'Room in a box' takes Japan overseas

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The Independent Online

For anyone who cannot make it all the way to Tokyo, architect Asao Sakamoto has the solution. He will deliver Japan flat-packed anywhere in the world.

Winner of the 2008 International Good Design Gold Award, the "Hako-Ie" -- which translates to "room in a box" -- uses traditional carpentry methods to construct a box that incorporates tatami-mat floors, pale cedar wood and sliding paper doors that shut out anything that is not Japanese.

"There are many parts of Japanese culture that people from abroad admire -- like the tea ceremony, putting on a kimono, or 'ikebana' flower-arranging -- and the 'hako-ie' gives them a place to do that," said Sakamoto.

"For many years, I had dreamed of building a Japanese-style room in a traditional way rather than a modern interpretation that would be easy to assemble and take down again," he said.

"And by making it possible to take it down, it would enable me to show off a Japanese home anywhere in the world."

The trick was to design a room that incorporated all the key features of a Japanese room, including a narrow wooden veranda and an alcove known in Japanese as the "tokonoma" that displays a treasured scroll or flower arrangement, yet still be able to survive climates very different to those of Japan.

The resulting structure, which sells for Y2.2 million (€16,240), requires no nails or screws and just a hammer to gently tap the components together.

Sakamoto said he built "dozens of prototypes" before he got a version that was both unmistakably Japanese and sufficiently strong.

"When I finally succeeded, I relaxed in the finished room and that is when I felt truly proud of my Japanese heritage," he said.

For more information:  http://www.eyes-japan.co.jp/

JR

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