|Old becomes new again: The beauty of traditional Japanese homes
Photo Courtesy of Rennett Stowe [Editor: Modernizing the old isn’t new. Keeping the cultural/historic elements of a building is a challenge. The Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy is the way Japantown is trying to keep the cultural feel while we move forward into the future. Check it out here]
Original Story starts here:
With raw, unpainted wood, tatami rooms, and a tranquil atmosphere, traditional Japanese homes can be quite beautiful. Appreciated by many for their historical look and feel, the buildings have recently undergone a bit of a surge in popularity.
Though probably not something the average person can afford to live in (or would even want to live in), the larger houses have found new life in many forms, including as group homes and rural hotels.
Here’s some great examples and photos of traditional homes in use today.
Located in Iwate Prefecture, this traditional home, built about 100 years ago, has been remodeled and adapted for use as a nursing home. Called the “Natukashii House” (“natukashii” is similar to “nostalgic”), the building is about 180 square meters (1937.5 square feet) and praised for its tranquility. Like much of traditional Japanese architecture, the building allows for fluid recomposition of rooms via sliding doors—the two large “living rooms” can be kept separate or brought together for events.
This house is just one example of the recent trend of renovating old-style houses. Remodeled by Shiga Prefecture’s Best House, a company that specializes in restoring traditional houses, the building looks lovely with its bare wood pillars and white walls.
But is it comfortable to live in all year round? Even in the hot, humid summers and bitingly cold winters? According to Best House, yes! They installed heated floor and fireplaces to keep the building warm in the cold months and the current occupants have been there for over ten years!
Here are a few houses that have been remodeled by Watanabe Kobo, another specialist company, in Ibaraki Prefecture.
While these houses are probably far outside what the average person can spend on rejuvenating them, they certainly are lovely, aren’t they? For many Japanese people, these buildings also carry great significance, whether in the form of personal memories or of a cultural nature. It seems that even young people, whom one might expect to shy away from “old stuff,” are drawn to cafes and galleries built in these types of renovated homes.
Maybe you’d like to spend some meaningful time in one of these gorgeous buildings? Even if you can’t afford to buy one and don’t have any wealthy friends, you can always book a night at an inn. (You might still need that wealthy friend for some of these, though.)
In addition to being lovely places to spend a some relaxing time, many of the inns (called “ryokan” in Japanese) are settled in the country and often have accompanying hot springs. A favorite destination for many over the various annual holidays, these inns are somewhat pricey, with the average cost per night being about 8,000 yen (about US$84) for two people. Of course, that’s not including the cost of getting out there for city-dwellers, so don’t forget to factor train fare into your budget.
The inn pictured here is called Momosean (Japanese language only) and is located in Kouchi Prefecture in Shikoku, an island just off the mainland of Japan. They’re one of the most popular in the area, and offer sunken hearths and goemonburo, bathtubs heated from directly underneath.
The inn pictured below is named Kominka no Yado Nakasato (or, roughly, “Traditional House Inn Nakasato”) and is located in Fukushima. The inn has over a hundred years of history and a simply marvelous garden, and guests can stay for 7,000 yen (about $73) a night in the off season and 8,000 yen during the high season. It should be noted that heating will cost you an extra 3,000 yen, if it’s necessary.
The inn also boasts of the sightseeing possibilities nearby, including these love cherry trees in Natsui and the 1,2000-year-old cedar trees at Suwa Shrine.
And in Hyogo Prefecture, close to Osaka, you can find Maruyama Village. The actual structure is 150 years old, though the amenities, furniture, and fixtures have a very modern feel to them, as can be seen in the photos below. And the inn commands a steep price at 36,000 yen (about $378) per person for two people, with the price going down with more guests. Still, they seem to have a lot of repeat customers, so we can only assume that they’re doing something right!
So, now that you’ve seen all these wonderful buildings, you’re probably wondering what sparked this resurgence.
Obviously, for many, it’s simply a matter of preserving traditional Japanese culture. But for others, these kind of “back-to-basics” buildings represent a movement towards an ecological lifestyle. Not only do they use less electricity (partly because they’re usually furnished with fewer electric devices), but they also foster a feeling of closeness with nature.
And, considering how long-lasting these homes are, it’s easy to imagine that, with proper maintenance, they reduce the need for massive construction projects. This in turn could lead to reduced carbon footprints and (one would hope) less excessive logging. That said, it’s hard to imagine that a few of these houses (since they are ultimately quite cost prohibitive) will result directly in a more ecologically friendly society. But their quiet beauty can certainly inspire us towards that lofty goal.