Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How's the deck coming along?


It’s been a slow and arduous process to build the deck. My only chance to do any work on it has been limited to the weekends. Of course, it rains on the weekends. Between the raindrops, I managed to get a few boards down along with some rail and bench posts. Erika has been staining the underside of the decking before their installed. That might be a bit of overkill, but we want the deck to last a while. The railing and bench posts are recycled wood. The railing posts range in diameter from 4” to 5.5”. The lack of uniformity should look okay as I’m aiming for a rustic look. Erika has done a good job at removing the residual bark from the bench post logs. I know they have tools specifically designed for that kind of work, but she’s using just a razor blade. It’s time consuming, but fun? I guess you’d have to ask her. Expected date of completion...maybe October?   George

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The official news announcement was made…Tsuyu has begun. The kickoff to the 2013 rainy season is underway. We can expect about 2 months of rain mixed with thunderstorms. This is followed by the typhoon season. Not exactly an ideal time to build a deck or seal/ paint a newly built workshop. Oh well, we did the best we could. Somehow we’ll have to take advantage of any breaks in the inclement weather. In the meantime, I have a lot of caulking and staining to do in our home.

This is a difficult time of year for the doggies. Kiley freaks out when she senses a thunderstorm approaching. Lucky becomes very quiet. We're using a Thundershirt and music specifically designed to calm dogs in order to combat the effects of thunder. It's not 100% effective, but it does reduce the time that the dogs need to recover. Sometimes the reduced recovery times are dramatic.    George

Monday, May 27, 2013

Done! Well, Almost.

It’s done except for priming, painting, staining, and sealing. I also have to do some electrical and trim work. The garage door will be hung sometime next week. The locals (insects) have staked claims to many parts of the workshop. I’ll have to reclaim it after the garage doors are installed. My greatest concern are the giant (2 inch), orange colored hornets. Their sting can be lethal.

Completed Galvalume roof

Nice detail. Attic vents

Vapor barrier and cedar siding

Ready for paint and stain

Ready for garage doors
The deck will have to wait as it is important to get a protective coating on the workshop’s exterior. Erika and I have been feeling a little under the weather, so it’s been hard to get anything done. Hopefully, things will improve before the summer thunderstorms arrive. I find it hard to believe, but it's almost June. Only six months till Christmas.   George

Monday, May 20, 2013

Moving Right Along

Two roofers had the job done on a Saturday

The roofers showed up on a Saturday and installed the roof. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in the U.S. having a contractor show up on a Saturday would cost a fortune. They worked the entire day and finished the job. It’s routine to have contractors work on weekends without charging overtime.  
The carpenter will try to complete the workshop next week. He was not kidding when he said he could get the job done in ten days. I find myself wandering around the jobsite taking pictures of the craftsmanship. I often compare Japanese methods to the American way of doing things. It’s interesting to note that there are so few nails that are used. The work is clean, joints are tight, and the whole thing is put together efficiently. I haven’t seen much waste.
Good craftsmanship
I’m impressed, so far. I’m hoping our carpenter will do the remodel of our home when the time comes.   

Nice job!

Windows and doors are hung.
As I was comparing building techniques, I noticed that the framing for the windows and doors is simple and straightforward. No extra bracing required. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion.   George
Cedar siding is acclimating

Thursday, May 16, 2013


ゴールデンウィークは忙しかった。朝から晩まで、次から次へ突然の来客が多かった。この時ばかりは塾のための教材作りやら、掃除やらをしようと計画はしたが、それどころではなかった。To do list は長くなる一方だ。特にジョージのデッキ作りが始まったら、なぜか私の優先順位は下の方に追いやられてしまった。それに加え、ジョージの倉庫が建てられ始めたので、大工さんたちにお茶の準備やら片付けやら。。。日本の主婦は本当に忙しい。挟間の大家さんの奥さんが、「若い頃はしっかり働きなさい」と、私を見る度お説教を下さるが、いつまでが若くて、いつからが年なのか???



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Woo Hoo!

The carpenter started building the garage/ workshop. I have to keep reminding Erika that it’s not called a warehouse…it’s my home when we argue. I’ll have a place to hide. We have owned many homes, but all of them were previously constructed. This is the first time I have ever had a structure this large built to my specifications. It’s kind of cool to see it being built. Erika keeps asking me if I’m happy. She KNOWS the answer.

Note how tight the joints are.

Manufactured tenon

The construction techniques are different in Japan. The carpenter we hired is a traditional style carpenter, but with a twist. He uses modern methods. I think it’s out of necessity rather than convenience. He said that the younger carpenters don’t have the skills required to make handmade mortise and tenons. Instead, our carpenter purchased the wood already milled. He gave the manufacturer the exact dimensions and they did the rest. This speeds up the building process which keeps the costs down. The milled joints are precise and consistent.

Everything is perfectly plumb and level.

This is a serious tool

The workshop is made of hinoki and cedar. I’ll do all of the finish work and wiring. It shouldn’t be long before the carpenters are done. Only two carpenters managed to get the framing up in less than a day. The second story goes on today. I’ll need to build a floor/ ceiling for the attic to make more storage space. I have quite a few ideas to utilize every square foot of space. Stay tuned for more updates…      George

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Let's Get Started

The wood has arrived and I’m ready to go. The wood is under wraps due to the inclement weather. We have installed weed barrier and gravel. Erika has been cleaning the deck joists in preparation for stain. I’ll make bench posts out of a couple of hinoki logs. I think the natural log look on the deck will compliment the logs on our home. The deck construction is a little different from what I'm used to. In America, I would have used 2X10's for the joists. The joists would have been attached to a ledger board that was fastened to the house. Not so, in Japan. I'm using the existing joists which are 4x4's. The deck is not attached to the house. Strange as it seems, this is a perfectly acceptable way of building a deck in Japan.

Building anything in Tsukahara is a pain because the nearest home center is in Yufuin. The nearest big home center is in Beppu. It’s important to purchase exactly what is needed because in Japan the item can’t be returned unless there is something wrong with it. This means that any bolts purchased must be the right length or get ready to keep them. In the U.S., I would purchase bolts of various lengths to save a trip. I would have Erika return the unused items. Life is not so convenient in Japan. Careful measuring and planning are the keys to saving time and money.

Flexibility is another important trait  to have when building something in Japan. I’m used to using a particular item in the U.S., but good luck getting it here. Sometimes it’s too much trouble to get what you want. Instead, it’s wiser just to get what you need. George

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Erika's Garden Revisited

Erika decided to do what the natives do…use netting. Last year, she improvised a barrier against deer by using reflective tape. I found the whole thing amusing, but she was very serious. Needless to say, it didn’t work. She lost her strawberries, blueberries and various vegetables to the determined deer. This year she decided to take another approach. Her garden is surrounded by bamboo poles and netting. It looks like a fortress to keep those pesky deer from munching on her precious plants. So far, she has planted tomatoes, potatoes, melons, and a juneberry. In another protected area of the yard, we have blueberries, thornless blackberries, cherries, and apples. She has plans for many other varieties of edible delights. Erika is adamant about her feelings towards gardening. “I don’t like doing it. I do it out of necessity. We need the garden to survive.” Whatever the reason, I’m glad that she has found a new hobby. More picture to come.   George

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Next Year's Wood

Collecting and processing wood seems to be a full time job with us. Erika has devised a way of finding enough wood to keep us warm throughout the winter. This year our neighbor needed to remove some oaks to make room for something else. Some of these oaks were large and difficult to process. We managed to get the trees down without knocking out the power to Tsukahara. It has taken about twenty truck loads to get this much wood collected (pictured). The obvious problem is where to store all this wood. I think building another wood shed is on the “honey do” list.   George