12. STOREHOUSE ON STILTS
An Important Cultural Property of Kawasaki City
Original Location: Wadomari Town, Ōshima County, Kagoshima Prefecture
Type of Building: Storehouse
Built: Late 19th century
Form: Hipped roof of thatch
Length (parallel to ridge): 2.7 m
Width: 2.5 m
When people think of raised-floor storehouses, the famous eigth century Azekura-Style Shōsōin at the Tōdaiji in Nara soon comes to mind, but storehouses consisting of thatched roof spaces built up on the tops of columns are seen in all the regions of southern Japan exposed to the so-called Kuroshio, (Black Ocean Stream) – Okinawa, the Amami Islands, southern Kyūshū, and Hachijojima. They are simpler structures than the ancient azekura, but with their solid circular columns and strongly framed floors, they have a certain magnificence that seems somehow related to the architecture of the Japanese Ancient Period.
The columns, which stand on pad-stones of rock from the coral reef, are made from toxic trees named ‘iju’. The upper parts of the columns are wrapped in galvanized iron sheeting so that rats cannot climb into the storehouse. Close to their feet, the columns are braced with penetrating ties (nuki), and their tops are connected with beams on which large joists and boards are laid to make a floor. The roof frame is built off the floor, and thatched, and the roof space is used as a store for crops. The floor is about 2.4 m above the ground, and a ladder made from a single piece of timber was used to provide access.
The space below the floor (called ‘kuranta’) was left open to ensure good ventilation and to keep the crops dry. The space was also used as a play area by children, as a place to rest, and for hulling rice. The surrounding windbreak fence is characteristic of regions subject to frequent typhoons, and was originally made of coral rock like the foundation stones (but different material has been used here). Such talisman stones as the ishigantō set up at the roadside in front of the storehouse are widely seen in Okinawa and southern Kyūshū. They are dedicated to deities believed to provide protection against evil and are placed at the ends of roads, by the gates of houses and by bridges. They are believed to have their origin in Chinese folk religion.