Tatami mat flooring, sliding doors, and wooden engawa verandas distinguish minka, or traditional Japanese dwellings. The genkan, an entry hall where people remove their shoes, is another feature that may still be seen in Western-style homes in Japan. The tatami mats that cover most of the floor space make minka quite roomy, with many more square feet than apartments today. A mikado-zukuri storeyed house like this one would have been very expensive when it was built around 1800, but now such houses can be found all over Japan for not much money.
They are usually single story buildings with gabled roofs and simple styling. The interior will typically have a large living area with alcoves, side rooms, and private spaces such as gardens or saunas. There will often be separate bedrooms for everyone in the family. Minka were originally built for merchants who traveled throughout Japan selling their goods; thus they were always looking for a good location so that they could find customers soon after setting up shop. This means that early modern houses in Japan were not meant to be permanent places to live in but rather temporary shelters until future plans could be made.
People started building minka after the middle of the 17th century as part of a movement called "shoin kokki" ("new town construction").
Shoes are removed and placed in the getabako—a cabinet named after geta, or wooden clogs, which were historically popular among Japanese people. A tatami room can be any space of about 1,000 square feet (93 m²) or less that is used for living or sleeping purposes.
In Japanese, minka means "three rooms." Although most minka have more than three rooms, this term is often used to describe smaller houses because they usually have at least three rooms including a kitchen, dining room, and bathroom.
Minka are typically one story building with wood or concrete block walls and a tiled roof. They are usually set back from the street behind fences or other barriers, giving them a somewhat private feel while still being within walking distance of shops and restaurants.
Traditional Japanese dwellings were built using timber frames covered with shikiniten (split bamboo), tile, cement, or stone. The earliest examples of minka date back over a thousand years. However, most modern minka are based on an early 20th-century design by American architect Louis Sullivan, who introduced the concept of streamlining into house architecture.
So to speak, the entrance of a traditional Japanese house consists of three layers. First, there's the tataki, which is on the ground floor right behind the entrance door. Nowadays, it is generally made of concrete, but in the past, the pounded tataki floor consisted of earth, lime, and bittern. Another name for this pounded floor is "doma." Then, there's the matsune-ishi, which is an artificial grass surface used as a walkway. It extends from just inside the entry door across the entire width of the house. Last, there are the shoji, which are sliding doors made of wood or bamboo. They allow much needed natural light into the house while also providing privacy when necessary.
Traditional Japanese houses do not have any windows that face the street. This is because the people of Japan believe that windows cause bad luck. Instead, they let in what amounts to two large patio doors called mado. One is at the back of the house next to the kitchen wall and the other is at the front next to the entry door. Both mado are open every day to allow in fresh air and to give visitors permission to enter.
Inside the house, you will find tatami rooms. These are rooms where guests can lie down on thick mats instead of beds. There are several types of tatami rooms, but the most common one is the living room, which has a mat for everyone to share.
Traditional Japanese-style rooms (He Shi, washitsu) have a distinct interior design that incorporates tatami mats as flooring. As a result, they are sometimes referred to as tatami rooms. The term "Japanese-style room" also includes other styles of furniture and decoration such as kabuki and geisha houses.
In modern Japan, japanese-style rooms are used in luxury hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns). These rooms usually include Western-style beds with high posts and heavy embroidered linen sheets. Other typical features include tatami mats, sliding doors, shoji screen windows, and wood or bamboo furnishing.
The aesthetic of Japanese-style rooms comes from the use of natural materials such as wood, bamboo, paper, and silk along with simple shapes and colors. The aim is to create a calm and relaxing environment where you can feel at home even when staying in a hotel.
There are many terms used to describe the style of Japanese-inspired rooms. They include: shoji-zukuri, hisui, kaiseki, yamakase, and mushimu.
Shoji-zukuri means "building construction using wooden panels and screens," which is how most traditional Japanese buildings were constructed.
In my limited experience with the interiors of modern Japanese houses, sliding panels are mainly restricted to the tatami room and closets, but some houses are still created that take use of their outstanding versatility. Western-inspired dwellings are uncommon, but not entirely missing.
Even if they are used only for storage, sliding doors are an important part of any house because they allow people to enter or exit easily. They also provide ventilation on hot days and help keep out insects on cold nights.
There are two types of sliding doors used in traditional Japanese architecture: wooden doors and paper doors. Wooden doors are made from a single piece of wood and usually have rectangular or round shapes. They tend to be more expensive than paper doors and can last for many years if taken care of properly. The paper version is much cheaper but will fade over time due to exposure to sunlight and rain. Both types of doors can be opened from the inside or outside. If opened from the inside, you would need a door knob or handle; if opened from the outside, they would have a hole near the top center for hanging them up or down.
In modern houses, sliding doors are often used instead. Like their traditional counterparts, these doors can be opened from both sides but also come in a variety of styles including plain, painted, or decorated with special features like pictures or text prints.
Roka are wooden-floored passageways that run along the perimeter of a home, comparable to halls. Roka and ima are separated by shoji, sliding, and moveable doors made of paper and wood. Unlike fusuma, the paper used for shoji is exceedingly thin, allowing outside light to enter the house. This was before sliding doors were made of glass. The word "shoji" means "sound barrier."
In addition to roka and ima, there are two other types of doors used in Japanese homes: hiraya and shibaura. Hiraya are large, one-piece folding screens used to divide rooms. They open from the top and can be used as windows when closed.
The shibaura is similar to an hiraya but it folds on itself like a book. There are no separate panels; instead, the entire thing opens up from the hinges at the top and bottom. The person using this as a door would have to be careful not to block their exit if they needed to go out through another room!
These are just some of the many different types of doors used in Japanese architecture. As you can see, most are made of wood, with a few metal ones thrown in for good measure.