Sunday, January 31, 2010
The above pictures are of the exterior and interior of a Japanese farm house from the Gifu prefecture circa 1750. "An Important Cultural Property", this building is one of many in Sankien that had been carefully taken apart from another place in Japan and rebuilt in the gardens. The thatched roof, probably a foot and a half thick and covering a massive structure, completely amazed me. How long must have that taken to construct?
As we entered the "front door", we saw that the stable/barn connected openly to the living room and kitchen. When I brought this oddity up in class, my students explained that Japanese farmers do not see their animals as food but rather as one of the family workers. So, they are kept cozy and safe in the most important part of the house.
Inside, the polished plank floors were dark and cold...even farmers/villagers take off their shoes at the door. Two traditional charcoal fire pits (the blog's main picture) warmed the living area and the kitchen. The fragrant smoke drifted up the narrow and steep stairs to the second floor, creating a somewhat magical light. The smoke, I learned, helps keep the grass-thatched roof free of bacteria and mold.
The second floor, one large room and formerly the sleeping quarters, held a small, mildly interesting display of farming instruments and pottery in its center. By this time, my feet were going catatonic from the cold...as I hurriedly looked through the cultural items, I noticed that both sides of the room were slatted and open to the floor below.
Lily freaked out when she learned that these areas were used to raise silk worms, a lucrative commodity in Old World Japan. She was not impressed by how rich a farmer could get by raising these little critters. In a not so demure voice, she exclaimed in disgust, "Ewwwww! The silkworms could poop on their heads?!"
Instantly, I imagined Lily as a Japanese girl from yesteryear, wearing a wide-brimmed hat indoors and constantly in a state of the willies. What do you want to bet, 10 years from now, that she remembers that bit of trivia above all else when asked about her travels in Japan?
Posted by Nancy B at 4:07 PM