Sakawa MONOGATARI
 

II  ACQUISITION

 

The Bid


More or less at the same time visiting out lot -or should I say lots?- together with Uchino-san, we gave him our 'briefing'. Our visit became a true tastery.
 
Our briefing contained an abstraction:  - generous space, inside as well as outside.
Next came the minimums: - 'fat' isolation at six sides
- double glass
- solid materials
- earthquake- and typhoon resistant construction,
together with a list with the - circa sizes of a number of rooms.
We wished - different floor- and ceiling heights
and - moving water near the house.
In the course of time came as without saying: - SOLAR.

 Unrelenting I fixed a maximum architect-fee, which was accepted.

 As a 'foot-note' of the briefing I defined furthermore Fumika's and my role in relation with Uchino-san.
 In Japan it's common, that an architect presents proposals [with motives], those being relatively fast accepted without too many discussions and comments. It goes without saying the architect, being the specialist, the one who knows.
 I summarized our vision by means of the noun 'sparring-partner', a term from the boxing-world! our communication would become mainly: 'sparring'. Uchino-san is enough a nihon -gin to not yield, but I suspect strongly, that he associated the metaphor with aggression and felt pretty uneasy. In retrospect he'll have to write a sketch about this experience by himself.
 As a motivation I referred to the type of algebra where 1 + 1 = 3. The poor man is a wa-type and produced some laughing as if I told a joke [about it's humor being not thrilled all too much].

 In April 2005 we had to return to the Netherlands. Shortly before our departure Uchino-san presented his first concept.
 That shot told !
 It is true, that we gave quite some comments on the form of the roof and it's supporting, visible columns, but the basic-idea was good. That contains: 2 long, non-parallel rectangles, one for the night, including guest-rooms, space for clothes and bathroom. For the 'day-wing' we had a stockroom as well as a sub-kitchen, as we already enjoyed in our Garden of Eden in the south of Groningen, the Netherlands.
 The rectangles contained rooms with square walls. Between both 'wings' a living-space without any straight line, crediting Hundertwasser, bordered at the 'night'-side by an elevation, an 'inner-balcony'.
 Apparently Uchino-san did listen very well when I told him spontaneously during our first visit in Sakawa, pointing at various large rocks: "use them!" He projected a large rock in the middle of the living-space's backside. My working-place he planned, raised at the very north side, where the two rectangles almost touched each other. There was a simple working-top with a view on -when I would occasionally look up from my writing stuff- 'my' dinky-toy train, far away.
 A large 'waving' glass-wall at the south enabled much light and nature to enter. Outside, along that glass wall he had thought of a small waterway, again with a large rock. We praised him.
 On our request there were two fire places: one in the living space and the other one between the kitchen and the dining-room.
 The surface of both wings and the between part amount 333 m².
 Around the house wooden veranda's.

 Being back in the Netherlands we communicated about some issues. Basically however, we did not want to continue the design-process, for we agreed upon with the seller of the grounds, that the purchase of 3.424 m² terraced rice-fields would only be final after having fulfilled 2 conditions. Those were: the transformation of the agricultural destination of a part of the rice-fields into a construction destination, as well as making a long, inclining 3-4 meter broad opening-up-road on the land.

 We immigrated into Japan on August 1st, 2005 and in the meantime -in a relatively short time- both obligations were met.
 Exactly at moment "X" bundles of banknotes were brought at the broker's office by a bank employee, the notes were counted one-by-one by hand, hako provided the documents of the necessary legality and that job is jobbed.
 We even received a much more extensive number of square meters transformation of the ground-destination than we requested. We got a construction-permission for a 838 m² !!
 It took me until around May 2006 before I was familiar with all nooks and corners of the extensive plot, quite simply by working and sweating a large number of days on it as a land laborer.

 ~~~~~~~~~~
 I have been owner of a plot [in the Netherlands] four times. The very fact being an 'owner' of 'my' ground did not let me unmoved. To be honest: it fulfilled me with pride, gladness, superiority and certainty. This time however there was no feeling of 'ownership'. I cannot express it better, but illustrate I could try. This fifth time I 'only' could derive the supposition, that we, as each other's loved one's, might pass some time on this superb little piece of earth, evidently a totally different and unplanned level. I feel grateful this time not being bemused by all kind of fictions.
 Some months later, it could have been December 2005 / February 2006, I read an excellent study, An End to Suffering; the Buddha in the World, Pankaj Mishra, 2005. 'The' Donald Richie wrote a rewarding review in The Japan Times. On page 298 is made known of a 'hint' towards Alexander the Great. I quote: "According to the historian Arrian who reported the encounter, the ascetics beat their feet on the ground as Alexander passed them. When asked about the gesture, they said that Alexander occupied, despite his conquests, no more ground than that covered by the soles of his two feet. Like everybody else, he, too was mortal,.."
 This covers rather accurate what I discovered in the beginning of 2005:I cannot possess land, the land could possess me, by the way. During life I am able to take weeds, wished plants putting into the ground and dig a small pond. Not more. That "has to" be enough ! 
~~~~~~~~~~
 
 The designing process could continue, after that the construction calculations, the piping and wiring and the choice for materials.
 We ordered an official ground-research and found a local in his eighties, who pointed at a good location on our new grounds, where to make a water-well.
 He dug ten meters through black stone and reached -by the way delicious- water.
 In the hole concrete 'rings' were put on each other. Between the outside of the concrete and the remaining hole-wall river pebbles were dumped, as well as a thin layer of them on the bottom inside the ring. A concrete cover protected our new water provision against dust.

We did not always give an easy time to Uchino-san in connection with his form-proposals and construction-solution concerning the roof.
 The first idea was an entire wooden construction with a thick layer of isolation and a metal cover in a naughty color, first azure, later eggplant. The initial inspiration was 'cloud' and was translated into a waveform. He got blunt comments returning to him as a boomerang. As a reaction on the front-elevation, south side, I associated with: a [French] mustache !! I told him also I never have seen a symmetrical cloud. Fortunately the shocked designer did not become angry, at least visibly, though he dropped silent for a while. My main objection was, that this working out was too 'smooth', too much a product of the drawing-table; not exiting enough. Asymmetry became the further guideline now. He still stuck to his initial form, which was credited to him with the remark, that a Japanese funeral-car also shows this form at the backside. This image also would not really have amused him.
Because of the more complex form-language the metal covering was estimated as technically difficult to implement. A colleague of Uchino-san suggested a concrete roof in stead of a wooden construction. I put forward the same idea in the beginning of the designing process, but it missed its aim then and I followed the flow, so-to-speak. Effect of the concrete-choice was a number of very visible columns, notably at the south side. We could not really swallow that, though we understood, that 'something heavy' deserves correspondingly support. We muddled somewhat with a reduction of the numbers. Ultimately Uchino-san reached a good solution. Supporting columns as a part of the waving south glass wall, less high glass and instead also [supporting] concrete. Simple comme bonjour.
Next a diagonal north-south waveform was realized at our instigation and we, the three of us, were extremely satisfied about the result of 'sparring' some time. 1 Plus 1 proved to be three indeed.

 The house had a lower part with space for 2 cars and putting away tools, etc. The living- layer became partly 'floating', also using the terrace-structures of the plot. The rice-fields vary around 2 meters in height with regard to each other namely.
The scale-model was a jewel in itself.




The designing regulary bore troubles, but it was a rare feast, full of energy, inspiration and concentration; three humans with a joint goal. 'NO' became a positive word gradually. One debated, arguments counted and there was a high quality of listening. Also Uchino-san enjoyed equally.

At a certain moment I bought some fifteen thick living'-magazines. Fumika and I studied them and discussed what we saw: form-ideas, materials, lamps and whatever. We came upon a number of addresses in Tokyo. A week long we made full days in the capital- with one subway to a large tile-company for instance, then again walking to a lamp-shop, with another subway to a kitchen-exposition and-so-on. Marathons in Tokyo: interesting / informative / tiring and lovely to experience, we collected kilo's of catalogs and samples. The result was that we were pretty prepared on house-decorating and thus being able to show Uchino-san details which were unknown to him. About the three of us can be asserted, that we were indefatigable.

 Until the very detail doors, windows, shelves at walls, sockets and switches were discussed and laid down.
 After a high time-investment in kitchens, we decided to choose the Mercedes-under-the-kitchens, Toyo. We found after many-almost-good-tiles a large, white tile for the kitchen and the dining room floor. In a number of rooms we wanted cork. A short skirmish started when nota bene floor heating was planned under a cork-floor. Floor heating has to be isolated well from underneath and not the other way around ! In Japanese brochures cork was quite boldly propagated on floor heating. Several times we had seen a floor with large surfaces, middle gray, waxed concrete in restaurants. To Uchino-san's dismay we wanted large surfaces of concrete, separated by thin metal strips in diagonal direction for our living space. Our motivation was, that this floor is meant to live on. A bit of earth from outside, some ashes from the center open fire, should not unleash disturbing, neurotic and hygienic reactions. Furthermore: everywhere exclusive, smooth, expensive materials don't make a house more beautiful. A gorgeous couch or a design lamp on concrete floor works out better than on a marble floor. One of my 'tic's is, that by all means I don't want round light elements, for instance in the ceiling, but square ones. Round is not my cup of tea. A planned round hole in an inner wall, a reference to the moon, was torpedoed merciless by my veto. On lamp level, an awkward area, we did a lot of research and we took the lead.

Each time it was hard working, but after an average session of three hours, though being tired, we also felt satisfied.
All deliberations were a form-of-happiness !
It might even be the case that we got into a rapid: all the three of us produced top-performances.

Already since springtime 2005 the name D O M U S  NOVAE L U C I S haunted me. We let it pass, but mid 2006 it came floating on the surface again.

 Around October, it's still 2005, we formulated our [my...] idea, to trace 4 construction companies, requesting them to make their price-offers. Uchino-san recommended two and we cropped up with the other two. They visited us by turns to make our acquaintance and to learn about the main features of the project. We showed drawings and asked if they would be interested. Each time we told them about three competitors. Next we requested each of them to present their companies to us. That resulted into several car-trips along already completed buildings and houses respectively and twice in a private invitation at a contractors home.
 In January 2006 Uchino-san 'held his office' on our property in Sakawa, gave every contractor separately a reception, elucidating things and finally giving them a tremendous thick load of drawings.
One company did not show up. Not knowing what to do better, he visited their office in Kochi city. Asked, one was not aware of an appointment in Sakawa...
 That very evening I wrote a flaming, indignant letter, which I sent by fax. The next day it proved, that an office-female had taken the invitation from the fax-machine, but put it on her desk without informing anybody. The following day she reported sick, leaving everybody in complete ignorance. The company apologized to us, but not to the architect, which I had requested explicitly in my letter.
Mid February 2006 was the deadline for the bid[s]. Uchino-san 'kept office' in the apartment next to ours. The contractors had one hour each to explain their calculations and answer his questions. It was unprecedented exciting for [the three of] us.
 My strategy was, that I wanted the four contractors to offer us the most sharp and strong competitive prices. It is true, that the Japanese media report regularly, that Japan's economy is getting back on track, but all over the place it's also well known, that contractors have a chronically shortage of work. It did not go well at all in construction- land. This awkward contractors-reality and mutual [fierce ?] competition should lead to a 'bargain' for us. But would that cock fight ?..

~~~~~~~~~~
Suddenly construction-land stood in the spotlight also on a national level.
The first reports in the Japanese media about architect Aneha touched an open nerve.
Here Fumika and I had a dialog with a Japanese architect with whom we, it is true, we were 'sparring-partner', but from whom we also were dependent. Trust was an essential fundament of our contact.
Aneha already had presented construction calculations for buildings far below the legal norms in such a way, that these easily could pass the incompetent, indolent local- and provincial authorities as well as the therefor delegated, appointed, private, likewise incompetent and opportunistic checking-offices. Result was that there was built with substantial less reinforcement. His 'motive' was- "I needed money" [and without my falsifications I would not have got assignments] and "it went so easy" [others also being responsible....]. The whole triplet of offices / persons involved, swept cunningly their own street clean, again invented and played the game of Old Maid, leaving the hotel-owners and owners / residents of high-priced apartments on their own. The world as a serpent pit. Responsibility has no face. Sufferers hang with their necks in the halter of their too high mortgage and were owners of real-estate, that was not earthquake-resistant. To say it properly- they were in acute peril of one's life. The country had turned topsy-turvy, but the extreme harm already occurred I thought regularly: hang them, those unscrupulous, parasitic, criminal scamps, smooth-faced, hang them at the highest tree.
 I already imagined the same scenario with our much debated roof for instance. That image made me nearly paranoiac.
~~~~~~~~~~

Earlier on I quoted Mishra's book. Already on page 28, I read with agreement "He [..The Buddha..] had spoken instead of a suffering that was man made and thus eradicable." Agreement proved to be not the same as [self]insight and putting such into practice. The 'eradication' of my suffering left me to cool my heels.
What I [we] did not realize was, that we worked systematically during months towards tripping over a banana peel in mid February 2006, which we put there ourselves. First and foremost I talk for myself: the blow hit pitiless and hard. Space for some 'creativity' was out of the question. The prices were sky-high.
Uchino-san spent another 1½ days to make intelligent analysis and comparisons between the different items of the four quotations. However, the big line was that so much money just for living, excluding the once-only-, the yearly returning tax and the insurance-premium, was sheer madness. Consequently: NO; there is an end to this matter.

All my energy disappeared. I felt sick. A long month. I also felt no motivation anymore.
My supposition to have built an excellent house for a bargain had been wishful thinking and a colossal miscalculation.
The prominent element in this total disillusionment was, in retrospect, that we never debated price-consequences during determining the extensive construction, the application of materials and the choice for the kitchen. I assumed, that fierce competition would work out strongly in our favor and Uchino-san assumed silently, that we had enough money in our pouch. [The former mentioned Mishra dedicates a whole chapter at "a little dust in the eyes". With other words, we did not see the world anymore.]
Two of the quartet of contractors were told, that we did not want to continue with them.
They demonstrated not to catch the project fully; furthermore there was an attitude-problem.


"All things arise from a cause
He who has realized the truth has explained the cause
And also how they cease to be
This is what the great sramana has taught"
[page 273]

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