MINKA: Houses of the People
Farmhouses and Urban Machiya Townhouses
Minka come in all shapes and sizes depending on the plot of land, surrounding natural environment and the lifestyle of the residents, but there are two major classifications. The first is the farmhouse or noka which served as residences and meeting places for farmers and their rural family. Most farmers did not have the resources to import building materials, so the core noka structure was comprised of cheap and readily available materials like bamboo, wood, clay and a variety of local grasses. The second classification of minka is machiya or urban townhouse. Machiya residences were mainly built in downtown areas between the Edo Period (1603-1868) and the end of World War II (1945). Most machiya residents also used their homes as places of business with a welcoming storefront and elevated reception area which served an integral part in the cultural fabric of the city. Most machiya were built exclusively of wood using a traditional Japanese building technique known as mokuzo jikugumi koho (wooden post-and-beam construction). Unlike noka, most machiya also had a second story which was used by the family for living and also for additional business storage.
Japan is home to several "open air" museums showcasing Japanese architecture throughout history. For more information regarding these special destinations, I have provided what I consider to be the finest examples in Japan.
Open air museum for preserving and exhibiting Japanese architecture of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). This is the home of the former Imperial Hotel Tokyo Lobby designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
This lovely hillside park features numerous farmhouses and commercial buildings from the Edo to Taisho periods.
The museum just outside of Tokyo features 25 buildings from all over Japan from the 17th to 19th centuries.
The museum features the beautiful gassho-zukuri minka houses unique to this mountainous region of Japan.
Kakunodate, located in northern Japan near Akita, is home to one of the best preserved samurai residence neighborhoods in all of Japan. The city also boasts some of the most spectacular cherry blossoms during the spring season.
The old postal road Nakasendo is home to two historic towns - Tsumago and Magome. This is a walker/hiker paradise.
Photo Gassho-zukuri Farmhouse © Bernard Gagnon. All rights reserved. 2008