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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

They're Gone

We had mixed feelings about the whole thing. The trees did provide a small amount of shade. Most of the time, the shade was outside of the fenced area. The trees did provide a windbreak. The trees also posed a potential hazard during a typhoon. A light breeze and the rustling leaves provided a relaxing sound. It was nice to sit under the trees until the Giant Asian Hornets started visiting. At one point, we had close to thirty hornets hovering in the trees at one time. The dogs were afraid to use the fenced area. We were afraid to use the deck and the barbque pit. We couldn't remove the hornets, but we could remove the source of attraction. Enough was enough and the decision was made to remove the trees in late winter…so, we did.

We started the removal in the morning and finished by mid afternoon Luckily, no one was hurt. The removal was tricky because of the fence. The trees were close to 35 feet tall and all I had to use was an extension ladder and a couple of chainsaws. I roped the ladder to the tree which prevented the ladder from falling. Erika used another rope to pull the tree limbs away from the fence as I cut them. Fortunately, I wore a hard hat which protected my head when I was struck by a large branch.

High fives were given after the last tree was cut down. We were both relieved to have finished the relatively dangerous job. I am amazed and surprised at how open the yard has become. We have a clear and unobstructed view of the entire volcano and neighboring mountain range. I commented to Erika, "Wow! We should have done this a long time ago."

Later, the stumps will be covered with soil and grass. In our nursery, we have several Japanese maples that will be planted in the fenced area. The maples will provide some light shade, color and texture to the area. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kitchen Cabinet Modification

In a previous post, I described how to install a floor heat mat. Lucky was kind enough to give me a paw (I mean “hand”). Kiley showed absolutely no interest in helping me.

Lucky held the mat down while I marked the floor heat wire. Thank you, Lucky.

Kiley preferred to keep warm in front of the wood stove.
I have been busy modifying a cooktop cabinet to accommodate an IH cooktop. The cabinet that comes with the cooktop is made of particle board. It looks nice on the outside, but... It’s common for Japanese household appliance companies (Panasonic, Toto, Rinnai, etc.) to use particle board and laminate instead of wood. Many of the modern Japanese homes are supplied with cabinets made of these materials. 

IH cooktop
The counter required several vent holes to be cut out and routed to match the thickness of the cooktop. I'm using 28 mm plywood for the counter. The cabinet is made of solid wood. I'll give the bottom of the counter a coat of mildew resistant paint before installation.

This is the cabinet that came with the IH cooktop. There are no supports to keep the cabinet from twisting and cracking. I'll keep the soft close sliders, but the rest of the carcass will be tossed out. 

I prefer to use wood. Why? Take a look at this picture. The particle board is poorly made and flimsy. When I pulled on one of the cabinet drawers, the drawer pulled out of the slider because the particle board flexed! It’s hard to believe that these particle board cabinets are in some of the most expensive homes in Japan.     George

The gaps in the particle board make this cabinet very weak and susceptible to moisture damage. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Floor Heat

The utility room and kitchen will receive tile and floor heat. The master bedroom and bathroom will receive laminate flooring and floor heat. A separate controller will be installed for each type of flooring. This is to prevent the laminate flooring from overheating.

Installing a floor heating mat is easy...just follow the manufacturer’s instructions. I mentioned in an earlier post that I did not have the thinset mortar required to embed the floor heat mat as per the manufacturer's instructions. To ship the mortar from the U.S. would have been insanely expensive. Installation of the mats required some extra work to get the desired result. Here’s what I did. I’m sure this is not an approved method and I don’t recommend doing it this way, but it worked for my situation. If you’re curious…read on!

Floor heater mat. The orange mesh can be cut to form just about any shape.

The marker line is ready for routing.

First, roll out the mat to determine where the floor needs to be heated. The orange mat can be easily cut with scissors to create any odd shape that is needed. Do not cut the blue heater wire! 

Second, draw a pencil line to match the heater wire location. Don’t stretch the heater wire. Mark the wire as it naturally sits on the floor. The subfloor is 28mm plywood. 

Third, darken the pencil line with a marking pen to allow for easy visibility. Be prepared for a lot of sawdust! Remove the mat and get ready for some fun.

The mini router makes the job less difficult

1/8th inch straight bit

Follow the marker line. It doesn't have to be perfect.

 Fourth, use a router to create a groove in the plywood for the heater wire. Try to follow the marker line with the router, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. I used an 1/8th inch straight bit.

The heater wire naturally lays in the routed groove. Using this method, less tape is needed to hold the wire down until the flooring is installed. The tape is supplied with the floor mat. WarmFloors makes this floor mat, but I have used other brands with success.

On the right- marker line is ready for routing. On the left- routed line is ready for heater wire.

That’s all there is to it. Cut the blue heater wire free from the orange mesh. Tape the wire into the groove and install the laminate or tile flooring. Be sure to use adhesive that is heat resistant when installing the tile. I checked the floor heat mat before installation to make sure I could use 100V. The floor mat was operated for 8 hours and it maintained a comfortable 89 degrees. The laminate floor should only be heated to about 80 degrees.      George

Monday, February 2, 2015


I’ve been under-the-weather with flu this past week. In Japan, it’s mandatory to take five days off from work as soon as the doctor diagnosis flu. It’s a sound policy and I understand that the purpose is to keep the flu from spreading. However, in order to get those five days off with pay, a note must be provided by the doctor. The note cost 3200 yen. When Erika discovered this information, she went ballistic. “What do you mean, I have to pay 3200 yen for paperwork stating that my husband has the flu? You are making my husband stay home from work AND you are charging him to do so? I won’t pay for that paperwork! Here’s a receipt stating he has the flu…that’s enough! Make this receipt work or I’ll go to the mayor!”

As you have read, Erika was/is upset about this matter. I’m not sure where this will end up, but we feel it’s important to speak up and try to change this policy. Too many people with barely enough income to survive are forced to take time off from work. On top of that, they are forced to pay 3200 yen to receive compensation for work missed. Stay tuned…       George

Update:  There is no room for negotiations. I was not aware that I was required to see a doctor to be diagnosed with the flu. I visited the doctor on Wednesday because my health was not improving. Monday and Tuesday will have to come from my vacation pay. The remainder of the week will be paid only if the 3200 yen doctor's note is provided. Moral to the story: It doesn't pay to get sick.