Depth of taste that has been passed down for many years…Expanding business by utilizing old materials




“Old houses” that have been lived in for many years in the history and climate of the land. In snowy Shinshu, there are still many high-quality old folk houses that can withstand the wind and snow for 100 or 200 years. However, the old folk houses are now vacant due to the aging of the landlords and changes in lifestyles, and are being demolished one after another. Part 3 covers the rediscovery of the value of old folk houses and the business of old folk houses and used materials. (Kyoko Yoshio)



The scent of wood surrounds the factory, which measures approximately 800 tsubo (approximately 2,600 square meters). “Sansuisha” (Nagano City) has a warehouse and factory that stores about 5,000 old lumber in Omachi City. It is a company founded in 1930 (Showa 5) that handles the purchase and restoration of old folk houses.

Old materials such as pillars and beams collected when old folk houses were demolished in the Shinshu and Niigata areas are smoked in the hearth and shine black, giving off a strong presence. One of them weighs up to 600 kg. Since 2009, the company has constructed more than 500 hotels, restaurants, and commercial facilities using these old materials.



“In Shinshu, a region of heavy snowfall, old trees from private houses that have endured the wind and snow are of high quality, and there are many that are difficult to obtain today,” said Shigeo Nakajima, 78, a master carpenter in Suzaka City. Today, the pre-cut construction method, in which wood is pre-cut and assembled by machine, is the mainstream. “Old wood is hard, heavy, and difficult to process. The curves and textures are different.

In 2006, the company started buying and selling used materials. Hiroaki Yamagami, 46, the company’s president and representative director, said, “Inorganic materials such as iron are strong when new. However, trees, which are living things, have the characteristic of increasing their strength over 100 or 200 years after being felled, depending on the material. there is,” he says.



A well-known example is Horyuji Temple, which is said to be the oldest existing wooden structure in the world. Over a thousand years after the Asuka period, it is said that the reason why it has been preserved is because it used hinoki cypress, which is tough and resistant to moisture.

The predecessor of Sansuisha was Yamagami Mokkojo, a joinery shop founded in Nagano City in the early Showa period. After graduating from a university in Tokyo, Hiroaki Yamagami, the third generation owner, worked at an IT company. He was refused three times by his father, saying, “It’s not an easy job to bring craftsmen together,” but he persuaded him.



After joining the company, Mr. Yamagami gradually promoted reforms, shifting from being a subcontractor until then to being a prime contractor who directly undertakes work. However, sales declined in 2008 due to factors such as the construction recession.

The clue to overcome the pinch was at the feet. In the 1980s, the company designed the interiors of jeans stores nationwide, using old materials imported from the United States. However, “I realized that there are plenty of old materials around me, even if I don’t have to spend a lot of money to bring them in from overseas.”



In an attempt to utilize the old wood that was produced when an old folk house built before the war was dismantled, he named the wood with its history and tree species recorded as “furuki” and acquired a trademark. Since 2009, he has been designing stores using old wood, and since 2013, he has been relocating and rebuilding old folk houses.

One of his projects is a ryokan in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture. In 2013, two old houses were relocated and rebuilt, including the 90-year-old soba restaurant “Tomikura Shokudo” in Iiyama City. The pillars have traces of carving by the residents in the past.




Sansuisha has 25 employees. Sales for the term ended September 2010 were 1.02 billion yen, nearly doubling over the past 10 years.

However, now, such old folk houses are being dismantled and discarded one after another as useless “negative” movable property. This is because houses are being abandoned in various places for three reasons: “cold”, “old”, and “no one to take over”.

Mr. Yamagami says: “Many people want to tear down even though they can still use it. Dismantled private houses are disposed of as garbage. is”




■ Attention from the perspective of SDGs

There is no clear definition of kominka, but the national cultural property registration system applies to houses that are over 50 years old. In general, it refers to buildings built using traditional construction methods, with thatched or thatched roofs, Japanese tile roofs, dirt floors, and thick pillars and beams.

In recent years, the restoration of such old private houses has been attracting attention from the perspective of solving the problem of vacant houses and achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Reusing instead of disposing of it will also help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In 2019, “Sansuisha” was registered as an environmentally friendly company in the first phase of “Nagano Prefecture SDGs Promotion Company”.



Businesses focusing on old materials from demolition sites are also expanding. Mokuzo in Ueda City has been buying and selling old materials and old tools since July last year. Marino Matou, 33, the company’s representative, said, “When we received consultations about vacant houses, we came up with a plan to make use of old materials and fittings (instead of throwing them away).”

Uses of old materials include DIY desks and chairs, and interior decoration. It is an activity that leads to “upcycling”, which gives new value to things that were supposed to be thrown away and brings them back to life.