika searched many months for a suitable location via the internet. I’m guessing that Nakatsu has a population of 85,500. The city is spread out and it was important to know where our competition was located. This narrowed the search to a few areas. The largest middle school was located in an area that had a huge park. The competition was located a comfortable distance away. Erika started emailing a realtor that specialized in rentals. He was located in the area that we were interested in. As fate would have it, he had a home that was available that matched most of our needs. Our biggest concern was the floors. We preferred hardwood floors, but the house had tatami floors. We took a trip to the nearby home center and found some area rugs that could help solve the problem. The area surrounding the house was perfect. The schools were very close. The kids walked very close to our house as they went to school. The nearby park was huge! The dogs would love it. They have a large river, miles of hiking and biking trails, huge fields of mowed grass, a sporting complex, many picnic tables, and lots of mature trees. Parking was available at the house for 3 cars and extra parking was also possible for $40 a month. The fenced yard has a gate, so Kiley and Lucky can’t get out. The best part was that the landlord was willing to wait for us to move in October…fate. The rental papers for Japan will soon be ready to submit further committing us to move in October. Believe it or not, this is really going to happen. Stay tuned….

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Repairs to My Knee and the House

As I mentioned before, we could not spend a single night in our home in Tsukahara. We did spend a lot of days there. To accomplish that, we had to commute from Erika’s brother’s home. His house is about 45 minutes away. This is where we stayed before we bought our home, so it wasn’t a big deal. It all worked out as we could use his home as a central location to take care of business in Nakatsu, Usa, and Yufuin. The lingering problem was my knee. After 5 days of excruciating pain, I decided to see my favorite doctor in Yufuin. As we had done 6 months before, Erika notified the nurse that I had no health insurance. They understood and kept any tests to a minimum and provided generic medication. The doctor suggested that I might be experiencing gout. He explained what gout was and he had pictures of gout crystals along with a plastic replica of a knee joint. Without doing any tests, he could not be certain, but he assured us that we didn’t have to go back to the U.S. earlier than planned. My neighbor was with us out of concern and she shared our relief about the diagnosis. I learned that gout does not affect only overweight people. Gout is prevalent in Japan because of the diet of seafoods and other foods rich in uric acid. My knee was a 100% after 3 days. I could begin working in Tsukahara on the rotted logs.
I had some interesting reactions to my methods of rot repair by the neighbor’s son and a contractor. The photos show how extensive the rot was. I’m not certain if they believed I could fix the problems. After the repairs were done, they acted surprised at the results. I’m not sure if it was out of amazement or if they wondered why I just didn’t replace the logs? I had a chance to test some Permachink products (sealants and stains)I brought from the U.S. Everything worked as advertised and I’ll be placing a large order soon. A retired contractor has been trying to find a person to build our garage for a reasonable price. He also has access to building materials at a reduced price. He has done a lot of work around the neighborhood and he often stops by to see how things are progressing. I know he loves the property and the house so much that he has offered to help with the restoration for free. I have to admit that I feel a little bit like Huckleberry Finn. I make the work look like so much fun that people are volunteering to help. Free is sometimes more expensive than if someone charges you. More on this topic, later. I worked on a vertical beam inside the house that had some severe water stains. The photos show that the stains were sanded out and treated with a clear gloss coat of acrylic. I’m really happy with the results. Ten or twenty years from now, the house will look brand new. I write ten or twenty years because until we sell the house in Washington, we have to work full time in the city. This brings us to another story.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


made by George


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

So Much to Learn (Part 2)

I love Japan. Why? The plumber did not charge us for a service call or for driving all the way out to see us…three times. He did not charge us for diagnosing the problems and researching part numbers. He did not charge us for finding a place that could fix our pump for $250. He did not charge us for anything. He helped a company from Oita City to find our home and show them the damage. The plumber asked for nothing in return. I will always be in debt to the plumber and I will return the debt by helping others that could use my help. That’s how things work in the Japan countryside.
Have I told you how wonderful my neighbor was? She contacted her son who works for one of the largest home builders in Japan. He immediately started looking for a replacement water heater. Later in the week, he came to our home and advised us to change to a propane water heater system. With the change, we would not have to worry about pipes bursting anymore. He quickly figured out how to run the gas to the heater. Later, he called and worked out a deal with the gas company to come out and install the new gas lines for free. How much? Free. As long as we stayed loyal to the gas company they would take care of us. How’s that for service? Our neighbor’s son is currently working out a way to get a water heater for close to nothing. The problem is that it is so hard to find parts. Before the tsunami, he could have easily obtained a water heater. My neighbor, her son, the gas company, the plumber…everyone was so generous and helpful.

Last year, I had spent some time with our neighbor’s husband. He was very knowledgeable in log homes and just about everything else. He carefully researched his home and used only the very best materials and craftsmanship. He was in the hospital for a year when I had seen him. He actually visited me there because I needed to see a doctor for an intestinal problem. We talked about our relocating to Japan and Tsukahara. He told me, “Ganbatte.” That was the last time I saw him. We had sent them a personalized Christmas card. Later, we had wondered how he was doing, so we called. We were asked by the neighbor if I was psychic because her husband had just passed away a couple of days before. I could not speak as I was choked with tears. I had hoped that we could have shared more time together.
I understand why the neighbor’s son has been so helpful. He lives 2 hours away and is worried about his mom. Living in Tsukahara is tough and without her husband around, she has a difficult and lonely life to look forward to. Her son wants us to move to Tsukahara and be neighbors as soon as possible and he will do whatever it takes to get that done. Goen…which means fate. I often heard that word over the course of our recent trip. I believe that we create our own fate. From the first time I saw Sakura (the neighbour’s dog) greet us two years ago, till now, fate has guided us to Tsukahara and Japan. We have decided to move in October.

Saturday, June 11, 2011







So Much to Learn (Part 1)

Having just returned from Japan, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a lot to learn about the country and its wonderful people. I am amazed at the generosity shown to me when I needed help. Please let me explain. The night before departing Seattle, I noticed my left knee was aching. By the time I boarded my flight, I couldn’t bend my knee. I thought I had twisted it in bed or something. The day was long and we had to drag around luggage onto planes, trains, and automobiles for 24 hours. By the time we had reached our final destination I knew my knee had something seriously wrong with it. Nonetheless, I was in Japan and soon to be reunited with my beloved Tsukahara home. 
 We were greeted by our neighbor’s Jack Russell, Sakura, as we slowly drove onto the property. The weeds needed whacking, but everything appeared normal. I turned the power on and started opening storm windows. Erika shouted, “Turn the power off!” Humm, that can’t be good. She pointed out that water was streaming out of our water heater. I hurried out to the garage and turned the water valve off for the heater. I headed back into the house and turned the power back on. “What’s that splashing noise?” I asked myself. I searched all over for the source of the noise. I finally found the problem in the back of the house. The water pump to the well was gushing water into the yard and up against the house. The water was already 3 inches deep. I hurried and unplugged the pump. The good news was that I didn’t hear any more unusual sounds. The bad news was that I had no idea what to do next. The neighbor stopped by to say hello and she quickly learned of our predicament. She called a maintenance person who arrived shortly after. Unfortunately, he was a septic system specialist and could not help us. I wanted to ask him some questions when we visited Tsukahara last time, but we didn’t have time. So, this turned out to be a good opportunity to ask him questions. The neighbor went back to call a plumber and luckily she was referred by a plumber to call another plumber. Are you with me? The plumber agreed to drive out to our property and have a look. A few hours later, he had diagnosed the pump and the water heater. Both items had pipes that had burst during the unusually long, cold winter. Busted water pipes were a common problem this winter and I was lucky enough to have two of them.
 I’m not one to ask for help. If the problem was a maintenance issue, I would be the one to fix it. In this case, I had to swallow my pride and ask for as much help as possible. I could not read the writing on the pump or the heater. I couldn’t even tell the difference between a part number and a phone number. I was totally helpless. Erika helped tremendously by asking for help from the neighbor. I was beginning to understand how helpless Erika must have felt living in the U.S.  The tables had turned and I needed to rely on her for everything. Our neighbor was a lifesaver. She made phone calls to all over the place. The plumber had told us that to replace the pump and heater it would cost $ 8,000. After that shock, we were told that the parts were almost impossible to get since everything concerning housing materials were being sent up north to the tsunami disaster zone. In other words, we were stuck with a house that had no water or sewer. We could not stay in Tsukahara. My knee, water heater, and water pump were just the beginning of a memorable trip. Erika was upset because she purchased a house that was falling apart. She would now have to stay at her brother’s house while on vacation. Could things possibly get worse?

Saturday, June 4, 2011