Monday, 12 August 2019

A view from the very top

After what seemed like a very long absence, we were finally able to get over to the house to see the latest progress on Friday last week. The university I work at was closed for the first day of the Obon holiday so Yuko and I set off early in the morning to meet the builders onsite. Even though it was 10 o-clock, it was already stiflingly hot outside so we were pretty relieved to get inside the blue sheeting where it was at least shaded, although far from being comfortable.

Before this, we were shown the progress that has been made with the piping. The main water and sewage pipes to the house have now all been installed as well as the gas line. These will all be situated to the east side of the main steps up to the house, with the meter being placed at the top of the stairs, out of sight. Since the main public gas lines run down the opposite side of the road, these will need to be connected at a later date, likely at the end of the build. I’m not sure how long this will take but it will necessitate digging up the road.

concrete steps japan house sewage gas water
Water and sewage pipes and the new extended wall
The concrete wall has also been extended to meet next door’s stone wall. It will soon be finished and made to look tidy and smooth before the builders start rebuilding the wall between us and the neighbours that fell down. The area around the pipes will be filled in with earth. The steps themselves will be flattened and tidied in due course.

concrete steps japan house sewage gas water
The new wall extension (unfinished)
concrete steps japan house sewage gas water
Our stairs. They will be smoothed and leveled soon

After dealing with the outside area, we moved inside but, to our surprise, only to pick up some hard hats. We were lucky enough to be heading up to the roof, climbing the neat but compact scaffolding to the very top of the house. It was a pretty exciting climb up through mini steps inside the metal scaffold frame. I banged my head 5 times in the short climb so my initial annoyance at having to wear a helmet in the scorching heat was certainly misguided.

After our head architect, I was next to step foot on the sloping roof, followed by a somewhat nervous Yuko who didn’t enjoy walking unsupported on a sloping gradient, 8 meters above the ground. I waited (impatiently) for her without turning around to take in the view myself. Since it would be the first time seeing the view from the top of our house where the roof balcony will be, I wanted to experience it together. Romantic, I know.

The view is incredible. Far better than we could possibly have hoped for and a real justification for planning the house in the way that we did. What we hadn’t realized in putting together the plans was that we will not only have views of Osaka (and even Kobe in the distance) but also to the mountain behind our house. I’m not sure if the pictures below can do it justice so please, once the house is finished, come and see for yourselves!

After about 20 minutes of standing in awe, we descended to start the second part of the meeting, which was to discuss furniture. Since it was so hot, we all decided to decamp to the air-conditioning of the builder’s offices where we spent almost two hours going over all of the furniture that we are having built (cupboards, kitchen, bar etc.) I think I’d like to go over that in a separate entry, so I’ll leave things here for now. For those in Japan, have an enjoyable Obon break and I’ll come back to you soon with the next post.

japan house roof terrace osaka panorama
The view from the roof terrace!

japan house roof terrace osaka panorama
A panorama of the roof terrace

japan house roof terrace osaka panorama
The view up the mountain. Very green!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Window Frames and Water Pipes

A week and a half without updates! My apologies. Yuko and I haven’t been by the house in nearly two weeks as work schedules were pretty busy and we had a few days braving a massive typhoon over in Hong Kong. Though we are heading over to the house tomorrow for a meeting (about furniture I believe), I realized that I do have some more recent photos so I’ll share those with you all in this post.

When we went to the house two weeks ago, Yuko and I went by ourselves and found that we were able to get inside the blue sheeting to have a nose around inside (the joys of living in such a safe country I guess!). There were a few small changes, here and there, most notably the addition of some wooden squares in the frame into which the windows will soon be installed. It was pretty useful for us to get an idea of the size of the windows in each room but it’s hard to tell how much light then will let in when we have no walls and a huge blue sheet everywhere. I suppose we’ll have to trust the builders there…

I did venture upstairs but the ladder was especially wobbly this time and so Yuko bravely opted not to join me. A few things had been moved around upstairs so I could move about a bit more freely but my enjoyment at wandering around was tempered somewhat by a nagging fear that when I was finished I was going to have to go down the ladder again. The sooner we can get the staircase in, the better.

Some progress has also been made on the outside steps and some new plastic pipes have also appeared. I’m not sure if they are for water, sewage or both. We’ll ask tomorrow.  

Next week is the Obon holiday for which Japan basically shuts down. I’m not sure if that is also going to apply to our construction site, although it seems that there are still a few things planned in the schedule. We won’t be here to check up as we have to go and see the in-laws. I’ll try and take a few more photos tomorrow and get them up early next week. For now, here’s a few I managed to take last week.

water pipes japan construction
New pipes!

water pipes japan construction
Stair construction

water pipes japan construction
The space to the east of our steps. Will be filled in and the wall under the blue sheet (which fell down) rebuilt.

wood window frame japan construction
Our first window frame

wood window frame japan construction
Frame from a distance. This is in the laundry room I believe. The diagonal beam is temporary

wood frame japan construction
Piles and piles of wood upstairs

wood frame japan construction
View across the living room. Balcony is in the LH corner

wood penthouse japan construction
View up the staircase to the penthouse/roof deck 1

wood penthouse japan construction
View up the staircase to the penthouse/roof deck 2

wood washitsu japan construction
The Japanese room, now without piles of wood

wood living room japan construction
Living room area

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Featured on Dockleys Blog

A couple of weeks ago an old friend, Adam Dockley, got in touch to ask if he could feature this blog on his site. Adam is the estate agent who found my flat in London for me and helped me to sell it again years later. In many ways, he's the guy who made this whole Osaka project possible! If anyone is reading from the UK and needs an exceptional agent, I would recommend Adam without hesitation. Here's a link to the piece that they wrote about us.

dockleys london estate agent

Monday, 22 July 2019

First steps inside

On Friday last week, we had a meeting at the house (definitely going to call it a house now, even though it doesn’t have any walls yet) to confirm the location of plug sockets and light switches. This sounded pretty boring to be honest but then we hadn’t actually really thought about what it would entail.

We arrived and were led up the temporary steps to the house and then ushered inside the blue sheeting that covers the frame. It then struck us that we were, for the first time, standing inside our house! With the frame fully up and standing on the wooden flooring beams, we could finally experience the scale of the place we plan to be living for the next 20-25 years. We were finally able to appreciate the layout, the flow from area to area and, perhaps most importantly, the size of the rooms.

We actually began our tour of the house standing on the outside wood deck. We have talked in previous entries about how we like the Japanese idea of the inside blending with the outside and it was immediately clear that they builders had achieved this. There is a kind of roofing in Japan called noki (), often found on temples, where the roof extends over the outside walkway and is supported by vertical beams. This allows for good weather protection and the ability to transition from inside to outside without having to put on shoes or use an umbrella. There’s a good page with more information (Japanese) about noki here.

Downstairs, we were particularly pleased with the size of the study and the laundry room, both of which seemed bigger than on the printed plans. The corridor that runs from north to south is a little narrower than expected but as long as I can lay off the Costco hot dogs a bit, I should still be able to squeeze down it. Relatively speaking, corridors are kind of wasted space anyway, especially in a small house, so it’s not something we are too bothered by.

Having walked around the downstairs and chosen the height at which to put lights and where to put the plug sockets and light switches, we were surprised to be told that our next stop was the second floor. Obviously there is no staircase yet so we had to make do with a long (and pretty wobbly) ladder. Being the brave one, I went first to show Yuko how it’s done. Since I weigh about twice as much as her, I can’t imagine the bending and contorting of the ladder as I tramped up it made her especially comfortable but, by that point, I was too busy taking in the second floor!

I presume Yuko got up the ladder ok since she soon joined me upstairs. We both looked around the main living space in silence. It was surreal – somehow, it was both exactly as we expected and yet, at the same time, a complete surprise. Standing in the middle of the living room and seeing where the balcony is (covered by a sheet so we couldn’t see the view this time), the pantry, the Japanese room, the height of the ceiling, the wooden beams etc. was such an awesome experience. Even though it’s just a frame and a sheet (did I mention no walls?!), for the first time we could imagine actually living in the house. Seriously cool stuff!

We ran through a few more decisions about lighting and plug sockets and took a few pictures and, before we knew it, we were in the car and on our way home (via conveyor belt sushi and the golf range), no doubt smiling from ear to ear. It’s been a tough journey to get to this stage but we’re finally getting to the point where we can start to look forward to living in the house rather than just building it!

That’s it for this entry. More photos to follow next time I hope. In the meantime, enjoy the very much blue-sheet influenced photos below.

inside house japan frame
The downstairs
house japan frame loft wood beams exposed
Upstairs. You can see the high sloping ceiling with exposed beams and the loft area above the tatami room

genkan house japan frame
View from the front door down the genkan
bedroom house japan frame
Wooden floor beams. This is the master bedroom
wooden beams roof japan house
The wooden beams in the bedroom. Will be left exposed like this

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The Frame is Up!

Very exciting news over at the site. The rain has held off for the last couple of days and the frame is now up. The builder sent over the photos this evening and, honestly, we are pretty speechless. We're in love with our new house! I can't think of anything to write so here are the photos!  So happy!

osaka roof terrace view
The view from the roof deck

wood frame house osaka japan
Inside the protective blue covers

osaka roof terrace view
The roof terrace access from the side

osaka wood frame house
The frame!

osaka wood frame house
The frame again!

osaka wood house frame
The parking space. On the LHS, the steps are taking shape

Thursday, 4 July 2019

A View From On High

When is it going to stop raining?! It’s been a long, wet couple of weeks in Japan with frequent weather warnings and some unfortunate folks in the southern prefectures being evacuated. Osaka has not been as badly hit as some but the bad weather has delayed the frame going up by about a week. We’re pretty used to delays by now but it is still frustrating to pull back the curtains in the morning and see that, once again, rain stops play.

There has actually been some progress on site although the weather has meant that we haven’t been over there for about 10 days. We’re both itching to go and take a look for ourselves but, for now at least, we have to make do with some photos from the builders. As you will see below, the scaffolding is now pretty much up and we are ready to get started! The outline of the wood deck has also been put in place.

We have also had our first glimpse of the view we will have from the upstairs floor balcony. I’ve scoured the pictures to try and get an idea of the height from which the picture was taken and it looks to be at about the balcony level, although I may be wrong. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty cool view, despite the bad weather.

In other news, we decided to forego the expensive (and to us, pretty meaningless) ceremony to bless the land and the frame and all that stuff. I hope the Japanese gods decide to take pity on us in light of our overall patience and unbridled positivity towards the project. I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities for us to throw some rice and sake around at a later date. We will however be meeting our carpenters in a couple of weeks which should be a nice experience. So far, we’ve spent a lot of time with the architects and people coordinating the design but not much with the people actually building the house. They probably think we’re a bit crazy so it will be nice for them to see that for themselves.

Thanks again to the new followers. We’ve actually just passed 10,000 views which is pretty insane for a random couple building a house in a sleepy suburb in Japan. More updates to follow in due course.

osaka city view scaffolding
The view to the west. Excuse the lousy weather!

osaka house layout scaffolding
Our house from the scaffolding. You can see the outline of the wood deck on the LHS

osaka house scaffolding
From the road

osaka house scaffolding
From the road 2

osaka house scaffolding garden
Next door's garden is looking nice. Inspiring!

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Raised Foundations

Hi all. A relatively short update this week. There has been a reasonable amount of progress over at the site but there’s not a huge amount I think we can really say about it in the blog post! I was able to drive over there last Saturday to take some pictures, which you can find at the bottom of the page as usual.

The most noticeable change is that the next level of the foundations has been completed. You can no longer see the steel rebar that is reinforcing the concrete and the wood panels have now been removed. What is left is a smooth and rather cool looking concrete maze on which the frame will eventually sit when it goes up (hopefully in the next 2-3 weeks depending on the rain)

The concrete base actually sits about 50cm above ground level. The reason for this is to raise the whole house by that distance in order to build up as high as possible without including an expensive (and difficult to get through planning control) 3rd floor. We want the house to be as tall as possible to protect the views we have over the house in front, in case they decide to rebuild at some stage.

I think, now more than ever, we can really get a feel for how big the house is going to be and where it sits on the plot. Actually, I think the builders have got the position of the house absolutely perfect and there is plenty of access space around the East side where all of the meters and various house equipment will be. The garden feels like a good size and the wood deck is well situated. It’s still a bit dicey next to the carpark area but that will no doubt feel a lot safer when the roof is added.

There has also been some progress on the concrete steps that will lead up to the front door from the road. The plot shape and elevation dictate that these will have to be fairly steep, but we’ve opted for a simple design that should hopefully make getting up and down them reasonably easy.

As I said, there’s not a whole lot to write about since the pictures can give you a much better idea than I can. There are likely to be quite a few updates over the next few weeks as the pace is really picking up. Of course, it’s now rainy season so delays are always possible. As always, please keep in touch and keep your questions and comments coming. Speak soon!
foundations concrete japanese house
View to the NW. Shows well how the house sits on the plot I think.
foundations concrete japanese house
View to the SE taken from the garden.

foundations concrete japanese house
View to the east. It's reasonably narrow between the end wall and the car park. The roof will make this a lot safer!

foundations concrete japanese house staircase
View down the soon-to-be staircase

foundations concrete japanese house staircase
View up the soon-to-be staircase

foundations concrete japanese house entrance genkan
The gap where the front door will go. Before that is the porch

foundations concrete japanese house corridor
The corridor stretching from the study to the south wall of the house

foundations concrete japanese house wood deck
Mini foundations for the wood deck

foundations concrete japanese house
Smooth concrete - this is the kids' room

foundations concrete japanese house
The south garden area. Small, but with elevated veg patches on the RHS

foundations concrete japanese house garden
The main garden. There is a little bit of space to the left of where I am standing too

foundations concrete japanese house maze
A final picture of our concrete maze

A view from the very top

After what seemed like a very long absence, we were finally able to get over to the house to see the latest progress on Frida...