Monday, June 04, 2007

The House Next Door

The elderly couple who lived in the house next door died several years ago, leaving the place vacant. It's a very old house, which just makes it intriguing and romantic to me. The most intriguing part of it to me was the old-fashioned 'dozou' or storehouse nestled in the front corner. Japanese houses being built of wood, are very vulnerable to fire, and various Japanese cities have been destroyed by fire many times over. One solution was to construct these free-standing, earth or plaster-clad buildings and use them to store the household's expensive items, like kimonos. They are only a few metres square, and two stories high, with a secure door in the upper part, as their other purpose was to protect against theft.

They are very rare these days, so I was always intrigued by the one next door. I imagined going into it and finding all sorts of amazing ancient treasures no-body else valued. Little did I know how little they valued them!

Finally, a grandson of the elderly couple decided to move in. They have a three-year old son, so I am very happy to have another child in the neighborhood. The boy and his Mum appeared at our door bearing a decorative packet of towels as a new-neighbor greeting, and apologized in advance for the the renovation work they were planning.

Well, what renovation work! The first thing to go was the old storage building. I learned from the woman, who I met in the street as she and her son came to watch the 'dinosaur' at work that they planned to remove the whole newer part of the house, the part on our side, including the two-storey section next to our kitchen. The workmen have been busily destructing this past week, meaning we have had to park our cars at the bank to protect them from the dust and debris. On Saturday we felt some huge tremors as large parts of the two-storey section came down. With any luck, they'll be finished by today - and then the building can begin, because they are going to replace the old building with a new section for their family.

This technique of taking down part of a house and re-building is pretty common here. In Baachan's childhood home, there is one room dating from the 100-year old house, a 50-60 odd year section, and a new two-storey section with bedrooms and a new kitchen.

They have left the traditional old half of the house, but it is a shame they had to remove the old storage house. I'd have kept it and, well, used it for storage!

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