A remarkable picture isn’t it? This is the view from out the front of our soon to be "Fuji and me" head office. For seven generations a one hundred and sixty year old classic EDO period house has stood in front of this location and has witnessed the Japanese landscape and its people change from a warrior nation into present day Japan. Now we, the eighth generation, will be opening our head office here and sharing with you the strength and inspiration emanating from Fuji that has made her one of the great icons of the modern world.
We are "Fuji and me" and we welcome you to join us, find clarity and focus in your everyday lives, and hopefully enjoy some of the inspiring designs and products direct from Japan, that we have on offer. If you love Japan, the people who reside here and their Artistic Designs or just want some Edo period Mt Fuji Accommodation, then "Fuji and me" is certainly the site just for you!
Stick around and watch this story unfold as we faithfully document the complete renovation of our beloved old building into a modern facility and tourist accommodation. Also, please do drop us a line or two if you need info on any of our products or future accommodations...
Let's go back in time, one hundred and sixty years ago to 1859 when our Edo period Mt Fuji accommodation, then a private residence, had just been built. Only five year's previously United States Commodore Matthew Perry's "Black Ships" had arrived in EDO Bay. Here you can see another remarkable picture of the same street! A dirt road for horse and cart, wooden structures, and a clear and simple lifestyle.
It's interesting that Fuji is not actually in the shot, almost as if she has deliberately shrouded herself to make a point, that perhaps through all the prior changes and all those that would soon follow, she would again mystically reveal herself to be unmoved, unchanged and undying. Timeless!
In todays changing world, we all need to be a bit like that, don’t we?
If Fuji has anything to teach us it’s perhaps that we don’t need to struggle. That if we simply stand as a witness to time and just make peace with the moment then we can live with the constant change that surrounds us.
Its just a thought, but one that we at "Fuji and me" live by...
By the time this building is fully transformed it will have to be the most classic Edo period Accommodation available at Mt Fuji. Let's look at the details...
The original building had a Silk Worm Farm in the hollow of the roof. Its still there now. There is a ladder going up from the kitchen to that very space upstairs. It’s all dark and full of cobwebs now, but we hope to transform it, either for extra accommodation or a dinning room. There is an old chest up there too with some cane baskets and a handful of ancient postcards inside.
Here is the Fuji facing side of the building. The Silk Worm Farm takes up all of the second storey while the main house and living quarters takes up all of the first floor. As you can see, the original wood has been replaced at some stage with corrugated tin, a most expensive upgrade in its day, and the front of the building where the horses were accommodated has been glassed in. This upgrade has really protected the main structure over the following years, keeping the interior in relatively good condition.
To convert the old residence into Edo period Mt Fuji Accommodation we have a lot to think about. We are fortunate in that an original Edo period Mt Fuji Accommodation, the Oshi Inn, used by pilgrims many years ago, is almost next door to us. Although you cant stay there, is a perfect example of a high quality exacting traditional renovation. It is hoped that our renovation however will be more a mix of modern comfort and romantic traditional styling all in one.
More than likely we will put a street facing window on the second floor to take advantage of the Mt Fuji Fire festival which is held every year on August 26th. This awesome night festival in Fujiyoshida sees our main street lined on both sides with lively market stalls selling all manner of food and interesting things, and, right through the center of all this , running from the Fujisan station to the top of Mt Fuji, are wood burning fires, placed about twenty meters apart! From the street you can see the fires winding their way up to the top of the mountain, and as you can imagine, it really is a most spectacular sight!!! On holidays we have spent many a festival in the dinning area watching throngs of people passing by outside as we merrily eat and drink with those glass doors thrown wide open to the bustling fire- lit street.
Here is the building from the Fujisan station side. You can see that the foundations still remain as a very basic bed of rocks. Also, red was a popular colour of choice to paint a house around the time building was upgraded. Although we will be replacing the old tin for new, we hope to maintain this first colour scheme if we can and along this wall we will likely grow thin black bamboo.
By old Japanese standards, and even today, its a fairly large building for the Mt Fuji area, making it perfect Edo period accommodation for large groups or up to three families at a time. The original wood fired cooking stove (Mainly for rice etc) is still out the back in the little extension you can see at far left of the picture. As its most likely we will shift the entire building back a few meters to make room for parking at the front, we will need to make a decision about what to do with the stove if we want to keep it on location.
The lane in the foreground runs off the main street and ends just beyond the light blue building where a Miso business operates. Miso is a traditional and famous soup that really is awesome. If you haven’t yet tried it its the perfect energy soup for almost any occasion and goes well with almost all Japanese meals.
Here is a shot from the back of the lane looking towards the house and main street. The area behind the house is also part of the property, so there is plenty of room to build additional tourist accommodation and facilities to manufacture our unique "Made in Japan" products. To the left of this picture, hidden from view, is a small stone shrine erected by previous earlier generations of our family, and running along side this (left to right), is a channeled stream of fresh water which comes right off the melting snow of Fuji herself. (High quality water was an important requirement for silk worm farming). If we can get permission we may try and divert part of this water deeper into the property to make a pond and running stream as part of the properties water feature.
For many years a huge chestnut tree stood in the center of this vacant area. It was planted there by my wife’s Grandmother. Sadly, as the property became unattended in those days, some of the neighbors of the day took it upon themselves to solve the problem of falling leaves by cutting the entire tree down to its stump! Alas its now no more, but we hope to revive its memory by planting a new one somewhere on the property.
Here is the front of the building that faces the main street which has been glassed off on the right hand side. To the left are shoji paper screens where generations of young kids, (including ours!), have poked their little hands through it! You will notice that where the horses stood its still dirt. Before the shoji screens were put in the horses would have been tethered to a rail there with their backsides sticking out towards the street. A couple of years ago, during one of the festival nights, I found a very old and rare Japanese coin in that very dirt. It got me thinking that one of the first things we need to do before renovation begins is to sift that dirt to see what other hidden treasures we can discover!
EDO PERIOD MT FUJI ACCOMMODATION
Beyond the shoji screens lies the main living area. As you are about to see the entire first floor of the building opens up into joining rooms, which is perfect for family style or group accommodation. Because space is treasured by the Japanese there is not much in the way of furniture and all bedding is packed away during the day.
In this shot you can see just how incredibly low the ceiling is! Too bad if you're bigger than 185cm! I'll get back to the ceiling in a minute, but you can also see that the electrical fittings have been an addition long after the house was first built. The wires are all bare and as I'll show you soon are still exposed along the underside of the roof.
Having glass in the windows in those days was a sign of luxury so to highlight the point glass was also often used on interior doors as well. The tatami mats on the floor have been changed many times over the one hundred and sixty years since the Edo house was built and now, although they have been relatively well looked after, its definitely time for new mats again! As we convert the old residence into accommodation we will also have to decide whether to replace all the screen doors or not. It will be tough to decide as we are unlikely to be able to get the same designs as are shown here. I particularly like the mountain design on the doors to the right hand side of this picture.
The glass doors to the rear of this picture open up to the side of a narrow passage way that leads to the original squat toilet and beyond this the back section of the house opens up to the afternoon sun in a verandah like area. Its here that we hope to be able to run the water feature in a little courtyard and Zen moss garden with a plum and cherry blossom tree.
Here is the reverse shot taken from the back room looking towards the shoji screens and street. This is the Master bedroom. As you can see the tatami is much more elaborate and treasured mementoes have been kept up high. This room has its own built-in-robes and has solid closing sliding doors. Its also close to the original toilet, however there has since been another more modern (not squat!) toilet added at the front of the building.
To the left of this picture, and out of sight, is a shelf full of old bric-a-brac that has been collected over the generations. Wooden sculptures of eagles and bears, old books and simple toys used long ago.
As you will soon see, these rooms are the cleanest part of the house and have been well looked after.
Back at the front of the Edo house and to the left of the living room is the dinning area which leads into the kitchen. In holiday season, here is where we eat drink and be merry! As you can see, the best light comes into this room from the lane side window.
There is a lot of stuff that will have to be removed from the building before renovation begins. Books, futons, bric-a-brac, and all manner of things that have collected up over the years. You can’t see it in this picture but this room also has one of those ancient old black landline telephones! (I think we'll keep that!)
Here is the lane window that the light is coming from. It would be classic with a bamboo silhouette. There are some old Japanese fans on the wall and the dining table has been stored away to the left. If you look carefully up near the roof you can see two pictures of our distant relatives. The picture to the right shows them posing in the fields (as is shown below). It would have been a simple life, for sure, and more physically demanding. These people were naturally connected to the land in all aspects of their life and without a doubt Fuji would have played a very powerful part of their spiritual and emotional lives, but we will get back to this in a moment...
To the right of this picture a door leads to....
...the kitchen. Ahem! As you can see its currently the busiest area of the house.
While this area may be the messiest its probably also the most important part of the renovation that we have to get right. While the overall effect of the facility needs to be a combination of "Old Meets New" the kitchen area will need to be fresh and modern right the way through. Having said this though we are also considering adding a wood burning stove (as well as a gas oven) in the kitchen area so that we can cook classic home made Japanese food EDO style! (obviously complemented by the freshest Miso soup around!)
To the right of the kitchen, behind the glass door, is the bath and shower room (basically a hot tub). As the kitchen is moderately sized and we need a bigger one to cater for paying guests, we will likely extend the kitchen down into this area and move the hot tub to a separate room out the back of the building. With up to two million new tourists coming into Japan each year, many of them families, we expect to have a lot of hungry mouths to feed!
Here is the 1st floor ceiling of the building. The original living area had a fire in the center of the room (shown below) so all the smoke from the fire has blackened the roof and protected the wood from insects. The timber in this building is priceless as its quality is impossible to replace these days. In fact the main beam of the building has been valued at over 30K! The carpentry is so precise that there is not one nail in the entire building, which has withstood many earthquakes over time.
In this shot you can see the bare electric wires simply mounted to the bottom of the beam. Crude but effective, but no chance of electric shock.
Here is a shot of a fire place that we are considering putting into the living area.
This photo was actually taken at the previously mentioned, Edo period Mt Fuji Accommodation close by. This newly and faithfully renovated EDO period inn is just a stones throw away from us. This building was used exclusively by pilgrims who came to climb Fuji to pay homage to her spirit. Its only 300 yen to go in for a look but while you certainly cant stay at this house overnight you can visit and see exactly what the top condition houses of the day looked like in those glory days. The reconstruction job is exquisite and well worth a visit if you come to Fuji. Besides, we hope you will then come and visit us, if only you pop in for the best coffee in town!
As you can see from this picture, when the fire is cold you can cover it up with a lid and not even know its there. Perfect Japanese ingenuity.
Here is the picture of our relatives that you saw on the wall. Classic isn’t it? Do you suppose there is a big difference between them and us? These people had clear goals and a vision that they constantly worked towards. Fuji was most certainly the driving inspiration behind their focus and work. Day in and day out Fuji was always there inspiring them, providing them the strength and spiritual guidance they needed. All they had to do was look up and there she was, towering majestically over everything else, both outside and within.
Fuji Provided Perfect Clarity and focus
As farmers they dedicated their lives to the land. They attended rituals at the Fuji Shrine to appease the Goddess for a good harvest. Fuji's great strength inspired them to persevere in harsh times and to risk growing new varieties of green tea, rice and fruit. As they climbed the mountain their conversations would have related these words of daily life to the farming challenges they faced. Words like "Jishin ga aru" (Confidence) and "Kan Satsu" (Observant) are also words that successful Japanese farmers would have used in their daily lives and when faced with such a difficult climb. Yet Fuji can be unfailingly there for us as well. Today, tomorrow, next year, always!
Why is Fuji World Heritage? Without such an obstacle there is no great inspiration...
Indeed when you climb Fuji, you become one with the mountain, and you can relate it to every other aspect of your life.
What we all need now is a life filed with that same purpose and meaning. It’s great if you have found these things, but don’t worry if you haven’t...
In our world of constant distraction, It’s this Clarity and Focus that we at "Fuji and me" want to convey. Whatever your dream, there are many ways that we can relate to Fuji in order to get that clarity and focus we need to move us forwards.
We use this simple farming example above as a way to explain how people back then, and how people today are perhaps really not so different.
Existence is Relationship, Why not join us?
In the same way that these people inspired themselves by thinking of their relationship to Fuji, we too can also help ourselves in this way. Inspiration is truly the juice that gets us going! Mental stimulation allows us to find our purpose and meaning, and if we already have those things, it then drives us to act on them.
Perhaps you are not so serious and probably you are not a farmer, but maybe you are a parent or a Grandparent? an Artist or a student?
Regardless of who we are, we have all had moments that touch us in a remarkable way. By thinking about who we need to be to move us forward, we can gather inspiration from this great mountain by emulating the many empowering words that describe her.
If you are a parent or Grandparent that loves your family then you will know the importance of being open. To be as open as the blue sky above Fuji allows us to be flexible with our loved ones, as this fosters their own sense of self discovery. Just as having a family is not risk free, nor is climbing Fuji. We need to be openly accepting of the importance of risk so that we can all move forward in our lives. And like climbing Fuji we need to be observant (of soft edges, shifting sand and the changeable weather etc) so that we can adapt to the changing developmental needs of those in our care.
But perhaps you are not either of these but an artist or a creative type? In which case similar relevance can be applied to you.
As an artist you would follow a discipline. As well as creativity this also requires skills like perseverance, risk taking and strength thus allowing you to overcome unseeable obstacles in your work and embrace the discovery (What you can see from the top) of new creative techniques. Then there is observation: The artist must definitely be an observer. Just as on the mountain we must be very observant to survive the artist must observe different effects to produce great work. Fuji too is obviously the Earths own self expression and its true that all artists require great focus, openness and confidence.
Artists of all types have always had a great love affair with Fuji. Thus said, its no wonder that UNESCO describes Fuji as "The source of Artistic Inspiration."
Not an artist? Perhaps you are a student? Fuji has so much to inspire you with too! In fact, the closer you look the more inspiration, clarity and focus you can find to help you with your work.
"By making your connection with Fuji clear, all these things can take on meaningful relevance. Fuji then becomes a key driving point for discovering the very purpose behind our own passionate endeavors!"
While it may help, you don't really need an urge to climb Fuji, for many people just looking at her is enough. Just a positive imagination and your almost on your way, so before we begin, there is one more thing that you should know about.
Who are we? What do we do? Where do we come from?
You can read all about us in the Our Story page.
Now that you know where we're coming from we hope this is enough for you to feel at home with our values, aspirations and what we stand for. This site is not so much about us as it’s about you. A new you, with fresh energy, clarity and focus that we hope is as ready as ever to say, share, capture and create!
Our passion and promise is "Inspiration and Art from Japan" so hang on to your proverbial climbing gear and come with us into a uniquely different world where we share everything, from Art & Design to Fuji, plus more, direct to you - individually and collectively we stand as "Fuji and me."
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