machiya 町家
CATEGORY: architecture / folk dwellings
1 Also written 町屋. One of the two main categories of vernacular house *minka 民家. From the mediaeval period, through the Edo period and into the Meiji period, the urban houses of craftsmen or artisans shokunin 職人, and merchants shounin 商人, classes collectively referred to as townspeople, chounin 町人. Typically, machiya directly abutted the public street, and combined residential functions with the accommodation of a workshop or manufacturing space, office and retail space. The shop *mise 店, usually occupied the front part of the house and had sliding or folding shutters of various sorts which opened to the street to display wares. In plan, machiya shared with the other major vernacular category, the farmhouse nouka 農家, a similar internal division into an unfloored service and circulation space *doma 土間, and a kyoshitsubu 居室部 of one or more rooms with raised timber floors, overspread in the more sophisticated houses with straw mats *tatami 畳. As with the farmhouse, a great door *oodo 大戸, giving access to the doma was the usual main entrance to the dwelling. The typical machiya plot was narrow but deep, with storehouses, kura 蔵, and other ancillary structures at the rear of the house. The doma was a vital through-passage to the area behind the house. It was commonly referred to as a *tooriniwa 通り庭. This arrangement was particularly associated with the Kansai 関西 region and western Japan. Notably in parts of the Kantou 関東, a different arrangement was widespread, with an unfloored area, called maedoma 前土間 across the front of the building. Most machiya were *hirairi 平入 houses with their eaves overhanging the street, but gable-entry *tsumairi 妻入, houses also occurred in some areas. Plot size varied, with plot width *maguchi 間口, in particular, being an index of wealth: 3-3.5 *ken 間 (approximately 6m), was a standard maguchi in Kyoto during the Edo period, but a large machiya might have a frontage of more than 10 ken (18-20m). General trends in machiya design include a change from perishable roofing materials like shingles held in place by stones *ishioki itabuki 石置板葺, or thatch, to tiles, and from walls with the structural timbers exposed, to thick overall plastering *ookabe-zukuri 大壁造. Both developments were partly an attempt to provide protection against fire. Upper floors also develop from dark, low attics to suites of full-height rooms. In the most sophisticated machiya, all of these phenomena were, however, in evidence by the beginning of the Edo period. The earliest surviving machiya (Kuriyama 栗山 house, Gojou 五條 in Nara) dates from 1607, but the term was already in use in the mid-Heian period, since it is included in the 10c dictionary of Japanese, WAMYOUSHOU 倭名抄, where it is written 店家. This seems to have referred to small houses outside the designated east and west market areas of the capital, but facing the street and incorporating a space that served as a shop. Rows of such small houses are depicted in late-Heian picture scrolls *emaki 絵巻, such as Nenjuugyouji Emaki 年中行事絵巻, though not all are shown with shops at the front.

2 An area where artisan or merchant houses are numerous.

3 In the ancient and mediaeval periods, buildings in a *machi 町 (definition 6 ) were used as lodging or withdrawing areas by the staff of a particular office or department of a large institution or elite household. An example is the Kuroudodokoro Machiya 蔵人所町屋 in the Inner Palace, Dairi 内裏 of Kyoto Gosho 京都御所.


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