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The Traditional Japanese Home

Japanese homes are built in a very different manner than those in the West.  They are built to allow for airflow due to the high temperatures in the summer, and to be able to be taken down and built back up quickly due to the nature of their environment.  The word for the traditional Japanese home is Minka.  Some characteristics of these homes include: tatami mat flooring, sliding doors, and a genkan (entrance hall where people remove their footwear).  


In Japan, rooms are typically divided by sliding doors made with Japanese paper: washi.  There are two main types of sliding doors: Fusuma and ShojiFusuma is made with a heavier paper, sometimes a cloth material, while still being able to be taken down for re-arrangement.  Shoji is made of much lighter material and is attached to a wooden lattice.  Shoji is beneficial as it provides more light and airflow into the home.  Shoji is particularly advantageous during the summer when it is known to get incredibly warm with high humidity levels.   

Traditional Japanese Home I J-Life International

In traditional Japanese bathrooms, toilets are separate from the area for bathing and washing.  Squat toilets were once the standard but have since been replaced with high end toilets that offer heated seats amongst a variety of other features.  For sleeping there is traditionally one room, a tatami room, where the traditional Japanese futons (shikifuton/shikibuton) are rolled out at night for sleeping.  These shikifutons are then rolled up and placed into storage during the day.  Originally this was due to the fact that most Japanese houses are much smaller than in the West so it was more practical to keep the room open during the day, allowing for more multifunctionality.  While some in Japan have switched to the standard Western bed style, many remain true to the traditional Japanese sleep system. 

Traditional Japanese Home I J-Life International

Some other characteristics of a traditional Japanese home include:

Engawa: an outer corridor that wraps around the house.  Traditionally the engawa is used as a separator between shoji and the outer storm shutters.  When the storm shutters are closed the engawa can feel like a secret passage that swaddles the home.

Ranma: these are wooden panels above the shoji or fusuma that feature an intricate pattern that allow light to enter the rooms.

Amado: the amado are the storm shutters previously mentioned that completely seal the home.  They can be used for both security and privacy purposes.  The amado are very important during a large storm such as a typhoon. 

Chabudai: these are tables with short legs used while sitting on the floor.  They are traditionally used on tatami floors with a zabuton floor cushion.

Traditional Japanese Home I J-Life International


1 comment

  • Please provide a typical floor plan for a traditional Japanese home

    Corwin Moser

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