Introducing myself

Started by YamaDaiku, April 22, 2007, 01:05:49 AM

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Hello I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm Rob 41 an American living in rural Japan. I am a professional mariner by trade working on a large container ship. This allows me six months off each year to pursue my many other interest. I started woodworking about four years ago. Prior to that I had honestly never picked up a hammer. Now four years later I am so completely intoxicated by the process from thought to finished project that I rebuilt my hundred year old farmhouse as well as designed and built every peice of furniture inside. Laughing... I should mention that I have made every conceivable mistake along the way! So now with the addition of two small children I've had to move my motherinlaw in to babysit while my wife works as a doctor. Here's where country plans comes into the picture. I will this summer attempt to build the 1 1/2 story for her Mom. Peace for me!!!

If anyone is interested in the quiet country life of Japan I'd be happy to answer any questions. My reasons for moving there were many. I bought my small farm with two houses on the land for $40,000. The education is good, people respect each other, no drugs and very little crime and I am allowed to pursue a simplistic lifestyle in a beautiful land which appeals to me.

It's nice to meet you and I look forward to some great conversations.



Quote... I should mention that I have made every conceivable mistake along the way!

Welcome Aboard Rob. And now you are so much wiser.   ;D  I would like to point out that I even made some inconceivable errors along my still continuing learning path.

I guess your six months "on" are fairly intense, nothing but work for the most part.


Welcome to the forum, Rob.  YamaDaiku - rough guess I think I found that that translated to mountain carpenter. Seems it could go a couple of ways.

Sounds like you are having fun.  I didn't know there was that much land in Japan that was that cheap.  Great buy.  If you get around to it we like pictures and are alwys interested in how things are done in other countries.  Thanks for representing Japan on the forum.

How is the cost of living there - tolerance for outsiders - gardening etc.?


Hi Rob. ""made every conceivable mistake "" would apply to many of us, I guess- certainly it applied to me, but the end result makes it all worthwhile. I would like to know about the cost of living, as well- my impression was that Japan is very expensive indeed, and very much urbanised.


Hello again and thank you for the replies.

Glen mountain carpenter is correct! Umm to answer your question- things a lot different here in Japan. A house has little value whereas the land does. Interestingly anything older than ten years is considered junk so a hundred year old house to the Japanese is nothing more than garbage. I beleive this is a sad way of thinking and my heart is broken every time I see or hear about another traditional farmhouse torn down to build new what I call plastic housing developments. The bright side is that there are groups striving to protect the old buildings. Many of them are disassembled and shipped to the states! When I say disassembled you must realize traditional Japanese farmhouses were made without nails but entirely by intricate puzzle-like joinery. Fascinating stuff!!!

Cost of living- pretty high I guess if you don't do things yourself. I grow my own food, make clothes, have chickens and try not to shop in actual stores unless it's absolutely necessary. I live in a village of fourteen green tea farmers. I am the only foreigner. It took a while for me to be accepted into the community. The fact that I am at sea six months a year didn't make that process any easier. After a while though it became fun for them. People would stop by just to see what the crazy American was doing. I had windows shipped in from Seattle because for some reason the concept of double pane windows hasn't hit Japan yet. I tore off the tile roof which although beautiful added four tons of weight to the house and I replaced it with a metal roof. As people came by to see what I was doing I'd offer them a beer and try to put them to work!! The o'l Tom Sawyer trick. We have a great time. I will have to make pictures smaller so I can send a few to the forum.


"my impression was that Japan is very expensive indeed, and very much urbanised"

Hi Fourx, I get that a lot. People think of Japan and see Tokyo. It's like comparing Montana to New York City though. Really what you have is a twenty mile population belt surrounding the coast. On the interior of that belt the land is very mountainous with rather sparse populations. Like I said in my village their are only fourteen houses!  


Not sure if you can see this picture. I've tried to make it smaller.

The green bushes are the green tea. To the left of the house there are fruit trees, in the low center one veggie garden, another larger garden is out of view. The garage structure was once the green tea factory and is now my woodshop / fun center. In the background my nearest nieghbor an eighty two year old woman who spends her entire day working her garden!


Beautiful place, Rob.  Thanks for posting that -- it's like a postcard. :)

You can get a free account at Photobucket and it will automatically size the photos to fit the forum - size 640x480 is the big size that works ok in the forum.  You then copy the IMG tag at the bottom of the picture and paste it into your posting and it will show up.  You can also add more than one pix that way to each posting, as the file atttach option only lets you add one.

Please keep the pix coming.  Very nice. :)

It's a real shame about the historic houses.  I hope the preservation group prevails.  I live in a historic area of California - gold rush days.  Keeping the historic places is hard due to deterioration, liability and the cost and labor involved to do it.  Fortunately quite a few try.

It would be great to learn more about the joinery techniques also.


Welcome aboard Rob 8-) Nice place , so your shop is the one with the metal roofed shed attached to the side ??

Wonderful place Japan 8-) Wish I had spent more time there.

The issue the older places have , from what I understand is earthquakes knockum down pretty easy :'(

My current boss when to work in Japan some years ago for 6 months IIRC to teach platform framing , he really enjoyed it , said the people where great, culture etc , He'd also been in Japan durning his USN days , I think :-/

Anyway the local lumber yard here in my area was deeply into a little niche market shipping entire houses packages , appliance , to sole plate for awhile till either the market dried up due to $$ increases or the Kolby(sp) earthquake arae was finished being re built , not sure which . It was interesting time , I could have went but after 8 years or so of USN deployments , my wife and I friggered I should stay home for awhile .

Post more photo's  8-) we like photo's , right gang, well I do , YMMV as  some are on dial up :-/  

But don't let that stop you 8-)

So your a merchant marine ?? Capt.? Master?? etc  :-/    


This is going to be an interesting read!  :D

Welcome aboard Rob, I look forward to more on your projects.


Wow thanks for the replies. looks like I joined the right group!!

John thanks for the photo info.

Peg I sail as a second mate. I started out in the USN and worked up from there. I thought it was interesting you mentioned the package homes. I looked into a package for a carriage house a Canadian company sells. They ship lumber, windows, you name it! A little pricy though as you might imagine.

There seems to be a growing trend in Japan to build American style. About a year ago local lumber yards started selling American standard size 2 x lumber. Up until maybe five years ago most houses here were built post and beam style or timber frame. The design differs from those I've seen in America in regards to the bracing members and the fact that Japanese houses are raised two to three feet above the ground with no foundations. Basically the post sit on rocks and the weight of the tile roof provides (laughing) the stability of the structure. I've talked to an engineer about this and it's pretty amazing that so many houses are still standing after decades of earthquakes. I honestly can't make any sense of it.

Now that more houses are being framed the way we do it I think it will be interesting to see how the Japanese will blend traditional styles using American building methods and I wonder if the legendary Japanese joinery techniques will become a lost art. That would really be a shame. Traditional Japanese carpenters hold an almost God like status in society. I guess change is envitable. I see it here aboard ship all the time. When I first started as a deckhand I had to prove proficiency in all kinds of things in order to move up and nowadays guys walk up the gangway barely able to tie their shoes!

At some point I'd be very interested in talking with anyone who has experimented with solar or wind power.

I will try to download a few more pics as well.

Have a great day people.



Hey what do ya know, it worked!

The last pic of the house is how it looked when I bought the place so you can see what progress I've made so far. The roof was certainly a challenge. I got on Amazon and bought every roofing book I could. First I made the rafters too short and had to rip it all down. Then I screwed up the metal wrong and it leaked but incredibly it turned out alright in the end. The door I made out of cedar using mortise and tendon joinery. I failed to take into account the movement of the wood however and it basically glued itself in place during the humid summer. Laughing..when I told you guys I've made every conceivable mistake I wasn't kinding!!

I guess I'm lucky in that I am able to laugh at myself and learn from mistakes.


Great Photo's Rob - now you know how -- keep them coming.   :)  That door is a real beauty -

Only a few minutes this morning, Rob, but I do my own wind and solar.

Use this search engine above - • Click SEARCH to find a topic quickly. - not the one on the menue line that starts with Home.

Here is the same link --

Search the words wind and solar and yo should find some of it.  MountainDon does solar also.


Thanks Glenn,

If you have the time I'd love to hear about your wind/solar system and how it has effected you. I'm just starting the learning process. My land is situated in a valley with steady winds blowing towards the sea. My thoughts are that the area is perfect for a wind generator. The 1-1/2 story building project will have the 30' sides facing east west which I beleive would be good for a solar panel set up as well. My goal is to become more self-sufficient and reduce spending to a bare minimum. My wife and I started reducing usage by changing appliances. Using a clothesline instead of a dryer was the first change and we gained a closet. Then we installed an on demand water heater which is great and gained another closet! Presently we heat with a combination of wood and kerosene but I am hoping to install a radiant heating system in the rooms we use the most. All light bulbs are fluorescent and I may shock a few folks now but I don't own a TV - don't believe in em. I think people should live life not watch it. Anyway the possibilities seem endless. For example I was reading about augmenting a solar power radiant heating system with a small on demand heating unit. Pretty cool stuff!



#1:  I may shock a few folks now but I don't own a TV - don't believe in em.

#2: I think people should live life not watch it.


#1: Humm so you don't believe in um  :-/ Or don't use one  ;D  I can show you a photo of a TV if it'll make ya a believer :D

#2: But computers are OK  :-/ ;D Sort a like a TV screen , with a  monitor in all  :P    


Hi Rob. Glenn has a Bergey wind gen    He seems to get a lot of power from it, but he'll fill you in more on that. Sounds like you might have a good location for wind power if you have those constant winds.

Question for you... we on mainland USA have 120/240 VAC 60 Hz grid power with equipment, appliances, etc. to match. What have you in Japan? I know that some companies make so called export equipment, like Outback.

The starting place would be to do an accurate energy audit to really see what you consume.

The next  decision is whether to be totally off grid like Glenn or to be grid-tied like myself. Whereas Glenn generates all the power he uses I make about 30 percent on an annual basis (some months 120%, but not so in the hot summer with reefer A/C). A stand alone system like Glenn's has a fairly large battery bank. I'm grid-tied so could do without batteries. Most grid-ties do not have batteries and they save the cost and maintenance of the batteries, but they go dark too when the grid fails. My small battery bank will power our must-have circuits; fridge, freezer and a few lights.

For Internet resources/supplies here in the USA I recommend

I have dealt with the two above. The first one below has some info, but I've never bought from them
The last one here are really friendly helpful folks but prices seem a bit out of line. Good info tho'

Another factor to consider is your solar insolation, a measurement of how much useful solar radiation you receive. I had some trouble finding much Japan info, but you can start here. The quick look I took indicates that you may have a more favorable wind power location than solar PV. New Mexico is a great location as far as solar PV generation goes.

No TV! I have one, but still grab the signals from the air. 6 channels.  :-/


I have a TV - I do not use it -- can't stand commercials or talking heads lying to me.

I prefer to carefully chose the lies I want to believe on the internet alternative news. ;D

So far, Rob, I find the Bergey to be the most reliable wind generator there is.  I talked to a solar company that sold some of the others (popular brand)  and he said he had to take them all (6) down and refund the money.

The wind generator does about 25 %of my power I think -- I don't have great wind like it sounds like you do.  

What it has done for me is it has allowed me to tell the power company to kiss my grits. :)  - at this place --- Still stuck with them at the other place.  Now they'll probably go and turn my service off there.

Also making my own power has helped to free me from oversight by people I don't care to see on my property. :-/ :)

I am under the illusion that we still have a few property rights in this country and I plan to keep it that way if I can. :o

It is a great feeling to watch the commercial corporate power supply go down and sit here under my own power as if nothing has happened. :)  Mean thoughts  -- me?  Naw-- just had my fill of being under their thumb and am enjoying the freedom..  Yes - I have my little power outages but if I do either I cause them or know the reason why and know how to fix them.  We do not spend an excessive amount of time worrying about our energy - just mange it as necessary and live pretty well normal power lives.  We do build with energy conservation in mind and expand the system as necessary to keep up with our needs.  I have a bit under 2000 watts of panels and a 1000 watt wind generator.  3000 watt backup generator is all that is necessary for me.

If you are industrious - as you seem to be you can build your own wind generator.

I got a cool e-book called "Poor Man's Guide to Wind Power & Battery Systems"

I haven't built from it but it looks good.

Also check out these.
Hugh Piggott - Scoraig Wind Electric
the Discussion Board  Make your electricity from scratch!


QuoteI haven't built from it but it looks good.

Welding with batteries guide caught my eye. We welded a broken off driveshaft spline with all 3 of our batteries, jumper cables and iron wire bits. Nasty looking, but it allowed the vehicle to be driven out rather than left behind.   :)  Now I have the onboard Premier welder.

The amp meter and shunt info looks interesting as well.


MountainDon, thank you so much for all the info. You really went out of your way. It was very kind of you. I saved the sites you gave me for careful absorption.

we on mainland USA have 120/240 VAC 60 Hz grid power with equipment, appliances, etc. to match. What have you in Japan?
Don I beleive the system in Japan is 100/220 50 Hz.  I was told as long as I purchase things that operate between 50-60hz. I wouldn't run into any problems and so far I haven't.

I really like the idea of conducting an energy audit. I'm sure I consume a lot more than I think. A couple of months ago I was given a book called Radical Simplicity by author Jim Merkel. It basically outlined formulas for determining our impact or as Jim calls it our footprint on the world. After spending few hours trying to figure out how to use those hardly-ever-used buttons on my calculator I gave some of the forms a try. Actually I thought the book went a little overboard but it did give me an awareness as to how I'd been living.

Now is it true that with these alternative power systems you can actually sell back the power you generate? What happens, does your meter run backwards or do you just not get billed for the months when you generate what you consume?

I knew the TV remark would get a response! I know this is not really the place for this kind of conversation but my reasoning is geared toward my children. I want them to grow up learning common sense, the joy of hard work, using their hands and minds to create. I want them to know nights under blankets of stars, running through forest exploring nature. They won't learn those things sitting in front of a TV or playing games where the object is to kill as many living creatures as possible. Mozart started composing the first of his symphonies when he was 10. Would we even know his name if he had 300 channels to choose from? But that's just my opinion.

Thanks again Mountain Don!


This thread is mostly about you so please speak freely, Rob.  We are kings of thread drift on this forum as it helps us to learn more and I couldn't keep to one subject if I wanted to.  We keep generally to the subject with a few tangents allowed as necessary.

Sounds like the right way to bring up your kids -  at that rate they will probably grow up with a functioning brain. :)

The net metering does run the meter backward.  Generally here, it is only to your benefit to produce as much as you use.  The repayment schemes for over-producing are so skewed in favor of the power company by the rule-makers that it doesn't pay to make more than you use.


Quote...the system in Japan is 100/220 50 Hz.  I was told as long as I purchase things that operate between 50-60hz.

is it true that with these alternative power systems you can actually sell back the power
I've noticed some devices have a slide switch for 50/60 Hz selection. Cool, then you just have funny plugs to deal with?   :-?

Here, it's called "net metering". Most places have it, especially the publicly owned companies. It's law I believe. Yes the meter runs backwards if there's a surplus generated. Jan Feb Mar I usually have a credit, nothing to pay, but they don't send me a check. That would be cool!. Apr May Oct Nov not too much to pay after the credit is applied. The rest of the time the A/C takes charge !! It would not be nice to be without tho'. Not when it's in the mid to high nineties and sometimes triple digits.

Interesting thing on the reefer A/C tho'. We used to use an evaporative cooler, uses evaporating water to provide cooler air, called a swamp cooler (only work well in dry climates. we have a three week monsoon season that reduces their efficiency, raises your indoor humidity level to uncomfortable). When we junked that and replaced the older (1985 vintage) gas furnace with a 90% efficient model and the A/C with a 19 SEER rating (very good!), our combined gas/elec/water bills total went down.


also forgot to mention, Rob, that if you want to do a big rant on anything -- any topic -- feel free to post it in the Off Topics section.    It's a catch all for anything.

Here is fine for things like you just posted.  We're easy.   :)


Quote.... outlined formulas for determining our impact or as Jim calls it our footprint on the world.
You might want to have a look at
There is an old thread here on this but I couldn't find it.  We had a little fun with it.

and it's originating site


Re: selling power back to the utility company. There can be many answers, many ways of doing business. Here, I am fortunate in that my power company does offer me true net metering. There is only one meter, it goes forward or backwards, my generation compensating for heavy simultaneous use.

There is a 10Kw cap under my rules. And the system has to comply to their innumerable rules and their authorized equipment list and their inspections, ... the bureaucracy was more difficult to deal with than the actual installation! (under their rules my backup batteries are not supposed to be there.) So in months where I generate more power than I use, I get a full credit. Other months, I pay them, if I don't have carry over credits. However, if I was to have too large a system, and always produce more power,  there is no provision to actually send me a check. I get the short end of the stick. If I leave the system, sell the house, whatever, and have a credit situation, then I get screwed as they apply an "avoided cost of generation" formula, and I get credit for a lesser amount.

So Glenn's right, it doesn't pay to have too big a system. On the other hand the power company rates keep going up (new notice of application for rate change in today's mail) and the cost of PV panels keeps going down.  :) :-/

EDIT: we also do not have a time-of-use differential as some locales do.