It was bound to happen, wasn’t it?
As much as I loved being one of the millions of people who call Tokyo home, the desire to expand on my DIY craft and have a suitable place to work on Project Rough, my ER34 Nissan Skyline – without having to either shell out stupid amounts of money for the space or worry about being that crazy gaijin neighbor who is always doing something strange like corner balancing a car in the driveway – was too strong to ignore.
Not once in my entire life have I lived in a rural area, as I’m rather fond of the city life and the perks that come with it. However, in order to have a reasonable amount of space – and dare I even say it, a garage – at an affordable rate in Japan you need to pack up your belongings and move out of the city.
Through an odd fate, my mother-in-law’s friend reached out to us about an abandoned kominka (traditional Japanese house) in a prefecture outside of Tokyo. Although no one had lived in the house for years, the owner had renovated it slightly and periodically checked in to ensure it was in decent enough shape.
Although the newfound space had me grinning from ear to ear, it was the two extra buildings that came with the kominka that had my wife and I (OK, me mostly) asking where we sign the rent contract.
Coming from a long line of farmers, the storage areas were filled with generations of tools, all but forgotten.
This toumi was one of the more fascinating tools I discovered in one of the garages. The farmers would put freshly-harvested rice on top of the machine while cranking the handle, which would in turn rotate giant wooden paddles inside that would de-husk the rice and separate the waste from the grains.
Tucked away behind the little red tractor, I found a large wooden beam called a daikokubashira. The significance of this item is that it was one of the main support beams of the original house – before it was torn down and replaced with the current kominka in which we now live.
Next to the daikokubashira is a staircase that leads up to the attic. I had asked the owner if she knew what was up there, and all she could tell me was that she hadn’t been up the staircase in years and couldn’t make any promises about what might be living there, but encouraged me to have a look all the same. “I’m sure you would find it very interesting.”
‘Curiosity killed the cat’ they say, but fortunately the only thing that was trying to harm me was the decades’ worth of dust.
Many traditional Japanese houses have something like this in the rafters. Owners would pray to them to protect the buildings from fires.
At first glance everything seemed to be old farm equipment, but after poking around in some of the boxes and bags I discovered countless porcelain dishes and stacks of old school work.
So, besides having a miniature museum, what made the two extra storage buildings so exciting to me? Despite the fact that we are currently only renting, the owner has allowed me to use most of the buildings and machines (yes, that even includes the tractor and little Suzuki Carry kei truck) without many limitations.
Thus, my new master plan is to consolidate most of the old equipment and miscellaneous bits in one area, and turn the space into a miniature workshop.
A project garage to go along with a project car – it seems like a match made in heaven, no? While I have some ideas in mind to transform the space, I’d love to hear any ideas Speedhunters readers might have. What would you do with the space? Let me know in the comments section below.