6. THE SASAKI HOUSE
An Important Cultural Property of Japan
Original location: Hata, Sakuho Town, Minami Saku County, Nagano Prefecture
Type of building: Farmhouse (nanushi/village headman’s house)
Built: 1731 (reception suite added in 1747)
Form: Hipped roof of thatch
Single-storey with mezzanine loft spaces
Shingled hisashi weighted with stones at front & rear
Length (parallel to ridge): 24.1 m
Width: 7.3 m
This house is characterised by its great length and high eaves, but the impression of height is reduced by the presence of hisashi. The provision of a gable window at the east end of the house to admit sunlight into the mezzanine loft results in an interesting hipped and gabled roof arrangement known as Kabuto-zukuri or “Helmet Style” because of a perceived resemblance to a samurai helmet.
This farmhouse is of interest not only on account of its remarkable exterior, but also because its history is traceable in some detail thanks to the survival of contemporary records of the building process (fushin registers) and other documents. As an application for permission to erect the building was made in 1731, the house was probably built around that year. A few years later, however, it was moved to another site after flooding of the Chikuma River. A fushin register dated 1743 records the dismantling and re-erection process on that occasion. Another fushin register dated 1747 tells of the addition of a suite of two guest rooms (zashiki) at the west end of the main building. When the house was dismantled for relocation to Nihon Minkaen, it was possible to confirm that the western rooms were an extension, and the original floor plan of the house was revealed.
Construction of the zashiki suite, with its own toilet and bathroom for the use of guests, implies that the family occupied a very senior position in the hierarchy of local society at that time.