On the Horizon
For Jiro and Yukiko Hashimoto, a well-traveled couple who introduced triathlon competition to Japan and now publish a portfolio of magazines for endurance-sports enthusiasts, Atami seemed the perfect place to build their dream home. The seaside town, which is one of Japan’s best-known hot-spring resorts, has a mild climate and is about a one-hour drive from their office in Tokyo. When the Hashimotos discovered the property—a 130-foot-high cliff-top site with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean—they knew they had found what they were looking for.
The Hashimotos have always been attracted to the ocean; they owned a condominium on Oahu before they began building their home in Atami. "We loved it for the sunrises, the ocean air, the friendly people—everything that makes Hawaii so appealing," Jiro says. "But the long commute was tough. And a Hawaiian shower stall is no match for a Japanese deep-soaking tub, much less a hot-spring bath."
To showcase the Atami property’s stunning views, architect Shinichi Ogawa engineered a steel-framed cantilevered roof, which eliminated the need for structural columns on the residence’s seaward side. The result, an 80-foot-long wall of retractable glass, fronts the ocean on the home’s upper level. Along this axis Ogawa placed a bath that opens to the outside and a great room comprising living, dining, and kitchen spaces—all facing the sea. A 13-foot-wide terrace connects these interior spaces and unites them with the outdoors. The terrace, one of the home’s most arresting features, is Ogawa’s response to the couple’s wish for a generous outdoor area that could be integrated with the living spaces to accommodate their frequent gatherings of friends and family.
"Initially the Hashimotos envisioned the home with the main space for entertaining at ground level and the private quarters above," says Ogawa, recalling his first visit to the site. "But as soon as I saw the location, I knew that the great room should be on the top floor, stretching out to the sea, and that the private areas should be sequestered below, with direct, intimate access to the garden."
However, the architect did situate one of the home’s private spaces, the main bath, upstairs. Here, Atami’s thermal water—which contains high levels of salt and calcium sulfate that are said to calm nerves, soothe skin, and relieve fatigue—feeds into a deep-soaking tub. The tub is wrapped on two sides by 10-foot-high sliding glass panels, and recessed to align sight lines with the horizon and create the illusion of bathing in the ocean. "A lot of thinking went into this space," Ogawa says. "The Hashimotos wanted an open-air bath, so we considered placing it on the terrace. But this solution affords the best of both worlds: The bath is open to the surroundings yet secluded for privacy, and the terrace retains its clean, uninterrupted line."
The home’s other spaces also exhibit Ogawa’s sophisticated minimalist style, especially the kitchen. Here, the workspace floats like a piece of sculpture within the great room, featuring only the bare minimum of equipment needed to cook and clean. Ogawa placed a ventilation fan inside the backsplash to avoid using a conventional bulky range hood. Everything else—tableware, small appliances, a food-storage room, even the refrigerator—is tucked behind a white wall of doors. The food-storage room is conveniently connected to the garage, allowing the homeowners to unload their groceries directly into the space without disrupting the aesthetic integrity of the main living area.
Even the smallest architectural details serve to maximize the view, as well as the home’s connection with the sea and the sky. The floor and ceiling grooves for the full-height sliding panes of glass are cut deep so that the steel sash disappears from sight. High-gloss tiles on the terrace reflect the changing patterns of light. "To accentuate the view of the horizon, I wanted to make the ceiling lower," Ogawa says. "But a high ceiling was one of the few things the Hashimotos insisted on, so we compromised at 10 feet."
Dubbed the Horizon House, the Atami residence is now the Hashimotos’ main home, but they also keep an apartment in Tokyo, close to their office, where they spend most weekdays. The weekends in Atami, they say, are never long enough. "We knew this location would give us spectacular sunrises," Jiro says, "but one delightful discovery came about three months after moving in. I was relaxing in the bath when a dark-orange light on the horizon caught my eye. The light grew in size and intensity until it was semicircular, and then it lifted from the horizon as a full orb, scarlet in color but quickly draining to pale yellow, then white. For the first time in my life, I had witnessed a moonrise—a haunting, mystical experience that I will never forget."
Since then, Jiro has made a habit of circling the dates of full moons on his calendar. "It’s a show that plays just 12 times a year—less if you factor in rain," he says. "I don’t want to miss any of them."
Shinichi Ogawa & Associates, +81.082.278.7099, www.shinichiogawa.com