Faces of the New Japan

Business - July 7th, 2006
tokyo weekender_Yoshihiro Takishita

Yoshihiro Takishita — Preserving the Minka Spirit

by Kirk R. Patterson

Yoshihiro Takishita (61), a law­yer by training and an architect and antiquarian by profession, buys, relocates and renovates traditional Japanese farmhous­es (minka). He was born and raised in Gifu Prefecture and currently lives in Kamakura in a minka with an ocean view.

Please tell me a bit about your background.

After high school, I came to Tokyo and studied law at Waseda University. While still a student, my American foster father and I found a minka in Gifu and we disas­sembled it and reassembled it on a hill in Kamakura.

After graduating, I didn’t want to become a lawyer, so I hitchhiked around the world. While traveling, I started thinking about the contrast of Western “stone culture” and Japanese “wood culture.” When I re­turned to Japan I studied architecture, then became an antique dealer.

How did you get from selling antiques to houses?

One day, a couple came to my shop. When the husband told the wife that she could have anything she wanted for her birthday, she said she wanted a minka like mine. So I renovated a minka for them in Karuizawa in 1975 and the rest, as they say, is history. I am currently work­ing on reassembling my 32nd minka, with three of those having been in the United States and one in Argentina.

Do you find minka on request for individuals? What is involved in renovating them?

I buy minka whenever I find good ones. After disman­tling, I put them in storage and then when a customer tells me what he is looking for I recommend an appro­priate house. When assembling I add various modern amenities, but I make sure that each minka maintains its traditional aesthetics. With a minka the natural scents, the touch of wood, the sounds of the wind and the rain all help to reconnect us to a world that is often forgot­ten in our modern life. I feel this special quality is actu­ally enhanced, through the “rejuvenation” process.

What are you working on now?

My greatest interest is working with the non-profit As­sociation for the Preservation of Old Japanese Farm­houses. Our goal is to preserve the buildings and, more fundamentally, to encourage the understanding of the cooperative village and environmental values that minka represent. We have given seminars to visiting architecture students from the U.S. and hosted a Ful-bright scholar doing research on minka. Our big project right now is to move a donated minka from Fukushima Prefecture and reassemble it near Boston, but this is a very expensive undertaking so we are seeking financial support.

Kirk R. Patterson is the Dean of Temple University, Japan Campus. He can be contacted at patterson@tuj.ac.jp.