As we’ve been approaching Golden Week 2021, I’ve been seeing a few articles pop up about the traditional Japanese craft of kintsugi.
The art of repairing broken ceramics with gold-infused lacquer; golden joinery.
Now, kintsugi isn’t an unfamiliar practice to me. Its one of those topics always making the rounds in some Japan-related media circles. But in one article I read, it took a form I hadn’t noticed before. Specifically, how Japan’s time-worn practice of mending broken pottery with gold is something architects to consider.
That I hadn’t already thought to put akiya and kintsugi together conceptually is well beyond my understanding. It seems like such a perfect fit, if you think about it even only briefly. Taking the old, the damaged, and mending it with metered effort and quality materials. Akiya are, metaphorically, anyway, kintsugi taken to the next level.
I’ll be the first to admit, though, when I’ve overlooked the obvious. This is certainly one of those cases.
Peace of Mind, or a Piece of the Action
And it is an apt if also somewhat romantic comparison. The properties that we help our clients acquire come in a wide variety of shapes, qualities, and locations. Pretty much anything you could imagine goes along with vacant rural properties we’ve come across. They’re quite dynamic!
Now, the vast majority of our sales are of the turn-key variety, and this is understandable. Especially for a client’s first step into the mysterious world of akiya, there’s a certain level of comfort that comes with not needing to update a bathroom. I know I like having a reliable base of operations to venture forth into the unknown from, so I get the appeal. Knowing exactly what you’re getting involved with does, after all, provide ever-sought peace of mind.
Where the Wild Things Are
Our more experienced clients, however, are willing to take on properties in a more advanced stage of vacancy. Across the board, they have already fixed up houses in Japan and elsewhere. They also tend to be more on the adventurous side, actively involved in outdoor sports or some such activities.
Of course, pursuing fixer-uppers makes for a more complex affair. The list price is usually cheaper, but there are hidden costs such as repair, registration, etc. All of these things are surmountable, but it does require some additional sleuthing to uncover. But it’s a journey we revel in taking our clients on, and are quite good at it.
Popular Appeal of Kintsugi
“Adventurous,” “sleuthing,” “journey.” Some of those are accepted marketing parlance, but they also reflect my own thoughts about akiya. For nearly the entire time I’ve been involved with akiya, I’ve thought of exploring them as a safari. A relative unknown, something that’s exciting and full of discovery. And that is true, but it’s not the only way to think about it. This strongly held notion of adventure of mine is what caught my attention with these kintsugi articles.
According to Wikipedia, kintsugi is, “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”
This definition of kintsugi is mightily poetic. Its also rather outspokenly traditional, and very much apropos to the wabi-sabi aesthetic. There are articles about kintsugi on a surprising number of lifestyle websites exclaiming the philosophy’s mental health benefits. You can take kintsugi classes in cities around the world, though you’ll have to settle for Zoom for the time being.
Kintsugi even made an appearance in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker!
Akiya = Big Kintsugi
Seems like something’s caught on there, and I wonder about building on it. What if in addition to pottery celebrating rustic aesthetics, it was also rural houses. In addition to gold, it was also your focused will. Or in addition to adventure, it was also sustainability through the loving repair of imperfect properties?
Especially during the pandemic, it occurs to me that there’s a lot broken out there. There’s no arguing that nations world-wide aren’t doing their damndest to right the rudder of modernity, and I wonder if this might be a tool to add to that arsenal.
My point is, over Golden Week, think about the gold that repairs the pottery, explore your own, and see where it might be applied to mend a piece of the world.