14. THE ŌTA HOUSE
An Important Cultural Property of Japan
Original Location: Kataniwa, Kasama City, Ibaraki Prefecture
Type of building: Farmhouse (nanushi/villageheadman’s house), Bunto Style house
Built: Main Building late 17th century
Earth-floored Building late 18th century
Form: Main building – Hipped roof of thatch
Length (parallel to ridge): 9.6 m
Width: 8.3 m
Earth-floored building – Hipped roof of thatch
Length (parallel to ridge): 10.0 m
Width: 8.3 m
Protruding portion －Hipped roof of thatch
Length (parallel to ridge): 2.8 m
Width: 5.7 m
Roofed space between buildings: 1.4 m wide
The Ōta House, like the Sakuda House, is a Buntō Style house. It consists of two buildings, one with a raised floor subdivided into rooms, and the other earth floored and undivided apart from two stables. The buildings stand side by side, with their eaves touching, creating a distinctive exterior, although internally the layout is not very different from that of other minka from the same area. The most striking characteristic of buntō houses is the huge gutter which drains the valley between the roofs of the two buildings. It is a split log hollowed out to carry rainwater away and keep the space between the buildings dry.
The Ōta house is a 3-room hiroma-type house with an impressive doma area. The main entrance in the end of the earth floored building brings the visitor into an extensive space, with a pair of stables on the right, and the living rooms of the main building stretching away on the left. Thanks to the skillful omission of posts, one is hardly aware of the boundary between the two buildings.
The Hiroma (literally “great room”), extending the full depth of the plan adjacent to the earth-floored area, is the principal everyday living space. As the beams are exposed, one can compare them with those of the earth-floored building. The latter was re-built, and is about a century later in date than the main building. The difference in date is apparent in the thickness and finish of the beams, and in the way they are joined together. The position of the irori and the way in which the stable protrudes from the earth-floored building in the Ōta House call to mind similar features in the Kudō House (a magariya). Although usually considered a northern type, magariya came to be built in Ibaraki Prefecture and Tochigi Prefecture in the late Edo Period, so it seems reasonable to regard the Ōta House as a buntō example influenced by Magariya.
At the high end of the plan, beyond the Hiroma, are two rooms, the Zashiki and the Heya. The tatami-floored Zashiki is a formal reception room, with the eaves at the front carried down to define a kind of porch used as a guest entrance. The Heya is a sleeping room and store with a bare timber floor, accessed from the Hiroma. Its elevated threshold highlights the distinction between the two rooms: the openness of the Hiroma contrasting with the enclosed character of the Heya.