In Japan Open Air Folk House Museum old folk houses are on display on the gentle slopes of Tama hills.

13. THE HIROSE HOUSE

13. THE HIROSE HOUSE

THE HIROSE HOUSE

“Yotsudate” structural frame

Yotsudate” structural frame

Doza: a floor made of bundles of straw spread over tamped earth and covered with straw mats

Doza: a floor made of bundles of straw spread over tamped earth and covered with straw mats

Floor plan

Floor plan


An Important Cultural Property of Kanagawa Prefecture

Original Location: Kamihagiwara, Enzan, Kōshū City, Yamanashi Prefecture
Type of building: Farmhouse
Built: Late 17th century
Form: Gabled roof of thatch
Length (parallel to ridge): 14.5 m
Width: 8.9 m

The folk houses of the Kōfu Basin are well known for their gabled roofs with munamochi posts (posts that rise the full height of the structure to support the ridge purlin directly) set in the gable walls, and tsukiage nikai (upper floors with an elevated roof over the central section, incorporating windows to admit light, and sometimes a balcony).

Before relocation to Nihon Minkaen, the Hirose House had an upper floor and elevated roof of this kind like many Kōfu Basin houses, but an examination of the frame revealed that originally it was a simple single storey gabled structure, and that is how it has been reconsructed. The eaves of the restored building are very low, and, with no openings apart from the main entrance and the front of the Zashiki, it is a very enclosed building.

Entering the house through the main door, one encounters a large space. The part with the earth floor exposed is known as the Doji, and has a stable (Umaya) in the front right hand corner. To the left extends an area called the Idoko, with thin matting (mushiro) spread over it and two sunken hearths dug into the earth. Beneath the matting the beaten earth is covered with bundles of straw to form a surface for sitting on. This kind of floor is referred to as doza and was once very common among the ordinary people.

Beyond this undivided living zone, at the high end of the house, are three rooms, the Zashiki, Naka Nando, and Oku Nando, arranged in a line one behind the other. The Zashiki was a formal guest reception room, the Naka Nando was a sleeping room, while the Oku Nando, which is the most enclosed of the three, was a sleeping room and store.

The house is notable for the four solid posts that constitute the core of the structural frame. Known as yotsudate (“a stand of four”), this arrangement is often found in the early houses of the Kōfu Basin.

In view of these early features, it is thought that the Hirose House was built in the late 17th century. Studying this house, it is possible to trace the process by which minka in the Kōfu Basin began to use lofts for silkworm raising from the latter half of the 18th century. The development of the elevated central roof section followed in the first half of the 19th century as farmers sought to provide better lighting and ventilation.

Sericulture has had an enormous influence on the design of folk houses. Against that background, the Hirose House is an important example that enables us to trace that influence at work in the farmhouses of the Kōfu Basin in Yamanashi.

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