runs, among other websites, gakuran.com
which he describes as "tell(ing) stories of (his) adventures, ruins (haikyo) explorations as well as writing about Japan and the Japanese culture".
On 052119 Michael published an excellent article on the two Japanese Futuro Houses (this one and the one in Karuizawa
) titled "Space Oddity: Japan's Lost Futuro House
". We correspondewith Michael a little as he was researching the article and his immersion in the Japanese culture, ability to read/translate Japanese and his tenacity when it comes to research allowed him to piece together additional details of the history of the two Japanese Futuros previously unknown to us.
In large part Michael started piecing together the historical details by looking over past issues of Casa Brutus; these were magazines we have in our collection but we had never had the opportunity to get them translated. Casa Brutus first mentions Futuro in a special on Nordic Design which included the Futuro in the Summer 1999 seasonal issue
Then Michael tells us, in early 2001, the Casa Brutus team received a somewhat cryptic message from their Northern European office that read:
"Futuro. Captured. Requesting. Immediate. Contact.
As a result the editorial team visited Finland to attend a one hour meeting/interview with Futuro architect Matti Suuronen. During that interview the team learned that two Futuros had been exported to Japan though they learned nothing of their location. The interview was published in the April 2001 issue
of Casa Brutus; check out Michael's article
for a translation of parts of the interview.
Following publication of the April issue the Casa Brutus team got a tip and managed to contact one Sadao Watanabe who recalled a "Futuro left sleeping in the woods" and in late spring 2001 the Casa Brutus team found themselves on a road trip with Mr. Watanabe to try to located the Futuro. After an hour or so of searching the area the Futuro was located and it was subsequently featured in the July 2001 issue
of Casa Brutus.
However, that was not all, that was in fact the second Futuro the Casa Brutus team saw that day because Mr. Watanabe was also the proud owner of his own Futuro house (which they actually visited first).
We are told that Mr. Watanabe's Futuro was "perched one thousand meters up a mountainside forest, located on a storage site for construction materials". It had previously been used as Mr. Watanabe's "personal karaoke box" though it had been unused for three years at the time. An interview with Mr. Watanabe reveals some interesting history (translation courtesy of Michael Gakuran - thanks Michael):
"CB: "So you're not the original person who imported this Futuro, right?"
Watanabe: "That's right. I was tasked by another company with demolishing it." he begins. "There were actually two disk-shaped buildings at that time, but the one further back was blocked by trees and couldn't be destroyed."
CB: "What state were the Futuros in when you were asked to demolish them?"
Watanabe: "You know it looked like it had become a couple's [love] nest, being left unguarded like that. It seemed like young people had broken the window at night and were going inside."
CB: "How did you move such a big object?"
Watanabe: "One piece was around three meters so it wouldn't fit on a truck. I used a couple of two-ton trucks and a large trailer to move it. Because it was made of plastic we were able to move it with about two people."
CB: "What about the assembly?"
Watanabe: "I put it together in my free time between work. There was an incredible amount of screws and no plans to refer to, so I had to rely on my instinct. Sometimes the parts wouldn't fit and I had to use a saw."
CB: "It's pretty dirty isn't it?"
Watanabe: "At first the surface was actually really smooth and shiny. When Mt. Asama erupted (a hydrovolcanic explosion) in the nineties, a lot of particles invisible to the eye flew over and stuck to it. After that it started to get dirty."
CB: "What about the other Futuro?"
Watanabe: "It was several decades ago... I don't know if it's in the same place now or not..."
Over and above the fact that Mr. Watanabe was actually engaged to demolish two Futuros but ultimately purchased and moved one and left the other perhaps the most interesting thing we learn here is that there were actually two Futuros at the location.
We have always believed that the two Futuros imported to Japan were initially installed in Yokohama
though that has always been based on anecdotal rather than well documented evidence. This interview suggests there may never have been a Futuro in Yokohama after all.
As previously stated the second Futuro was indeed "in the same place" as in fact it is to this day.
The July 2001 issue of Casa Brutus ended with a comment that read:
"We just couldn't bear to see a Futuro left in such a sorry state. So the Casa editorial team is planning to restore this historical experimental home it to its former glory. If we're successful, a Futuro might visit Tokyo this Autumn. Will it be restored!? Watch this space to find out!!
Futuro next appears in the October 2001 issue
of Casa Brutus where a Futuro is listed for sale at 5M yen (about $46K at today's exchange rates). The location is not mentioned but the assumption is that it was Mr. Watanabe's Futuro since we know the Karuizawa Futuro remains in the original location.
The Futuro is again listed for sale in the November 2001 issue
of Casa Brutus where we also learn that the editorial team would be transporting it to the Tokyo Designer's Week on 11th-14th October that year while a new owner was still being sought.
Also notable was that attendees could get an original Casa tote bag sporting a Futuro design by buying back issues of Casa Brutus at the event! Michael has searched for one online and now we will have to add that to our list of items to search for to add to our collection of "Things Futuro
The December 2001 issue
of Casa Brutus featured a multi-page spread documenting the Futuros visit to the Tokyo Designer's Week that included a nice set of photos.
The article ended with the editorial team indicating "they (would) reveal the new landing location of the Futuro in a future issue". Seems likely that new location was Maebashi though we are unaware at this time of a later Casa Brutus article that actually "revealed" the location.
As is often the case early Futuro history can be conflicting and confusing but Michael's work does appear to suggest that Yokohama was never a Futuro location in Japan; rather the two Japanese Futuros were both installed in Karuizawa with one remaining there to this day and the other eventually finding its way, via Mr. Watanabe, to Maebashi.
Many thanks to Michael for his research and translations, for sharing and allowing us to "paraphrase" parts of his article.
Don't forget to check out Michael's other explorations at gakuran.com
and read in full his Futuro article "Space Oddity: Japan's Lost Futuro House
We have not been able to find any articles or references to this Futuro in English and our Japanese is about as good as our Orangutan and let us tell you our Orangutan is not too good. Google Translate is a great tool but even so it leaves you with text that is not always easy to understand. As far as we can tell it seems that this Futuro has been at the Felica Technical Academy since 2001. The Futuro appears to have either been the subject of a minor miracle and been maintained in mint condition since its manufacture or, much more likely, it has been the subject of a major restoration project; either way it appears to be in pristine condition.
We have to mention one of the photos by Maniakers Design displayed below, the one that "poses" a Smart Car parked in front of the Futuro - too cool and now one of our favorite photos.
Location note: the address for this Futuro is the Felica Academy address from the Academy website as translated by Google Translate. If that address is put into Google Maps it is not found so we can only assume the translation is less than perfect but since the address is from the Academy website we have assumed it is correct. A search in Google Maps using the co-ordinates will return the Futuro.
The imagery currently visible in Google Maps does not show the Futuro very clearly; it is actually difficult to really verify that the Futuro is actually at that location. The image below is a screen shot from Bing Maps which does however show the Futuro clearly.