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Traditional Folk Houses Offer Look at Past

June 19, 2013 Destination North Asia No Comments Email Email

Imagine going back into time several centuries to experience traditional Japanese folk homes built from as early as the 16th century up to the 19th century.

In the Nohara House, the hearth is used daily.Visitors can do that in a centralized location at the Japan Open-air Folk House Museum or Nihon Minka-en in Tokyo’s neighboring city of Kawasaki.

These authentic houses, also referred to as ‘minka’ in Japanese, reflect the wide usage of earth, wood and stone in the completion of these farming houses originating from Japan’s prehistoric past. They integrate traditional forms with architecture, art and nature.

The museum is more like a park in the heart of a forest that is home to a collection of some 25 structures, including the houses, a shrine, a water mill and a Kabuki stage, all of which can be visited along a strolling path connecting one structure to the next. Each Edo-period house, coming from different parts of Japan, was re-erected in the museum, first starting in 1965 by the city of Kawasaki. Depending on their original location, the houses display different styles of their thatched roofs, gable windows, all adapting to the wide-ranging environments of the region — ranging from heavy snowfall in the north to typhoons in the south. The homes are grouped into several so-called villages depending on the region where they were first built: Shin-etsu, Kanto (Tokyo), Kanagawa and Tohoku.

In some of the houses, visitors can observe the basic implements used in kitchens and in daily living as well as implements then used for farming. Some houses such as the Nohara House feature sunken hearths that are actually lit and used during the museum’s hours, where visitors can actually sit around and enjoy tea.

And in the Yamashita house, soba (buckwheat) noodles – hot or cold — are served in a tatami-style setting to further enhance the experience of the museum.

Along the paths there are volunteers who spend their time creating crafts such as straw slippers and baskets while a workshop is available at the traditional indigo dyeing structure.

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