Although just last week we took you on a guided tour of traditional Japanese homes that had been given new life, today’s quintessentially Japanese abode is a little different. This is Chochikukyo, an 80-year-old house located in Kyoto designed by the renowned early 20th century Japanese architect Kouji Fujii. It is so popular and well-loved that even the Japanese emperor made a special visit earlier this month!
But what makes it so special? Find out after the break.
The house is an absolutely gorgeous and unique blend of traditional Japanese and modern architecture. However, there’s more to it than that: The house is also Japan’s first eco-friendly house! Built in 1928, Fujii poured all of his knowledge and experience into “making a house that was well-adapted to Japan’s climate and natural features, as well as suitable for the Japanese people.”
The windows on the south end extend quite high up, letting extra sunlight in during the winter. Obviously, this helps keep the rooms warm, reducing the need for heaters.
The house is also designed to let cool breezes flow in during the summer, and uses a series of ducts to disperse the cool air throughout the rooms of the house. The air then leaves through the attic, lowering the temperature of the entire house further. As you can see in the picture above, the ceiling is made of a beautiful weave of Japanese cedar and bamboo.
There are also ducts under the house that pull in cool breezes through the hill on the west side of the house, further reducing the need for air conditioning. Since the earth stays cooler in the summer, the dirt lowers the temperature of the air as it travels to the house. This air is then blown into the house through 30-centimeter-tall vents—the perfect height for someone sitting in seiza (kneeling) in a tatami room. Visitors have commented that, even on hot, humid summer days the rooms are refreshingly cool.
▼ ‘Spacious’ doesn’t even come close
However, the ecological features of the house aren’t the only special things about it. The house is also built with a large number of shoji—paper sliding doors. These doors allow rooms to be quickly expanded or shrunk as needed, like many traditional Japanese homes.
Fujii also kept occupants and visitors in mind, taking special care to plan out the rooms, designing in raised tatami areas. That way, those sitting seiza are at eye-level with those sitting in chairs.
The house also lacks the large pillars so common in old Japanese houses. This creates extra open space and a “panoramic view,” as noted by the emperor himself.
If you’re interested in taking a tour of the house, you can visit it on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Tours last about 50 minutes and start at 10 am, 11 am, noon, 1 pm, and 2 pm. It’s 1,000 yen (about US$10) for adults and 500 yen (about $5) for children. Reservations are required, so be sure to contact them first! You can learn more at their website. (Japanese only.)