The Story of the Japanese House
Some years ago, I rescued from demolition a Japanese house that was hand-built in 1965 by the legendary Japanese potter, Teruo Hara. It had once included his living quarters, a studio for showing art, his pottery, a small wood-fired kiln, and an industrial-sized gas kiln on rails.
But ever since Mr Hara’s death in 1986, the house and land had been declining under neglect for decades. In the years just prior to my ‘rescue,’ the place had been shut down and abandoned, under litigation by developers who reputedly planned to level the house and bulldoze the property to build clustered townhouses. There’d been six years of break-ins and vandalism; broken glass and spray-paint were everywhere on the inside, vines were smothering the trees. It looked like a pile of toothpicks. Before buying the place, I did a walkthrough with my real estate attorney, the building appraiser, and an architect. They noted the major support beam that had been cut through for an ugly stairway, the walls of asbestos concrete panels that needed removal, the 166 hand-built windows that needed replacing, the collapsing garage roof… They were looking pretty appalled, as they looked around at the house, at each other, and at me. My lawyer finally asked me pointedly: So what exactly were you thinking of doing with this place, Katherine?
My only reply was: “Isn’t it beautiful?”
The secret that I alone knew, was that the Japanese house reminded me of the rickety, 100-year-old treehouse that I’d rented, for ten years, back in Sausalito, California: the treehouse where I’d written my first two books!
The more time I’ve spent, the more I’ve seen that the house has an idea of what it wants to be.
This is the evolving story…