Hi! I've set up this page to give you a tour of our new house. Just click on the headings to see the pictures on the right side of your browser. Since I've taken lots of pictures (47 to be exact), I've tried to make them small so you won't have to wait too long for any one picture to come in. If things are I little bit slow at least you can start reading the explanation on this side of your browser while you are waiting for an image to come in on the right side. Also, in parentheses after every heading I have placed a link to the floor plan. Clicking on the floor plan should help your understand what you are looking at and where it is located.
By mid-December or so the gates you see here will be gone. The woman who lived here before us only had one car but we have two. We will have the gates removed so that two cars can be parked here without difficulty. We will also have a gate installed on the right side of the bamboo fence (which is actually make of fiberglass or some other material that wears better than real bamboo) so that we can all park our bikes on the side of the house.
The concrete structure between the gate on the left and the accordion-like partition on the right, by the way, will also be removed. Mia is standing near the entrance. On the roof above her you can see a window. That provides additional light for the entrance and hallway in the center of the house.
This area will become part of the parking area but we will keep the stepping stones that you see here. If we squeeze our two cars to the right, this path will still function as the walkway to the house.
The front door is a sliding door. We may have part of it redone to make it more secure.
This picture was taken from the spot Mia was standing on in the last picture. This tiny garden is situated between our parking area and the front of the house. I have it listed as "Garden 1" on the floor plan.
This picture was taken from inside the house. The appearance is different because it was taken on a different day in different light.
This picture was taken from the landing in front of the door to the house.
Now we have entered the house. The partition you see in the back (just behind Mia's right ear) shields the entrance to one of the two bathrooms (this one just has a toilet and a sink). On the ceiling you see what appears to be a large light fixture. That is actually the opening for a window in the ceiling. I'm not sure but I think that this is called a "skylight" in English. To the left you can see an open door and some shelves on the wall. That is a walk-in closet. I'll show you that in a minute.
This picture was taken from the same spot as the previous picture. This is what you see on your left as you enter the house. This was left for us by the previous owner. Her husband found the piece of driftwood in the Shirakawa River (which runs through the center of Kumamoto City) and spent a lot of time sanding it to put it in its current form. We are very grateful to Mrs. Terashi (the previous owner) for leaving this for us. She also left a TV, a washing machine, and many other nice things.
I took this picture standing in the middle of the house facing the front door. The light you see at the very bottom of the picture is located above the entrance to the house.
Here's a view of the walkin closet I mentioned a couple pictures back. We are going to install a retractable staircase in this room to take us to the attic we will have put in for storage.
I took this picture from a point near the partition I pointed out in the previous picture. This photo shows Leon and his friend Yokun playing in what I have labeled the "hall" in front of the small garden. This "hall" is what is called an engawa in Japanese. It is a space between the outside and the main room inside. I'm not sure but I think part of the idea of the engawa is to provide a more gradual transition between the outside and the inside of the home. I also think that it helps with insulation in the winter time because sliding paper doors called sho^ji can be placed between the engawa and the main living space.
The wall space between the engawa and the white closet door on the left is called a tokonoma. It is an alcove where art, hanging scrolls, or flower arrangements are displayed.
This looks dark but only because there's so much light coming in the windows, which are on the south side of the building.
In the two previous pictures Leon and his friend Yokun were playing in this space. As I explained before it is called an engawa in Japanese but I have labeled it "Hall" on the floor plan. The doors you see are to a large closet.
The engawa is naturally sunny. I didn't ask the kids to play here; they just naturally gravitated to area on their own.
Mia and Leon like this toy that they got from their Aunt, Uncle and cousins in DeForest.
I took this picture from the hall in the center of the house. This kids are in Room A and you can see into rooms B and C on the left. Rooms B and C are separated from room A by lightweight sliding partitions called fusuma. You can see one fusuma between rooms A and B. I removed the others to give you a better view. There is a wall that separates room C from B but the two rooms are connected with a small sliding door.
Here's Mariko in room B. This room also has an alcove for the display of art and flower arrangements. We will probably put a bed in this room and use it as a guest room. (Mom, this is probably where you will sleep.)
The half of the house that I've been showing you so far was designed with the tea ceremony in mind. Mrs. Terashi taught the tea ceremony for many, many years. This room was where water to be boiled for tea was put in the kettle. Under the window I think you can see the outline of a faucet. The tea ceremony would then be performed in room B. We, of course, can't afford to devote an entire room to one faucet so this will become a small study. We will have a desk installed facing the window and probably put our electric piano by the wall on the right.
We've completed our tour of the eastern half of the house and now are about to move into the western half. This picture was taken from inside the walk-in closet facing south. We are looking at a little space between the entrance to the house and room D. Mariko and I will probably put shelves of some kind in here.
This photo was taken from the entrance to our living room. On the floor plan the living room is shown as rooms D and E. They are only separated by sliding doors (sho^ji). We think that we will probably not divide them into two rooms but use this as one large room. They are windows behind the screens you see which add light to the room but no view because our neighbors are so close to us.
In the last shot, Leon had his feet on a sofa left for us by Mrs. Terashi. This shot shows Mia, Leon, and his friend Yokun around the sofa.
On the opposite side of the room (the east side) is the alcove you see Mia. Mrs. Terashi used this space for a Buddhist alter. We will place a different kind of alter in it -- a television. The TV you see was left for us by Mrs. Terashi but is a bit too big for the alcove. We may use it someplace else in the house but will probably give it to a needy foreign student. Our TV should fit nicely into this space.
Here's what the alcove looks like with the doors shut. Our "modern" TV and stereo will be nicely hidden behind these doors.
I wish I had a wide angle lens for this digital camera. I'd like to show more of the room a one time. This shot is taken from the kitchen. I've put the table where the fusuma can be inserted to separate room D from room E.
This view is very similar to the last one. I held the camera vertically to give you a better sense of the depth of the room.
In the two previous photos Mia is sitting in the engawa. Here's a close-up of her there. You can see that this space is not quite as large as the one on the other side of the house.
Here's Mia in the same place but with a better view of the garden that is beyond the engawa.
These are the steps that take you from the engawa into the garden.
I don't plan to do much of this but Mariko is looking forward to gardening. She started working in the garden soon after we bought the house. (This picture was taken from the engawa, just about the steps shown in the last picture.)
This storage shack is another item Mrs. Terashi left for us. The ugly metal pipes you see are to prop up poles for hanging laundry out to dry. We will probably get rid of these and set up a place to hang our laundry in back.
OK. Let's go back inside. I still need to show you the kitchen. Here's Mariko trying to figure out where to put our dishwasher.
There's also a skylight in the kitchen.
Here's what it looks like inside.
This (as I mentioned earlier) is one of two bathrooms. In the mirror you can see a washing machine. We will carry our wet laundry out the door you see in the mirror and hang our laundry out to dry in the narrow space behind the house. (We will have the door enlarged to make this easier.)
Japanese bathtubs are deeper but smaller around than American tubs. We were considering having this area enlarged but decided it would cost too much.
This picture was taken from the east corner of the house. The steps you see take us outside from the bath area. We will add an awning and the necessary hardware. As you can see, we do not have a back yard. Even so, by Japanese standards we bought a rather big piece of land.
Not much of a story here. (The photo was taken from the back of the house facing south.)
We will put our bikes here. (The photo was taken from near the front of the house facing north.)
Now, you've seen all of the house. Perhaps you're feeling sorry for our kids because they don't have an open area to play. Actually, though, there's no problem in that area. We are extremely close to the school playground which is very big, even by American standards. To get there you leave our house and walk east on this street. (I was standing right in front of our house when I took this picture.)
Then you turn left at the corner and walk down this street. The trees you see are at the edge of the school grounds. (I was at the corner, but the traffic mirrors, when I took this picture.)
This picture was taken about where the you saw the trees in the last picture. To walk to this point it took me about 60 seconds.
Leon is standing in the background and Mia is sitting next to him.
Leon was playing soccer with the other kids. I'm not sure what Mia was doing. Perhaps she was just taking in the scenery. She didn't seem upset.
I think Mia in particular will enjoy the many swings and and things to climb on here.
Well, that concludes the tour. I hope you enjoyed it. I'll try to prepare an update after the remodeling has been completed.