2. THE IOKA HOUSE
An Important Cultural Property of Kanagawa Prefecture
Original location: Shimo Takahata Town, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Type of building: Merchant’s house
Built : Late 17th~early 18th century
Form :Gabled roof of pantiles, partly two storeys
Pent roof (hisashi) across front and along part of one side
Length (parallel to ridge):7.9 m
This was a merchant’s house on the road to Yagyū in the city of Nara. The owners dealt in lamp oil for generations under the trade name of “Yohei” and later diversified into the production and sale of incense sticks.
The exterior conveys the character of a merchant’s house with a hisashi along the front, lattices, a folding display stand (agemise) and top-hung ōdo which swings up to open. It is interesting to compare the top-hung entrance door with the hinged entrance door of the Suzuki House: both were devised to make the front of the house as open-able as possible. The practice of plastering over the posts, beams and penetrating ties of the structural frame (known as ōkabe zukuri) and the use of a tiled roof are also characteristics of urban houses and reflect a concern for fire resistant construction.
The interior consists of an earth floored passage (Niwa) on one side and three rooms in line used as living quarters on the other – the latter partially floored over to provide storage lofts (tsushi). The Mise or shop was used for business as its name implies. The Shimomise (Lower shop) on the other side was for selling, and the agemise for display of merchandise.The Daidokoro (kitchen) was the family living room with a Buddhist altar in a closet concealed by fusuma. The Zashiki was a formal room for entertaining guests with an alcove, and originally the open veranda overlooked an enclosed garden.
The practice – called tsukidome – of adjusting the length of the grooves on threshold and lintel to control how far each panel could be opened and the use of un-squared timbers in the lattice in front of the Mise are stylistically early features. The black plastered cooking range in the Niwa demonstrates the advanced techniques of range design found in the Kansai region of Japan. This is the only minka from western Japan in Nihon Minkaen and is valuable as a typical example of an old town house from around the old capital.