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Straw and Soil bind all of us to provide you with warmth and comfort – Straw bale House Workshop in Japan

December 15, 2011

A mom and daughter work together

With introduction of new shrine (enlightenment – Monsitou), stronger sense of all our connection to everyone and everything was recognized and embodied in Zenryoji @Totsuka (neighboring town of Yokohama) – A Buddhist temple also known as ‘Café De La Terra’, where much of sloth gatherings and events are regularly situated.

When the plan of new building was established, nobody doubted if this building should accommodate much idea of nature, connectedness, slowness and peace. Straw bale house was the very solution fitting all those conditions as an all-in-one package. Mr. Narita, master monk, in charge of Zenryoji didn’t hesitate to consult Professor Tsuji Shinichi (A director of sloth club) and his elder brother and dear comrade, Oiwa Koichi who is an architect leading slow design group in Japan. Immediately, ‘A team’ was arranged for this endeavor and Dr. Kyle holzhueter was nominated to lead the straw bale part of this project. Dr. Kyle has experienced with various Strawbale and Terra house building projects whole across the globe including Europe, North America and Asia. He’s lived in Japan more than 4 years and has been involved in major strawbale house projects here ( including interior of Café Slow at Kokubunji. He’s been familiar with this charming house building technique originated from Nebraska of US where less timber but more straws are available since back in US.

“Some of key themes envisaged with this project was ‘Non-authoritativeness  – Openness to laymen’ and ‘Connectedness (Kizuna) from Karma (Goen)’ “ said Mr. Narita in his blog (   “A circular wall in the main hall of the building represents this all-roundedness and inclusivity. “


Rounded Inner Wall of Monsitou

“An authoritative expert excludes 99% of people and isolates oneself from all the others, which made themselves also unhappy.  Straw bale Workshop provides an opportunity to any warm-hearted volunteers to participate in this joy of connectedness. Look at this beautiful Straw bale wall built with hand by hand effort. Moreover, we wanted to stress the point that house is not only purchased by cash but built by people “  – his explanation continues.


After Day's work, also music and snack together

Indeed, more than 200 people‘s joint effort has been made during these 2nd rounds of workshop for a couple of months period time. Some people came more than 10 times but there are also others spent only half day as situation allowed. “I was really enjoying touching mud and straws by bare hand to apply on the wall. I felt as if I have become an innocent little kid playing at sand beach.”  said Mr. Shizuku, who came to the site almost everyday  during the 2nd round of WS.


Mr. Narita and kids preparing mud dough

“Electronic devices need ‘earth (Ground)’ measure to release excessive electricity to avoid any danger of shock. People can also flush out unnecessary energy and concerns to mud while they are massaging it, which gave them a certain comfort and calmness.” said Dr. Kyle. His explanation must be valid knowing that most of participants said they’d like to join again if any new project heard in town.


Dr. Kyle finishes the wall

“Of course, expertise can’t be excused either, we needed all nice wooden structures, robust platform and beautiful rooftops in addition to strawbale walls, by professional carpenters.  Design work from Mr. Oiwa’s team, special technical advice from Dr. Fujimura ( and Mr. Sagane  ( were also crucial. What makes this expertise special and meaningful is ‘respect and appreciation’ from us to them.”  Mr. Narita complemented his thought.


La Bocca della Verità - the window helps to check the condition of straw

The workshop finished to let the wall dried enough till next Spring time while carpenters continue their portion of work.  “The final round of WS will be also interesting. The work selects fitting stones to each other to make a low wall for garden. We call it this – listening to stone’s voice. All of you will be welcomed to join”  – Mr. Narita finished his explanation with upbeat mood.


A cat loves straw, too - Chiro, a resident of Zenryoji













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