Thursday, 4 June 2009

Interlude: Kura

Kura (traditional Japanese storehouses) are a uniquely Japanese response to a uniquely Japanese problem. Being made of wood and paper, traditional Japanese houses are prone to fires. As well, rooms in these houses are usually sparsely furnished. Kura were built to protect a family's valuables and store furniture and other items not used in the main house.

Although designs and materials vary from region to region, kura typically have thick clay walls covered with white plaster to reflect the heat and act as a fire retardant, tile roofs, and small, often richly decorated windows with thick shutters.

As more and more Japanese move into modern houses made of permanent materials, there is less and less need for kura. Consequently, their numbers are declining. During my journey across Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo I came across kura both old and new in many different styles and made of many different materials. Some of the older kura were in a poor state of repair. Others had been converted into shops or cafes. I also came across modern buildings designed to mimic the style of kura. Below are a few of the photos of kura I took during my walk along the Tokaido.

Reconstruction of Edo-period kura at Shukuba no Sato, Ishibe (note the raised floor)

Unusual kura near Minakuchi
Dilapidated kura, Minakuchi

Kura near Kameyama

Close-up of window

Modern kura near Akasaka

House built to resemble kura, Arimatsu

Kura converted into Chinese restaurant, Hamamatsu

Coffee shop built to resemble kura, near Fujieda

Stone kura, Odawara

Kura with ladder, Odawara

Kura converted into coffee shop, Oiso

Dilapidated kura, Totsuka

Close-up showing layered construction

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