Traditional Japanese houses might seem odd to a Westerner due to their minimalistic design, simplicity, and austerity. There’s nothing unnecessary in it. Every item has its own place and all of the features have a great symbolic significance.
Bright Side will tell you about the key concepts and features that make traditional Japanese houses so unique.
1. The abundance of empty space
The Japanese don’t like to clutter up their homes with furniture and small trinkets. Ideally, there should not be anything on the floor but a tatami — a mat traditionally made of rice straw. A tatami is also a unit of measurement for an area. A traditional Japanese room can fit 6 tatami mats. Other furnishings can include a wooden table with cushions for sitting, a dresser, and several futons — thin cotton mats that are folded and stored away in an oshiire closet during the day. Such closets are often the same color as the walls and don’t stand out so much. As a result, the effect of the wide-open space is created and nothing distracts your attention. This approach to the house furnishing has at least one more positive feature: it keeps dust from building back up in the corners and it’s easier to clean such empty rooms.
The traditional Japanese house has no walls, at least in the ordinary understanding. Instead of them, the Japanese use fusuma, light sliding panels that act as doors and walls. They are made of bamboo bars and rice paper. Fusumas can be easily moved or taken off and this allows the Japanese to change the layout of their houses with minimal effort. They can transform one room into 2 or change the size of the rooms. Furthermore, the lack of furniture and its mobility allows using one room as a bedroom during the night and as a living room during the day.
As a rule, a bath and a toilet are placed in different rooms, while the bathroom can take up 2 rooms. One room has a sink and a shower, the other has a traditional Japanese bath, ofuro. It’s about the great importance they attach to taking baths: dirt should be washed off in the shower, and in the ofuro they prefer to relax in hot water.
3. Closeness to nature
A usual attribute of the Japanese house is a garden. You can often get in it right from the house. All that is required is to open a sliding panel, otherwise known as shoji. When the weather is good, the shojis are always open. The closeness to nature is achieved through the use of natural materials: wood, bamboo, rice paper, or cotton. There are several reasons these materials are often used. First, they are cheaper than iron and stone. Second, Japan is frequently affected by earthquakes and it’s much easier to rebuild such “paper” houses after an accident. Plus, the chances of being killed under stone wreckage are much higher.
4. Plenty of sunlight
Another inseparable feature of the Japanese house interior is the abundance of dim lighting that comes through the exterior walls. They are made of a semitransparent material that dissipates the light through a slatted frame. A similar effect is created by lamps made of bamboo or rice paper.
The most important thing about any Japanese house is not the outer beauty of things but the comfort and peace of its owners. There are no bright striking colors or a lot of decorations that can often be found in Western houses. They only use furniture that is essential for everyday life. All decorative objects are placed in a special place — an area called tokonoma. Only the most valuable things are placed there: engravings, miniature sculptures (netsuke), ikebanas, hieroglyph parchments, etc. Such a minimalistic approach helps the Japanese relax as it leads to meaningful thinking and admiration for the beautiful things they have in their house.
Can you compare your house to the traditional Japanese house? What feature do you find the most interesting about Japanese houses? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Preview photo credit friday/ depositphotos, iriana88w/ depositphotos