Yaizu is known for having one of the finest fishing ports in Japan. There are 3 fishing harbors in the city, and you’ll never be short of sushi here. Heading out of the city with the aroma of the sea wafting through the car windows is PAPERSKY editor Lucas. He is holding a Kihou Monaka, a local snack shaped like a dried bonito.
Host / Yuki Masuda (Proprietor of log art brand “kokonen firewood/kokeshi fuels”/Yaizu Resident / Owner of a BESS home)
Guest / Jun’ya Kodama（Proprietor of wood-design studio “KDM PRODUCTS”/Yaizu Resident)
Traveler / Lucas B.B. (PAPERSKY Editor / Yaizu Resident)
1. Discovering the joy of log gathering
Born and bred in Yaizu, Masuda-san built his dream home in the city, where he lives with his family. After building the house, he started working while immersing himself in his hobbies – which happen to be gathering logs and then finding ways to have fun with them.
Masuda: “Originally I was into the outdoor lifestyle and then got into logs, which became more and more of a joy. And while I was perfectly happy just gazing at logs, I began to feel a desire to do something more with them, to actually create something”.
Lucas: “I like this here. A log with handle on it. Cute.”
Masuda: “You could use it as a log-chopping stand, or as a piece of art. All I did was put a handle on it, but I enjoyed it so much”.
Lucas: “When did you have your first inspiration to create a log brand?”
Masuda: “Building this house was where it all started. I always loved surfing and music and wanted to live in a house where I could always feel the culture I liked, so I decided on BESS. With a wood-burning stove, of course. When I moved in, I enjoyed being surrounded by the things I like more and more, and felt this irresistible feeling to do something new. “
Lucas: “And that’s how you started collecting up logs?”
Masuda: “That’s right. Once I started, I was really psyched about all these different types of trees, from broadleaf and conifers to wood that burns easily, wood that smells nice, wood that looks appealing – I ended up with loads of wood! By the way there’s nothing like the aroma of a freshly split log.”
Kodama: ”You have to collect up the logs 2-3 years before you burn them, right?
Masuda: ”You could say it’s a hassle but it’s just so good being surrounded by wood… When I heard that our tax money was being used to process excess lumber, it dawned on me that I could re-use it myself and do something good for society while I’m at it”.
Lucas: ”You simply can’t do this if you live in the city. But when you are surrounded by nature and time just ticks past slowly, you get that urge to do something new.”
Masuda: “I think that’s it. All I am doing is getting hold of lumber and then chopping it into logs for burning, woodworking, having bonfire events and selling it at flea markets. It’s really kindled my desire to hoard stuff. Once you discover a new way of having fun that is completely different to work, you can’t help get sucked more and more into it.”
Lucas: ”Yaizu is awesome because while being a seaside town, it’s also got mountains nearby. The view of Mt.Fuji from here is not well known at all but it’s actually stunning. Being near the mountains and gathering up timber, and living in a house like this it’s no wonder you felt inspired to launch something new.”
2. Yaizu, a city that is definitely on the up.
Time for some snacks. While tucking into some local sweets, the conversation turns to the city of Yaizu itself.
Lucas: “My wife was born and raised in Yaizu, and we have been coming here for more than 20 years, recently about once in a fortnight. We’ve ended up dividing our time between Yaizu and our office in Shibuya, Tokyo. I increasingly come down here to get work done, and it provides a really refreshing contrast to Shibuya. I love both locations and can find totally different inspirations in both locations which is extremely stimulating.”
Kodama: “Yaizu used to be home to loads of sailors and so there are loads of places to drink booze. People tend to associate it with the sea, but in addition to the sea it’s also got great mountains. I was looking for a new hobby and so have started hiking in the mountains with the family. Till now I didn’t spend time to discover Yaizu, but this hobby has reminded me of what an amazing place it is in terms of nature”.
Lucas: “Did you know that Yaizu is even mentioned in the Kojiki? (Japan’s very first printed book)”
Kodama: “I was aware that it was an historic location, but didn’t know it was mentioned in the Kojiki. That’s fascinating!”
Lucas: “Lafcaido Hearn was a huge fan of Yaizu. Hearn is one of my life heroes, and like him I really love the beauty of the Yaizu’s many beautiful seascapes
Masuda: “I was born here and have never lived anywhere else. I feel extremely content here.”
Kodama: “There’s a few things I wish would be refurbished in Yaizu. I really loved the retro shopping district that they used to have in Yaizu, but it’s gradually gone and been replaced with bland new buildings. I hope going into the future that the city will preserve more of the older buildings and areas.”
Lucas: “There’s still loads of great stuff, so definitely as a Yaizu resident I want to help as much as I can to make the city a better place for both residents as well as visitors.”
Kodama: “Yes, there are the waterways, and the ocean.”
Lucas: “How did you guys come to know about one another?”
Kodama: “It was a bit of luck to be honest, through a mutual acquaintance.”
Lucas: “Kodama-san you work with wood and Masuda-san is involved in timber. People involved in creative endeavors seem to always be tenuously connected to each other somehow. I think that you are going to see more and more kindred spirits in Yaizu. I have noticed a gradual increase in the number of new funky-looking shops.”
Masuda: “I hope it does start to become more and more lively, although I hope the pace to livelihood is done slowly and subtly.”
Lucas: “I’ve been to countries and towns all over the world, and I really love towns that are walkable, and I do think that from now on towns designed for walkability will draw in more and more both to live as well as to visit.”
Masuda: “That’s really interesting.”
Lucas: “Needless to say, towns that are walkable generate a lot of footfall. With more people in the streets, the town gets livelier. Instead of a procession of cars, when people start reclaiming the streets, the town comes alive. Yaizu has always been an attractive place with its historical ambience, but in the future it would be interesting to see its streets thronging with people walking and strolling about rather than zipping form place to place in cars.”
Masuda: “Land is cheap, prices are low, people are chilled out, and there’s more than enough fish to go round.”
Lucas: “In America, coastal communities are often the most expensive places to live, but as Masuda points out land prices in Yaizu are extremely reasonable.”
Kodama: “I’m still unaware of many of Yaizu’s well-kept secrets even after having lived here for so long.”
3. What exactly is a well-balanced lifestyle?
Lucas: “Tasty snacks are a great way to get the conversation going!”
Kodama: “I agree! Gotta love the shape snacks from the confectionery shop Shiragiku.”
Lucas: “Kodama-san, you’ve been designing furniture and now doing lots of sign paintings for eons, and now you are working for a company while also making and selling your own creations?”
Masuda: ”What sort of stuff?”
Kodama: Recently, I created a sign using ‘balance’ as the motif and theme of the piece.
Lucas: “Why the focus on ‘balance’?”
Kodama: “I turned 45 years old, and my thinking has changed compared to my younger years. Up till now I always did what I wanted, but now I feel like I want to enjoy quality time with my kids. I used to be more of an indoors type but recently I’ve got into hiking in the mountains which has really opened up some new doors for me. I’ve changed my lifestyle, and realized it’s all about ‘balance’!”.
Masuda: “Balance, that makes a lot of sense.”
Kodama: “It’s the same for work and down time, and balance is even important for things like fashion or cuisine.”
Lucas: ”While I love the fast-pace of the city, I also love the slow life in the countryside. Without them both, I tend to get off-kilter. So, I think striking a balance between both rural and metropolitan lifestyles is super important.”
Kodama: “You manage to achieve a good balance between Tokyo and Yaizu, Lucas.”
Masuda: “I think that getting into lumber has made me more balanced, for sure. I have to say that I am entirely in the place that I want to be at, and couldn’t be happier.”
Kodama: “You have a well-balanced life then.”
Lucas: ”Masuda-san, you live in a house that you love, you are doing the things you want outside of work, no wonder you are so stoked. Something I have noticed all around the world is that the deeper into the countryside you go, the more original people are, the more they have made their own little worlds. In the city you have endless amounts of everything. In the countryside though, you have to carve out your own world otherwise you’ll never have fun. That’s why folk in the countryside have really hollowed out their own little niche. To do so definitely requires a sense of balance. If you live in a place like Yaizu where time seems to pass more slowly, and in a house that you live, you naturally get better at striking that lifestyle balance, I think. Another great thing about rural areas is that the creativity of people like you two seems to naturally meld together. If more of these connections are forged, the whole town becomes a much richer place.”
Masuda: ”My wife and kids are always getting on my case that I have hoarded too much wood! I’m going to carry on doing what I love while being mindful of balance!
Lucas: “Shall we finish up the sweets.”
Masuda: “Why not!”
Masuda’s decision to go for a BESS “Wonder Device” home?
”I always loved log houses, and reckoned that I could combine work with play without needing lots of time and energy for maintenance. When I first set eyes on the “Wonder Dome”, I knew it had to be mine. I like the box design, and also the excitement of being able to provide the finishing touches to my liking. It really spoke to me as a home that would let me always feel in touch with my hobbies, including surfing and cars. Once I moved in, I felt increasingly liberated, and event today every day brings great joy. Most of all I love the interior that matches up perfectly with a wood-burning stove.”