Project Rough Meets Project Workshop

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.


Way out.

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.

Ron Celestine
Instagram: celestinephotography



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This looks like the start of a new and exciting chapter for you and project Rough!
If you don't mind me asking, without obviously going into the specifics of location; but how lnong and far away would it be to travel to Tokyo from there?


Navi says it's a little under 2 hrs away but that's not factoring the flow of traffic haha


Who would think we come to read about cars but also get some side knowledge about Japanese real estate too!

If I had this space...first thing I'd do is pick up a copy of Garage Life magazine and start soaking in ideas


Hahaha I try to mix it up a bit here ^^

Ya!! That magazine is epic and a good idea. I need to pick up a copy


Make sure you have plenty of light, paint the walls and floor to keep the dust down, then fit some more lights cos you will always find a dark spot where you need to work at that moment. Maybe some tarpaulin or plastic sheet to make a false roof so dust isn't a problem. Enjoy the shed too


The false roof is a great idea! I thought about maybe making one out of wood but that seemed like a bit much at the time though it is mad dusty in there. My wife suggested I paint the walls white so that is definitely on the list hahaha. The lighting situation is OK but the tube needs to be replaced with something brighter (and not greenish yellow lol)


Dont bothher with any garage special paints for the walls, ordinary house paint is just as good and can be used on the floor too. you wont regret doing the floor if your working under the car, it reflects a lot of light and makes it easier to find that nut that rolled away


I was actually thinking of building a "fake wall" to hide the alum wall and paint that. I would do the ground but a car can BARELY fit so I'll maximize the space for buliding / designing

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I can practically feel your excitement in the last paragraph, Ron! Congratulations on the new house. But being a city boy myself, for me to move to a rural area will be a huge ask, especially when it comes to the night life.

Looking at the last 2 pictures, perhaps you can move all the farming machineries into one of the extra buildings and turn it into some sort of mini museum too?


Lool sameeeeee. I don't really have a night life now with Covid and the new little addition to the family so the move wasn't that difficult of a decision. Now.. If this was a few years earlier tho....

Well I've moved some into the other area already but the owner and I put some of the items in the locked area.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

A new little addition to the family? Congratulations my man!


Appreciate it !! Kinda explains the random posts lately hahah. He's getting more on a schedule now tho so should be better


is there electrical power supply available? Ample? For lighting, ventilation, power tools, appliances that sort.


Supply yes but not ample lol. On the list is to wire in some outlets for the above listed items


Ron, this looks like quite an adventure you're on. It looks like a very fun experience and I hope all works out. Looking at your findings from another angle, have you considered doing any farming? With having the right equipment to save you from the back breaking part, it could be quite fun to try. Also, I would love to see the WW2 paintings you found if you took pics. I'm sure they're fascinating.


Cheers! Got really lucky with the house and the owner being really nice. She actually did say we could use part of the land for farming but we have no idea what we are doing and the currently no time lol. Wife said she wants to try tho!

Yaaa I wanted to share but that was one thing they asked not to upload. It was really fascinating and interesting to see something like that depicted "from the other side"


YESSSSS, we need more grassroots garage builds like this!!!


Hahaha I'm try to keep them coming! Glad you enjoyed ^^


I'm SO keen to see what you do with the space and how Project Rough evolves in there. Please, keep the updates coming :)


If I can get the crazy ideas from paper to actual progress... Mannnnnn hahaha. I'm trying my best tho!


Not gonna lie, looking at photos, all I could think of were how many places I could see where some suzumebachi might have taken up residence. XD But as another gaijin looking to evac Tokyo to get some actual wrenching space, very interested to see how this all pans out! Best of luck with everything!


Hahaha bruhhhhhhhhh.... Luckily we moved in the winter time so I did proper sweeps. I still will now and again make sweeps to make sure none are making nests.. I've seen what the neighbors call "small" nest and dear God I almost had a heart attack.

I'd say if you can.. make the change though let me get over the honeymoon phase to give you real feedback hahaha


Project Rough Compound! We expect Vlogs of drifting around it and various tomfoolery :)


LOOOOL I dunno about that one


Welcome to rural life. It definitely has its upsides....I love it.


Hahaha it definitely does. Location isn't too rual either so kind of the best of both .. kindof hahah


Congrats on landing the new location Ron. Very exciting!

As a car and bike enthusiast with 15 years experience in architecture and interiors I'm very excited for you and would love to share ideas. It's my goal to start a business combining the two!

Do you have a budget in mind? Are you after a clean minimalist look, layers of organised chaos or something in between? I'm so keen to see project workshop. I like the idea of a timber floor for a warm aesthetic and comfort instead of laying on a concrete floor. Floorboards running up a wall can also assist with insulation as well and provide an easy way to mount shelving/displays onto. Personally I'd love to see garages as a space of workmanship, display and a place for motivation and creativity. I like to look of layers with tools, parts and signs on walls.

You also need a biiig mirror, why? Whenever you try on a new outfit you check the mirror right? Why wouldn't you want to see yourself in project rough as you roll out the garage?

All the best, looking forward to seeing the progress


Thanks for the insight Dom!

Budget wise in trying to keep everything on the "cheap' side as I'm still technically renting the place so I don't want to dump a ton of money into something that I won't keep. At the same time, I do want a nice place to work in and feel inspired. I actually thought about the same idea with making a wall (fake wall?) Out of wood for those exact same reasons. It doesn't have a door / I don't think I want to make one (budget part) so I don't know if I'll hang a lot of tools on the wall. I don't think anyone would steal anything but I am American so the thought of leaving things unprotected still bothers me.

As for the mirror if the space was a littttttle bigger I'd do that but Project Rough can't fit with tools so.. building / design space only


Fair enough. You're in the same boat as me, renting and not spending loads. I luckily have a door though.

For inspiration I use old plywood panels over the face of an existing brick wall. I created a collage of my photos which came out neat here's a link to the graphic.

All the best, looking forward to seeing more


what is the potential punishment for growing cannabis in japan? looks like a great spot for a few short cycle indis which would pay for you car and rent in one.


Lol uhh.... Massive jail time / deportation ?


As someone who is making plans to build a additional garage myself, things to think about are isolation for the winter months, space to store tools, enough electric outlets for those tools and maybe a place in or outside the garage to wash your dirty hands. Otherwise you'll have to go inside the house with grease all over your hands. Also, level the floor for workings with fluids. And weatherproof the outside so the car remains dry to protect it from rust as much as possible.


Those are all really good ideas. There is a sink outside so I can clean my hands outside. I would level the floor but I'm still technically renting the place so I don't want to do something "that extreme".


Sweet Spot. Check for leaks or flooding in heavy rain, Think about heating and cooling, Seal up as much drafty bits as you can. I like a flat wood floor with a bit of insulation , it never gets hot or cold, you can drop an axle and not mess up a spline. Mark out the work area around the car so you can try and keep it clear, Lots of shelves and work benches. Think about insulation and humidity control, cold surfaces that get exposed to high humidty will cause damp or even condensation, then you get mold, rust. Open wall areas are great for hanging tools so you can find them, Diffusd lighting from different directions and light stands think of being in a wheel well. All that wont matter though if you dont make it a place you want to be in even if you arent working on a project so a hang out corner is kind of more important than you think. I dont hve one now and it I get less done. Oh Try not to get too many projects. Oh I do tig weld and grind on a wood floor area all my friends ask about that, its never been a problem and you need to think about fire safety with car stuff anyway. maybe make up a cool graphic for your shop. Any way have fun


Those are really cool ideas and I never thought about making the floor wooden o.o. We just made it through the rainy season so it passes the leak test haha. Both a car and tolls won't fit sadly (designed for a k truck lol) so I'll just make it a work space only. The light I have on my list as well. Just need to think about how to diffuse it / make a diffuser to fit the light shape


Hi diffused lighting is mostly about the bulb and type of light some lights will say soft or something like that and have a coating or case that acts to spread the light it does make it seem a bit less bright but its better for work. if you were to use sraight leds you could get some opaque plastic to build a light box, reflectors with a soft diffused bulb is what i try to go with, the reflector is some times more about not having the light in my eyes, I like the battery led bars for under the car but I also find they are too direct and cast shadows and can run low at the worst time. You wont have too hard a time finding what works but it took me a while to realize how much I sometimes struggled when the lighting wasnt good. If you can swing a lounge chair with a bit of fabric thrown over and small fridge to act as a table you can just kick back and read have a cold/hot drink and reset when that bolt just wont budge or something wont fit. If you have to go in the house you will want to wash up etc and then I find I get on to something else, like write this because an ac bracket dosent line up with the aluminum mount i want to use. Also it means a freind will likely hang out and lend a hand if they have place to sit. Oh the floor, you look to have a good base so lay out a vapor barrier lay out small beams (lots of shims to level) about 254mm oc or less you can work out even spacing screw down a double layer of plywood or whatever buillding board you can get, you want about 30-35mm thick, you can make up a test bit and adjust the beam spacing if needed it should hold small to medium vehicles when jacks are used adding some foam bord insulation is nice extra Ive reused my floor moving it so you clould take it with you if you move but being in a freinds cottage myself I would just try and work out a deal and make it yours, a bit of work and you cant go wrong if the place is sound and dry. ok back to the bracket....


So jealous! Congrats to the great find. Living on the country side is not too bad, and public transit in Japan is very good, probably even faster than going by car.


Appreciate it! It's not too bad lol (so far). You could take the train back to Tokyo from here and it's not too bad (used to do it before to visit the in-laws). Just trying to avoid it for the time being with Corona ...


Wow, an abandoned kominka ! Huge Totoro / Wolf Children vibes, you even got the abandoned dusty attic experience! Looks like a great opportunity. I love the pics, please do keep us updated on your new 'inaka' lifestyle!

So, never mind how far it is from Tokyo, roughly how far are you now from a decent touge? Ski-iing? Surfing?

Have fun, and don't forget to explore the local area - I made a habit of driving along random interesting-looking local roads, and rarely regretted it.


Thank you! Haha I def will try to keep the updates flowing.

That is the real questions and there are some decent touges right around the corner now ^^. Skiing is also kinda close so overall not a bad location!

I've been exploring a bit and ya, have found some really interesting (and random) places