An Old Parlor with an Old Tree

Hell Really Exists

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Located near the Japan Sea, Kanazawa is an old castle town that was well known during the Edo Period (1600- 1867) for its flourishing economy as well as a culture that was quite distinct from Kyoto. The town's traditions have been well preserved, making it one of the favorite destinations for people who are interested in Japanese arts and culture. One building that is reminiscent of its gracious history is the Nakamura parlor, which shares its grounds with two modern buildings and a magnificent 400-year-old Japanese white pine tree.

The fusuma doors of this one-room parlor lead into a simple and serene interior This eight-mat formal room with an engowa was built in the Sukiya style in 1933, and serves as both a drawing room and a tearoom. The late Baizan Nakamura, who built this room in his 20s. was a potter well known for making tea-ceremony utensils with beautiful and novel designs. The touch of the artist's ingenuity is evident in this simple room, achieved here without gorgeous materials or expensive features such as wooden posts and ceiling boards of precious wood, sculptured ranma. fusuma with gold detailing and other decorative elements. Severe discipline, with a spirit of playfulness is the quintessence of the Sukiya style ("tea style") in Japan, and the Nakamura parlor is a good example of that. An example of Sukiya-style playfulness is found in the sliding doors on a row of low closets, which are made of wood that was selected for its apparently moth-eaten texture. The room also has a fireplace (to) sunk into the floor for tea-ceremony events. When not in use, it is covered with a board made by boldly contrasting rough weather-worn wood with smooth, fine-grained pine wood. A similar spirit is seen in the design of the door handles (hikite). The outside hikite have an image of an iron club representative of the devil, while those on the inside are engraved with a Chinese character for good luck. These door handles are a reference to the Japanese Bean-throwing festival in spring, during which people scatter soybeans throughout the house, shouting, "Out with the devil, in with good fortune." However, these details do not detract from the simple beauty of this room, which is in complete harmony with the natural elements of the garden outside, including the ancient pine tree.

Architect Hiroshi Naito helped reconstruct the Nakamura parlor in 1996, after it had been dismantled at the suggestion of Baizan himself. This parlor, along with the old family house, was taken down to make space for the new homes that Nakamura's sons were planning to build (one of these is featured on pages 214-223). Fortunately, the Nakamura family later decided to reconstruct this parlor in its original form exactly where it had been before, because it had a special place in their lives, and also because this exquisite room would be irreplaceable in the future. Baizan's three sons, Kinpei, Takuo and Kohei, are all potters and display their father's originality in their contemporary ceramics. Takuo says, "In my youth, I felt put off by this parlor because I thought it was ostentatious, but now I admit that growing up wrth it has helped develop my creativity."

Top left: This door handle (hikite) is in the shape of the devil's iron club.

Above: The square ceramic container with a red lid was made by Baizan for serving broiled eel on rice —a special dish usually served in a lacquered box.

Right: The flower vase made by Baizan sits on the low closet. The doors of these closets have been made of apparendy moth-eaten wood, selected for its special texture. The green and white door handles (Jhikite) were created by Baizan. The bell hanging from the ceiling is by Baizan's eldest son, Kinpei. His second son, Takuo. made the modern container seen in the foreground. Such containers are used during tea ceremonies to hold the water for rinsing cups.

Bottom left: The sunken stone fireplace (ro) located in the middle of the room is used for tea ceremonies in winter. Its unusual cover is fashioned from a juxtaposition of smooth pine and seasoned wood.

The flower arrangement in this vase by Baizan is a creation of 93-year-old Mrs Nakamura. Placing a mat under the vase gives the arrangement its own space. The walls seen through the open shoji are glazed with red ocher, an architectural accent typical of Kanazawa. The simple paper lantern hanging above was designed by Isamu Noguchi. The round light fixture accentuates the horizontal and vertical lines of the room. Hikite on the fiisuma door are fashioned in the shape of a white egret.

Left; The 400-year-old Japanese white pine stands in the center of the garden like a guardian of the old house, controlling the flow of light into die room. The narrow wooden floor between the tatami and the garden acts as an engovvo, the transitional space between the interior and die exterior. This was the view that the family wanted to replicate again when the parlor was reconstructed in its original location.

Above: This small parlor is now positioned between two modern additions to the property. Standing next to the ancient tree and surrounded by a moss-covered garden, it looks very dignified.

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