...There are also people in Sasama who say it is their destiny to preserve old houses. For example, there's Shelley who is a fisheries researcher specializing in sharks. Her interest in Japan dates back to when she was a 21-year-old American observer on a Japanese fishing vessel. She first visited Japan in 1992 and was completely captivated. In 2003 she moved to Japan on a government post-doctoral fellowship program. It was a dream come true to be working for the international fisheries research institute in Shimizu. Then through her hobby of cycling she visited the foothills around Sasama and was charmed by the villages. In 2005 she bought a farmhouse and moved in, following which in 2016 she bought the abandoned mansion of the locally prominent Okamura family. After four years of repairs the main house was ready to be inhabited and she opened a B&B in the eastern cottage. Toward the end of the same year she opened the Firefly Teahouse in the southern cottage. Shelley has reanimated the old and renowned estate and made it into a comfortable and lively place for locals and visitors as well.
Chaya Hotaru will be closed for the day on Saturday, 3 April 2021. We will resume operations on Saturday, 10 April 2021.
If you would like to hear the two koto pieces (Sakura Bukyoku and Kamome) performed on 3 April 2021 by Itou Akiko and her student please click on the koto photos below.
sasuichi appears on asahi tv's 'tobikkiri shizuoka'
take a virtual tour of sasuichi
shizuoka Shimbun 静岡新聞夕刊 ２０２０年12月1日
OLD MANSION、RELAXING TEAHOUSE--1950s 'retro' atmosphere in Shimada
Caption：Shelley Clarke (third from right) in a 1950's 'retro' atmosphere teahouse that she recreated with local people. Behind the teahouse is the Sasama mansion.
In the Sasama area of Shimada city, in a old mansion that she is restoring, American Shelley Clarke (55) in September opened "Firefly Teahouse" in one of the restored buildings. In her arduous efforts to revive the huge mansion and its surrounding buildings she's also opened a bed and breakfast inviting guests to the relaxing mountain village. Shelley lives in the mansion of the former Okamura family who once ruled the village according to documents found in the house that date to 1602. The main house was constructed in the 1950s and along with other cottages and storehouses there are 10 buildings on the property. The teahouse has been constructed in one of them with two 8 tatami-mat rooms. While maintaining some of the iron decorative features of the building, there's been a major renovation to create a counter where there once was a storage area. "The theme is 1950s nostalgia" said Shelley, and she's using dishware that was hidden away in the storehouses, as well as retro light fixtures she's purchased. Add to that operations involving local residents, and serving local tea, coffee and muffins they've created a relaxing atmosphere. A fisheries scientist, Shelley moved to the area 15 years ago when the village caught her eye. Buying the mansion after the owner passed away four years ago, the repairs have proceeded gradually. Despite the corona virus, through word of mouth the bed and breakfast has been attracting guests from within and outside the prefecture. Hiroko Sawamoto (73) who is helping to run the teahouse said "Its because of Shelley's personality that people are spurred to come here". The look of the mansion, and the history and charm of Sasama are conveyed by a website created by Shelley who states "I want people to see this area as a local treasure". Firefly Teahouse is open from 10am-4pm Saturdays.