7 Amazing Features of Japanese Houses!

7 Amazing Features of Japanese Houses!

It is a fact that most Japanese people these days inhabit compact modern apartments, and many of us prefer to do so, myself included. However, there are still a lot of traditional wood frame houses all over the country, and many more being built and refurbished every day. Here are just a few of the most common features of traditional Japanese houses with their advantages and disadvantages.



 

7 Amazing Features of Japanese Houses!

 

1. Construction

Having architectural and interior features that echo Japan’s history and culture, and which many people still find charming, is one reason why traditional houses are still popular. Their wood frame construction in also remarkably strong and flexible, which helps them withstand all but the strongest earthquakes. However, in serious earthquakes, it is fires from cooking stoves that cause the most serious loss of life and property.

 

2. Interior

In general, Japanese houses are small, so we have developed some ingenious ways to maximize space by, for example, employing sliding paper screens (shoji) rather than doors and which also allow for more more diffuse light to permeate. Of course, toddlers very soon trash shoji, but they are much cheaper to repair or replace than glass, and are safer also.

 

3. Tatami

Natural materials such as wood, paper, rice and straw make for a more comfortable environment, and chief among these is tatami mat flooring. Tatami has the advantage of being less hard and cold as wood or stone flooring, whilst being easily replaceable with wear and tear. For Westerners, though, getting used to living at floor level can be a strange new experience.

 

4. Kotatsu

The kotatsu is a low table frame with a heater underneath which is covered with a quilt and table top in Japan’s cold winters. As the centre for all the family’s activities, from meals to watching TV, it is a warm and intimate place to be. It also localises heating to one spot in the house. However, people can become too dependent on the kotatsu. We call people like this ‘kotatsumuri’ or kotatsu snails!

 

5. Amido

In the hot summers, leaving windows open can let in all kinds of insects, such as mosquitos, or dust and dirt from nearby roads or fields. The amido is a kind of fine net window screen, often sticky to the touch, that acts as a dust catcher and insect barrier. However, determined mosquitos always seem to find their way inside, which is why I prefer a high rise apartment where they don’t fly!

 

6. Kamidana

Ancestors and departed loved ones feature prominently in Japanese culture, so every Japanese house has its kamidana, a special space for the family’s shrine at home. Here we keep photos or mementos of dead relatives, make offerings of food and drink, or pray for their help and guidance.

 

7. Ofuro

I’ve saved the best feature of Japanese houses for last: the bathroom! Whenever I’ve lived abroad, I’ve missed Japanese bathrooms most of all. With their deep tubs (ofuro), sealed surrounds and floor drainage, Japanese bathrooms are great places to relax in, or splash around in with small children!

 

Conclusion

The above is just a small selection of features; I haven’t mentioned the tokonoma, ranma, amado, engawa, fusuma or other features found in larger, grander Japanese houses, but you can look those up for yourself! But as a footnote, with all these natural materials, thin walls and paper screens, the one thing you can’t keep in a Japanese house is a secret. Whether this has made us more honest or circumspect as a people, or more sneaky as individuals, I can’t say!

 

7 Amazing Features of Japanese Houses!

1. Construction
2. Interior
3. Tatami
4. Kotatsu
5. Amido
6. Kamidana
7. Ofuro