Japanese Houses

IMG_4856Japan’s unique history has led to culture that is not surprisingly unique in the world. In Japan, natural disasters and local weather has led to housing adapted for the resources and needs of the people. While new materials have been included in modern building, many of the aesthetics developed for traditional housing are still carried into the modern age. Since a lot of Japanese culture revolves around the home, this post will be a base for many others in the “In the Home” category. I hope you enjoy.

Japanese Houses are Drafty

IMG_9860_1Since natural disasters such as typhoons, fire, and earthquakes could destroy homes, many traditional houses were built cheaply and in such a way that they could be easily rebuilt or even moved. This mean that instead of using nails which would rust in the humid climate, they often used clever joints to fit pieces together. Japanese roofs were created in different ways for different climates and outside walls were left mostly open.

Flooding could also be an issue. Most Japanese houses (except for traditional kitchens) are raised. Aside from protecting against floods, this feature allows air to flow under the house, cooling it in the summer and limiting the buildup of mold. Modern houses, even apartments, still often have raised floors that have exits to the outside. While this lets bugs in the benefits outweigh the issues.

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Without air conditioning, a drafty house was a necessity in ancient Japan. Whole walls were removed to catch faint breezes in the summer, helped along by air circulating underneath. In newer buildings removable walls have mostly been replaced with sliding glass doors, but the use still remains.

So what about winter? The famed draftiness does not fade with the season. In winter, families join around a central heater, stove, or kotatsu instead of try to inefficiently heat an entire house. This is one reason why space heaters are still so popular in Japan. Many Japanese houses trade the benefits of insulation during the winter for cooler temperatures in the summer. So why don’t Japanese houses just seal everything up and use central air or heat? My thoughts on the matter are in this post.

Modern Japan

IMG_3702Today, most houses are made of concrete to protect against earthquakes and worse, but they still have many aspects of traditional Japan.  As you might expect, on of the biggest influences on the design of modern housing is the limited space available. Where houses in the west can be large, here land needs to be used more efficiently. Many people live in what are called mansions here but are like apartments in the States.

There are still raised floors that often have vents outside.  Many also have large windows or sliding glass doors where possible that can be opened to catch breezes.  This and other aspects of modern Japanese housing, features that have their roots in the farming villages of years past, drive the need for unique appliances and explain many of the differences between houses here and in the West.

Find out more about the unique things inside Japanese houses via the In The Home category.