The Traditional Japanese House

OrnamentationsNote the ornamenation above the entrance and on the far right. The latter has four typical examples of ornamentation, from the bottom of the compartment to
the recessed carving under the eves.

This house is much simpler, having only window latice-work (shadows removed for clarity) and the adjuting compartment, seen to the right of the first floor corner.
The traditional rural Japanese house in Aomori prefecture is invariably a large, sprawling, and unvarnished wood complex, although much of the wood has often been replaced with other, cheaper materials. Originally they all had thatch roofs, but this is much rarer now that they are more expensive. There is an air of general disrepair about them, partly because rural Japan is not as wealthy as other areas, and partly because houses have no value after twenty or thirty years in the Japanese accounting system. As a result, there is little incentive to keep up a house; just tear it down and build a new one.

Fortunately, many old houses still linger on. These houses are built in a fairly uniform style and there are a number of features that are immediately apparent to the observer. Perhaps the most noticeable is the ornamentation that all houses have. This generally manifests itself in two places: over entranceways and on the sides and corners of the house. These can be as simple as a rectangular piece of wood with a simple design either completely removed or recessed into the wood, or it can be of fairly ornate design.

Another noticeable aspect is the use of patterns. Windows are typically barred square wooden rods that alternate two high, two short, and are supported by supports of similar thickness running horizontally. Near the corner of the house there is usually a window or compartment that appears to be pushed out of the wall. This compartment is often ornamented as well, to stand out from the fairly plain wall.

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of these old houses are their roofs. The thatch roof houses have a chimney in the middle, ornamented with horns. Houses with metal roofs will generally have the chimney as well, and will usually be red in color with round ribs running down the roof. At a corner of the roof is some ornamentation as well. Although it generally takes the shape of a mantle-clock, some fancier houses may have fish jumping instead.

The roofs appear to be modelled after the temple roofs, with a slight upturn in the corners, ribs in the fancier ones, and ornamentation at the corners. The temple roofs differ in that they are largely two curves placed next to each other, with a small gable in the center, while houses cannot afford that expanse of roof and have a much shallower curve.

Modern Houses >