10. THE YAMASHITA HOUSE
An Important Cultural Property of Kanagawa Prefecture
Original location: Nagase, Shirakawa Village, Ōno County, Gifu Prefecture
Type of house: Farmhouse, Gasshō Style house
Built: Early 19th century
Form: Gabled roof of thatch, 3 stories
Hisashi at front covered with shingles weighted with stones
Length (parallel to ridge): 18.2 m
Width: 10.9 m
This Gasshō Style house was moved to an old down-town area of Kawasaki in 1958 by Mr. Kenzō Chiba, and was used as a traditional Japanese restaurant. In 1970, it was relocated again to Nihon Minkaen. Because it has been moved twice, many parts could not be restored to their original form. This explanation, however, focuses on the original arrangement as far as possible, and we hope that readers will make due comparison when viewing the building as it now is.
The exterior, with its big gabled roof and a pent roof covered in shingles weighted with stones, is typical of the Gasshō houses of Shirakawa Village (now entered from the gable end, it originally had the entrance in the long side, as also is normal in Shirakawa).
Gasshō is an alternative name for sasu, the long timbers set obliquely in pairs and joined together at the top to form the triangular frame or truss of the huge steep roof. The houses of Shirakawa and Gokayama are particularly known for the size of their gasshō and the steep pitch at which they are set, and it is because of this that the term Gasshō-zukuri (Gasshō Style) has come into use to refer to them. The enormous roof space is divided into 2 or 3 tiers of lofts, used for sericulture. In the snowy winter it was also used as storage space for food and fuel.
Entering through the main door, there was a stable (Umaya) at the low end of the plan, beyond which lay a low-floored working area (Usunawa) and a washing and scullery area (Minja).
The complex plan of the living zone is essentially divisible into 6 rooms. At the front lay the Ōe (informal guest room), Sue no Dei (anteroom to the formal reception suite), and Hikae no Dei (withdrawing room ).
To the rear lay the Daidokoro (family living room), a pair of Chōda (sleeping rooms), and the Dei (main reception room).
The Ōe is a room with a sunken hearth, and has a small corridor space containing a loft ladder ensuite. The ‘L’-shaped layout of the three formal reception rooms, Sue no Dei, Hikae no Dei and Dei, is known as a kagi zashiki (key-shaped reception suite). The Dei is the culmination of the suite and contains a tokonoma (alcove) and a Buddhist altar. The main family living rooms were the Daidokoro, equipped with a sunken hearth, and the outer and inner sleeping rooms.