Traditional Japanese house (Machiya)

Traditional Japanese house (Machiya)

The animation shows the traditional Japanese wooden townhouse, the machiya.

Visual Arts


machiya, dwelling, merchant house, kyomachiya, wooden house, Kyoto, koshi, mushikomado, Shoki-san, tatami, house, lifestyle, architecture, traditional, Japanese

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Machiyas are typical Japanese merchant houses, which also function as dwelling houses. Nowadays, most of these are found in Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, where they are sometimes called kyomachiyas.

Machiyas are built close together and they present a unique image of the street. Usually, a typical Machiya is a two-story building but one-, one-and-a-half- and three-story houses are also common. The merchant house can be easily recognized by the mushikomado, which is a window with a molded grid, and the koshi, which is a latticework. The style of the latticework indicates the type of merchandise the owner trades in.

Before the 1950s, the wooden-frame house had white plastered walls. An interesting feature of the Machiya is that a statuette of Shoki-san, who was a spirit of Chinese origin, is placed on the roof tiles above the entrance to provide protection for the inhabitants.

Machiyas are divided into several parts. The shop is located on the front and it is separated with a small indoor garden from the living quarters. In most rooms, the floor is covered with tatami, but there are rooms with a boarded floor as well. Because of fire safety, the storehouse is separated from the living quarters by a back garden.

Japanese people are making major efforts to preserve their traditional houses. Sadly enough, the number of Machiyas is decreasing since they are expensive to maintain.

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