Kyoto Machiya Tour! (by our intern Koji Spangler)

Now in Deepest Kyoto we have three intern students who learn Japanese at KCJS(Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies) They will be writing blogs, updating FB pages and will try to contribute to us in various ways!

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Here’s one blog article Koji, one of our interns, wrote on his experience! (AYUKO)

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In the middle of downtown Kyoto, remnants of traditional Japanese architecture stand side-by-side modern shops and high-rise condominiums. Walking into one of these buildings, I was immediately struck by the sudden change in atmosphere: tatami-matted floors, natural sunlit rooms, and traditional carpentry offered stark contrast to the bustling Saturday morning taking place outside on Shijo street.
The event started with a tour led by the engaging and knowledgeable Mr. Yamamoto, who explained the interior of the machiya as we walked about, taking special note of the woodwork and craftsmanship peculiar to the Kyoto machiya. Mr. Yamamoto explained the reasoning behind the layout of the machiya. Machiya are typically narrow in width (due to an ancient tax code that calculated property tax by house width) and very long in length (to accommodate both a business in the front and family living quarters in the back). Characteristic lattice work crosses the front of the house, and the interior is carefully designed using specific wood and building techniques. Mr. Yamamoto explained the traditional Japanese tools and construction methods, and we even got to participate in wood planing (a traditional method of shaving or smoothing-out wood) ourselves!


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After a tour of the machiya, lunch was provided for the guests. Prepared in the traditional Japanese style, this lunch was a delicious break between the Machiya tour and the city tour:


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After lunch we followed Mr. Yamamoto out into the city, to walk along the streets of Kyoto and see more machiya. I was at once interested and surprised to see the traditional machiya in both busy side-streets and empty alleyways. Though I had not noticed them before, I realized they constitute a beautiful and scenic part of the Kyoto cityscape.


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The last thing on our tour list was a visit to “Silte,” a textile shop that specializes in Kimonos and other kimono-related goods. The shop was decorated with traditional kimono cloth, pins, and other unique and beautifully crafted accessories.:


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Machiya seem to be a hidden part of the Kyoto scenery. They’re unique style stands modestly beside the towering, contemporary buildings of the city. A closer look, however, reveals the beauty of the machiya, from its exterior structure to its handcrafted interior. This tour not only afforded me the opportunity to learn more about a historically important architectural structure, but allowed me to look at the beauty of Kyoto in a new light. (Koji Spangler)