A Tribute to Contractors

555 is as perfect as a house can be. That is because of all contractors whose positive energy and skill permeated the house. I’ve mentioned them in posts through out the project, but I wanted to introduce them to you and thank them for their excellent work.


Sasaki-san is the most incredible carpenter and general contractor a girl could have. I am forever in his debt even though we have paid all of his invoices.

For this project, he stepped way outside his comfort zone and learned lots of new techniques, worked with different materials, studied up on modern architectural techniques so that he could blend them with his traditional carpentry.

He figured out how to communicate well with me and juggled all the sub contractors, always selecting the best people.

Thanks to him every part of this house is exactly the way it should be.
Website: https://sasaki-yoshi.com/
Instagram: sasaki_kenchiku44


Mr. Sasaki is Sasaki-san’s younger brother but I do not know his given name. He completed the bulk of the carpentry in the house. Almost every wall, floor and ceiling is his work. When Sasaki-san did the planning, Mr. Sasaki put it all together.

He and I often conversed during break time. His patience with my Japanese made me confident that I can speak the language and be understood. That was an unexpected gift way beyond building.

Before he was a builder, he worked in the finance industry in Tokyo. What a change!


Yoshida-san was Sasaki-san’s apprentice when I first met him three years ago. He was working on Hangar eight and learning quickly.

When 555 burned down, he helped to put a tarp over the roof and told me he was scared of heights. 18 months later, he had conquered his fear and joined us on the roof for the jotoshiki.

Now he is trusted with all sorts of carpentry tasks and takes on new challenges with Sasaki-san’s tutelage and review – for example, our dining counter and bookcase.

FUJII Teruhisa

Fujii-san is our friend and neighbor who has access to everyone and all sorts of materials. He initiated the Tile Mines, got us an introduction to the Kawasakis, and generally makes life better. 555 would not exist without him.

His RMCE (Monaka Doken) team made the property clean and tidy for building. His “International Rescue Team” is at the ready to pull cars out of ditches; he rescues animals of all sorts; and he is skilled at calming down my nerves when I panic over nothing. いつもありがとうございます!

Did I mention he also runs a great restaurant? https://www.hangar-eight.net/


Sakaguchi-san is a member of RMCE, hate rocks, has a bad shoulder, and still built me the best rock walls. He’s a master of drainage systems and big public works as well as little gabion walls and gardens like mine.

He helped me to learn patience for details; taking time and effort to get things right and always cleaning up after. His van contains every tool ever needed.

He is extremely knowledgeable about plants and local lore and proactively weed whatever space he is in.


I first thought he didn’t liked me much, but Shimizu-san and I built mutual admiration as we worked together and I am delighted when he stops by to visit – even when he gives me a hard time about not cutting the grass enough.

He is the most skilled yumbo operator I have ever met and he is fearless with a chainsaw. While we were prepping 555 for its gabion, he climbed up into the tallest trees and gave them a good trimming.


Abe-san is the all-rounder on the RMCE team. He can dig a ditch, work the yumbo, and do what needs doing, no matter what that is. We had a nice work rhythm going when we chipped the bamboo last August.

He is also the benefactor of the Fishtern. When I sadly realised that the medaka didn’t survive my neglect, he surprised me with a gift of new medaka and goldfish, too. They have all survived.


Maru-chan has a full name, but thanks to the RMCE guys who are all his senior, I’ve only really known his diminutive.

He’s the concrete guy who poured our foundations at the beginning of the build and finished up with the inubashiri at the end. When I asked for araidashi (exposed aggregate concrete) and everyone else sucked their teeth, he created three samples for me.

ARAOKA Stephen

Stephen handled all of the electrical work at 555.

Stephen and I had little meetings daily and he was always gracious when I changed my mind about switches and fixtures. He was very careful to listen to and act on my preferences for symmetrical placements, minimal plastic, hidden wires, and black fittings outside. He even spray painted pipes and junction boxes for me.


This guy single-handedly (literally) managed the metal roofing and all the flashing around the irimoya windows and the complicated hipped joints.

Since he was usually way up on the roof, I didn’t get a lot of chance to talk to him, but one day on break, I brought snacks and sat on the scaffolding with him and his wife. They, too, were filled with lore and interesting local knowledge.


Our LP gas contractor, Yoshida from Futaba Gas, is hard to photograph, but he is a familiar face when he serviced SDF, and now Hangar eight.

He’s really gentle and careful with his work. When I was unhappy with the installation of the oven, he brought in the best installer to fix it. His LP gas price is good, too!


I probably have his card somewhere but we always referred to the window guy as Sashya-san. Wow, was he a great addition to the project. He helped me to choose windows wisely, sharing not only his product knowledge but also his spacial awareness. He met here with the 1:1 model many times to get the irimoya windows just right.


Setsubi translates to “equipment” but basically this guy and his crew did all the plumbing work from the septic tank to the sink faucets. He never warmed up to me and I think as a result the plumbing work was adequate rather than exemplary. Maybe that’s just the way of plumbers. His daughter was part of the team, which made me happy.


The wallpaper guys were a last minute substitution when Sasaki-san’s regular guy had appendicitis. They were really professional and did a great job, including a repair a week later when some ink bled through a spot in the toilet room. They were probably the youngest team, overall.


I definitely got some shit for giving up on my plan to tile on my own, but I made a good choice. The tiling team wasn’t the most outgoing and friendly but they offered solid opinions and did their work with skill. The doma and kitchen are perfect.


The joiner who made all of my doors was a wizened old guy whose successor did the physical labor of measuring and carrying. The design and craftsmanship was definitely all in the master. He was happy to fulfill my curiosity when I had questions. I think he may have enjoyed building this unusual custom order.


Sasaki-san brought in Studio Komiya to photograph the project. He took incredible photos from start to finish, including drone shots, interiors, exteriors, and our important ceremonies. Also some funny and awkward portraits of me and Tod with the house – we are terrible models.


Last but not least, is someone I can’t really consider a contractor though he was under contract. Our architect is an award-winning designer whose projects in the Middle East considered site and light in a way that appealed to me. He came back to Japan to start Office of Teramoto and our house is his first foray into what he’s calling “New Vernacular.”

I can’t imagine a better team of people to create this magical house. I am grateful to know them and happy to bring them back for more work soon – there is the barn to renovate next.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts and small adventures.