9. THE NOHARA HOUSE
An Important Cultural Property of Kanagawa prefecture
Original location: Toga, Toga village, Nanto city, Toyama Prefecture
Type of building: Farmhouse (village elder’s house), Gasshō Style house
Built: Late 18th century
Structure& form: Thatched gabled roof, 3 stories
Hisashi on 4 sides of the house.
Length (parallel to ridge): 17.5 m
Width: 10.6 m
The original site of this house, the Gokayama district of Etchu Province (now in Toyama Prefecture) consists of 5 valley areas –Akao Valley, Kami Nashi Valley, Shimo Nashi Valley, Otani Valley, and Toga Valley. Through each valley flow tributaries of a major river, the Shōkawa, and this house was located in the isolated Toga valley by one of the Shōkawa’s tributaries, the Toga River. It is interesting to see how difference in location from valley to valley is reflected in differences in the design and construction of traditional houses.
The 3-room layout of the living rooms in this house contrasts with the 4-room layout of the houses in the main Shōkawa Valley. Passing through the main entrance, one enters the doma, most of the front half of which is used as a stable (Maya). Beyond is a kitchen and working area (Niwa). The sink area projects from the rear of the Niwa and has a stone sink set on stone paving. The narrow passage along the side of the Maya once led to an external toilet. The large Oe, occupying the full depth of the plan and provided with 2 sunken hearths, was the main living room. An earth-floored projection at the front of the Oe was a rice pounding area, and a projection at the rear contains a cupboard. At the high end of the plan beyond the Oe lie the Zashiki and Nando. Beyond the Zashiki there is a cramped Butsuma with a projecting recess for the Buddhist altar. In practice this Butsuma was only ever used in combination with the Zashiki, which in effect became the Butsuma when a service was in progress. The Nando was a sleeping space, with a very enclosed character.
At a structural level, the design of the peripheral zone of the house (geya) differs according to locality. In the Nohara House, the geya posts on all four sides are the same height, whereas in the houses of the main Shōkawa Valley, the geya posts across the gable end are short, as is immediately apparent if the Nohara and Emukai Houses are compared. In the case of the former, the geya zone is built as if the roof were half hipped, whereas the latter merely has a large pent roof attached which makes it look like a half-hipped roof.
The curved beams in the Oe, called chōnabari (adze-shaped beams), which are skillfully arranged to support the upper structure, are a particularly striking feature of Gasshō Style houses. They are made from trees grown on steep slopes. In the Nohara House、a massive beam, known as an ushibari (ox-beam), is set longitudinally over the centerline of the Oe, and supports four chōnabari. Full marks to the carpenter for impressive design!