8. THE YAMADA HOUSE
An Important Cultural Property of Kanagawa Prefecture
Original location: Katsura, Nanto City , Toyama Prefecture
Type of building: Farmhouse, Gasshō Style house
Built: Early 18th century
Form: Gabled roof of thatch, 3 storeys
Length (parallel to ridge): 14.9 m
Width: 9.5 m
Katsura village, the original site of the Yamada House, lies close to the border with the Hida district of Gifu prefecture. Even in the secluded Gokayama Mountains of Toyama, it was a particularly remote village.
Proceeding eastwards by a mountain trail for about 1 km from Katsura, brought one to another village called Kazura（written with different characters, but pronounced almost identically）just within the borders of the Hida district. The two villages were in constant contact and together constituted a little self contained world of their own. However, their populations dwindled during Japan’s years of high economic growth, and both villages were dissolved, Kazura in 1967, and Katsura in 1970. Seven gasshō houses from Kazura have been moved to different sites in Toyama Prefecture, but of the five houses of Katsura, only the Yamada House survives, restored here in the Nihon Minkaen.
In Katsura village, the Yamada House was referred to by everyone as “the adze-finished house”. The exterior, dominated by the great gabled roof, is totally without hisashi, giving it a simple appearance. It is conceivable that it dates back to the 17th century, and it is important as an early example of the Gasshō Style.
The main entrance gives access to a doma, much of which is a stable. Beyond is an area called Usunawa, with a very low timber floor and a stone sink at the rear. The Usunawa was used as a kitchen and working area. A wooden channel, passing through the wall from outside, supplies water to the sink from a spring.
The raised-floor living zone basically corresponds to the regular 4-room type, with its Dei, Omae, Oie and Chōda. The Dei was a room for informal reception of visitors, and has a small corridor space with a ladder leading to the loft dividing it from the earth-floored area. The Omae was a formal reception space, with tatami mats on the floor and a Buddhist altar behind sliding doors at its upper end. The altar recess was added when the present altar was installed. The Oie was the family living room, and has a sunken hearth. The Chōda is a dark enclosed room, used for storage and sleeping.
The Yamada House, with its simple gabled roof, Usunawa, and the distinctive corridor space between the Dei and the doma, is similar to the Gasshō houses of Shirakawa in character. Its features offer useful hints about the original form and regional variations of Gasshō Style houses.