The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


March 1, 2014

Oriental flair

Home features special Japanese items

Trish Janutolo may have only spent 3 1/2 years in Japan, but the experience touched her life in such a way that she remains surrounded by the culture through her home accents and furnishings. She returned over 40 years ago, but a visitor would imagine her Asian encounter was much more recent.

“The things that mean the most to me are from special places or special people,” said Janutolo, librarian at Nicholson Library, Anderson University. “I came back to the United States by ocean liner, so I could bring a lot of pieces with me.”

The local college drew her north from Alabama after she graduated high school. Tri-S programs drew her overseas. Her first stay in Japan lasted eight weeks.

“I loved it,” she recalled fondly. “Eventually the missionary board asked if I would go there and teach at the junior/senior high school for girls in Tokyo.”

She taught conversational English but didn’t speak much Japanese.

“I knew enough to get myself into trouble but not well enough to get myself out,” she added with a laugh. “But I could understand most of what other people said.”

Each accent, wall hanging and piece of furniture with Oriental flair sparks a story. Her favorite sits center stage in the living room and is similar to a coffee table – except it literally houses a pot. This naga hibachi offers a space to insert charcoal and heat water.

“I had spent the day in antique stores with a friend looking for one to bring back with me,” she said. “I didn’t find one and we were telling her mom about it. She opened the closet door and pulled this one out. It had belonged to her husband’s family and she said that while he was alive they had to use it. When he died, she pushed it into the closet.”

Not only did the woman refuse payment, but added: “I’ll pay you to take it.”

Next to the piano in the entry way hangs a jizai. Old homes had a hole in the floor with a fire that warmed the house and heated utensils. Over the hole would hang a jizai, which is a long, cast-iron hook. Pots and kettles hung on the jizai.

“A couple that knew I loved old things went to their family home and brought it back for me,” said Janutolo. “It is really special to me because I know that it is original, that it was used and whose family used it.”

While some items were gifts, others were scored during dumpster-diving excursions.

“On certain days you could put anything you didn’t want by the street,” she said. “My housemate and I would walk through the neighborhood and check the trash. We found all kinds of interesting things.”

One such item is a bamboo oil lamp atop the piano.

Some pieces are re-gifted. Very near to her heart is a crystal bowl given to Ann Smith by a couple in their eighties who had received it as a wedding present. Both Janutolo and Smith knew and loved the couple and Smith promised to leave the treasure to Janutolo upon her death.

“A couple of years ago, Ann just said: ‘I don’t think I’ll wait till I die’ and she gave me the bowl,” she said. “Ann is pretty special.”

This bowl sits near two Hakata dolls whose appearances remind her of that couple.     

Janutolo and her husband of 35 years, Blake, the dean of Science and Humanities at Anderson University, have shared the home near the university for 30 years. They have returned to Japan twice to visit and renew friendships.

“Japan is a beautiful country,” she said. “I felt comfortable, safe and I enjoyed my work.”

Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an e-mail to

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