minka 民家
CATEGORY: architecture / folk dwellings
 
Folk dwellings. A general term for vernacular dwellings of the ancient, medieval, or premodern periods, or rebuilt in the style of the period. Broadly divided into country dwellings (farmhouses nouka 農家; fishermen's dwellings gyoka 漁家; mountain dwellings sanka 山家) and merchants' town houses *machiya 町家. Traditionally, minka were not designed by architects, but were built following the building conventions of each region in each period. They used local materials, labour and skills, as well as employing a style and lay-out closely related to the lifestyle of each region. These features tended to change very slowly from one period to another so minka are rich in local colour, blend very well with the landscape, and retain a variety of local structural features. The term minka is said to have originated in China and is first documented in Japan in the mid 12c. Minka in Japan are primarily constructed of wood, and are characterised by combining an area of packed earth floor *doma 土間, with a raised-floor living area yukaue bubun 床上部分. Roofs are either gabled *kirizuma-zukuri 切妻造, hipped *yosemune-zukuri 寄棟造, or hipped and gabled *irimoya-zukuri 入母屋造. Houses with the main entrance on the gabled side of the building are called *tsumairi 妻入; those with the main entrance on the non-gabled side are called *hirairi 平入. There are a large variety of floor-plans used in minka, the most common being the so-called hall plan *hiromagata 広間型 and the four-room type yomadori 四間取. Other arrangements include the divided ridge type *buntougata 分棟型, and front reception-room type maezashikigata 前座敷型. The roof is usually the most prominent feature of the minka, and there are a number of roof construction methods, the most important of which are: the principal rafter house *gasshou-zukuri 合掌造, which has a pair of thick principal rafters, *sasu 叉首, at the ends of the roof beam; the king post roof structure *shinzuka 真束, where a series of central struts support the ridge-pole; and the so-called 'Japanese style' wagoyagumi 和小屋組, which uses a number of roof struts koyazuka 小屋束, and numerous penetrating ties *nuki 貫. Special regional roof constructions became particularly numerous in the late Edo period. These included the L-shaped farmhouse *magariya 曲屋, the Touhoku 東北 style L-shaped farmhouse *chuumon-zukuri 中門造 incorporating a stable *umaya 馬屋, and the thatched kabuto-zukuri 兜造 which was fitted with a silk-worm loft sanshitsu 蚕室. Features like the pent roof *geya 下屋, or peripheral areas *hisashi 廂, were often constructed to enlarge a house without infringing special laws limiting the length of beams *hari 梁, allowed. In general, early minka were relatively closed with small windows and single sliding doors *katabikido 片引戸, whilst from the mid-Edo period larger openings and pairs of sliding doors in double-grooved tracks *hikichigai 引違, were introduced, and minka included spaces to receive visitors, called *zashiki 座敷, or *okuzashiki 奥座敷. The overall size of minka tended to increase over time, and features of the shoin style *shoin 書院, like the decorative alcove *tokonoma 床の間, built-in table tsukeshoin 付け書院, open friezes *ranma 欄間, horizontal rails *nageshi 長押 etc. were included in wealthier minka. Merchants' houses tended to be built in castle towns *joukamachi 城下町, and had a much smaller floor-space than farmhouses. A narrow facade with several rooms behind it was common; the earth-floored area tended to be reduced to a narrow passage running down the side of the house. The roof construction usually used the wagoyagumi system, and structures often had two stories called nikaidate 二階建 or *chuunikai 中二階. Machiya with tiled roofs and with boarded roofs survive today.
 
 

 
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