KEY WORD : architecture / general terms, aristocratic dwellings, folk dwellings
Lit. the front, surface, or exterior of something.

1 The front part of a house and the area around the front entrance of a fortified enceinte, i.e. the enclosure surrounding a town or castle joukaku 城郭, a warrior residence buke yashiki 武家屋敷, or an ordinary vernacular house *minka 民家. Omote is incorporated into terms such as *omotemon 表門 meaning, front gate omote-maguchi 表間口, the width of a property frontage, and omote-nagaya 表長屋, the range of ancillary structures flanking the main front gate of an Edo period buke yashiki. By extension, it may mean the length of a street immediately in front of a house or plot of land.

2 In the Momoyama and Edo periods, in the houses of the warrior class from the shogun down to the middle ranking warrioros, bushi 武士, the omote was the formal part of the residence, and was used for state ceremonies, governmental administration, and a place for the reception of guests. The scale and layout of the omote varied according to social status, but was a common feature in most residences. Most had a formal entry porch *genkan 玄関, and one or more *shoin 書院 style reception rooms, which had a decorative alcove *tokonoma 床の間, a shelving recess *chigaidana 違い棚, and study window tsukeshoin 付書院. In the residences of the shogun, daimyou 大名 and major vassals, women were not, in principle, permitted to enter the omote and were confined to the *oku 奥 zone. In these large structures, the omote and oku were each self contained residential units, linked by corridors. In smaller scale buke yashiki, by contrast, the oku tended to function as the service zone for the omote.

3 The main formal reception-cum-living room in Japan's two oldest surviving minka, the Hakogi 箱木 house (15c) and Furui 古井 house (16c) in Hyougo prefecture. Occupies the front half of a three room suite of living rooms, kyoshitsubu 居室部. The name is also used in houses with a similar plan in Wakayama and Shimane prefectures and other parts of western Japan.

4 The formal area at the front of a suite of three rooms, one behind the other. Found in some 17-18c gable-entry *tsumairi 妻入, farmhouses nouka 農家 of the Kyoto and Osaka region. The omote has a wide open veranda called enge 縁げ at its front.


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