About 12 members from the Nurikabe-tai wall painters’ crew, including some children, joined in on our renovations. They helped out on a volunteer basis and did not charge us for the work, but we took care of their accommodation and meals. A farmer with a main farmhouse could use that to save on costs, but when it comes to a complete renovation, there is no choice but to look elsewhere for accommodation, so we rented out an entire guesthouse in front of Kure Station.
Sweat-inducing work in the summer heat
Our work began by covering the floors and pillars so as not to get them dirty, with masking tape playing a major role as we carefully taped down blue plastic sheets. The material used to coat the earthen walls contains a lot of moisture and would get things soaked if it were to fall. We also prepared the old wall by spraying it down with a shower nozzle so the new soil would blend in, meaning there was water all around.
Earthen walls are made by mixing red clay soil and plaster sand, then lime, and lastly short pieces of straw together in a tub. It is a sticky substance that is kneaded together with a hoe-like tool. The process causes a chemical reaction, heating up the mixture so much it steams. Needless to say, it makes the work even more sweat-inducing.
With the summer heat still lingering, we made sure to watch out for our physical well-being. The hundred-some bottles of water we had prepared were gone in just two days, and we also installed two air circulators to keep a breeze going.
Getting the hang of things physically
We carried the kneaded soil upstairs in buckets one after another, where everyone was putting their heart into it coating the walls. It was my first attempt at coating an earthen wall and at first, I kept dripping mixture all over the floor unable to get it to stick. As I kept at it over and over, I gradually got used to the process and my body also learned bit by bit how to apply pressure with the trowel. The final touches were left up to the experts, and the wall transformed into one full of ambience. While unfortunately we were not able to recoat all of the walls with a fresh layer as we had hoped, we were able to finish the main part of the second floor, and I got the feeling it would turn into a charming space.
Although the cause is unknown, they say that earthen walls can crack and flake the following day once they have dried, so I was relieved to see that ours had no problems this time. After gathering up all of their tools, the wall painters’ crew headed home. We were getting closer to having a traditional folk residence guest house with a great ambience.