namakokabe 海鼠壁
CATEGORY: architecture / folk dwellings
 
Also written 生子壁 A traditional finish for *dozou-zukuri 土蔵造 and *ookabe-zukuri 大壁造 walls, devised to protect the vulnerable surface of the plaster from damage caused, in particular, by water. The wall surface is covered with rectangular flat tiles, *hiragawara 平瓦, held in position by nails, generally one at each corner of the tile, but sometimes passing through one more holes in the tile. The interstices, meji 目地, between the tiles are then covered with fine plaster, *shikkui 漆喰, mounded up into a semicircular cross section, and modelled with great care to attain total regularity of form. It was from a resemblance perceived between the protective strips of plaster, designed to keep the water out, and the sea slug, namako 海鼠, that earned this wall-finishing technique its name. The technique seems to have originated among the warrior elite and was first used in the early Edo period on the *nagaya 長屋 that surrounded warrior mansions, buke yashiki 武家屋敷. By the latter half of the Edo period, namakokabe were being widely used for vernacular houses, particularly on fireproof storehouses, *dozou 土蔵 and the walls of urban vernacular houses, *machiya 町家, and their outbuildings. Geographically, it was most prominent in parts of western Japan, notably the San'in 山陰 and Sanyou 山陽 areas of western Honshuu 本州 and Shikoku 四国, and, from the 19c, further east, in the Izu 伊豆 peninsula. A considerable variety of design motifs were employed. In what are believed to have been the earliest types the tiles are simply set in straight horizontal rows with the joints of the different courses either aligned, (umanori meji 馬乗り目地) or staggered, (imomeji 芋目地). These did not shed water well, and soon deteriorated, so other patterns were tried, notably shihanbari 四半貼り, in which the tiles were hung diagonally, forming a lozenge or diamond-like pattern. This pattern was the most efficient at shedding water and soon became the most common, though a range of still more decorative motifs were also developed, such as the *shippoumon 七宝文. When the nails were passed through holes in the tiles, circular blobs of plaster were used to cover their heads, thus creating another geometrical pattern.
 
Kurashiki Koukokan 倉敷考古館 (Okayama)
Kurashiki Koukokan 倉敷考古館 (Okayama)

umanori meji 馬乗り目地

shihanbari 四半貼り

 
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