Feb 25, 2017 Doma–entrance hall where domestic animals used to live


Old Japanese house in rural area has had a wide entrance hall called “Doma (土間)”, where domestic animals such as horses or cows once used to live.  Domestic animals were a sort of family members, because those have been served to cultivate field and transport people. Doma  also served as a place for threshing crops and make straw crafts such as ropes (nawa) and mats(goza). In short, Doma has been a space designed as an indoor workplace.

We don’t think that our house’s Doma really served to keep animals, but it surely served as a workplace.  Still today, we are happy to have that Doma to cut timbers and assemble them for making wisteria trellis (Fujidana or 藤棚).



Doma literally means “room with earthen floor”.  The floor is earthy but hard and flat, made by clay added with lime and salt.



Doma has two windows with no glass, that in order for smoke to go out of the house as smoothly as possible (the notion of chimney has been non-existent in old Japan). In old days, people have also been using Doma as kitchen, to cook rice and boil water with fire.

The entrance door is very wide.

But the entrance can also be made very small in order to prevent strangers to penetrate.



Feb 19, 2017 Mon: entrance gate for Samurai

The main gate of the old house, or Mon (門),  has been designed for welcoming higher ranked guests such as samurais and monks. The main gate leads directly to the room with Tokonoma, or Zashiki.

The family members or casual visitors should have been using other entrances to enter into the house.  Could be Doma, Engawa, or any openings to the house (the house has openings in every direction).

The main gate Mon carries a decorative roof with the ridge-end furnished with a tile ornament, designed to protect the house against evils. Among many types of Mon, ours  is called “Mune-Mon”, because the “Mon” carries a roof (Mune).


We are planning to build a wisteria trellis along the wall leading to the Mon.


Feb 13, 2017: Kamidana & Butsudan –for Gods and Ancestors


Most of the old Japanese houses have a room called Butsuma, which shows both Kamidana & Butsudan.

Kamidana is a small-scaled shrine to pray at home to gods of ShintoismKamidana has three gods in it: Amaterasu Omikami of Ise Great Shrine, the most venerated Shinto sanctuary, a local guardian god and a third god of your choice. Kamidana is located in the upper area of the room, facing south, or east.


Butsudan is a small-scaled temple to pray at home for Buddhism deities and for ancestors.

It has been quite common in Japan to have two altars side by side in the same room: Kamidana of Shintoism and Butsudan of Buddhism.  People believed in both religions.

In the room, we also have wooden sticks to hook lanterns on the wall. These lanterns, made by woods and paper, should have been used to brighten up the road of a wedding ceremony in old days.

During winter, we use Kotatsu to warm up our legs.



Feb 7, 2017 Room with Tokonoma or Samurai guest room

Most of traditional Japanese houses have a room called Tokonoma (床の間).   During feudal era, the owner of this house should have welcomed his upper class guests in this room with Tokonoma, which is the best room in his house. When the owner is a Samurai with lower rank, he is supposed to receive Samurai of higher rank in the room with Tokonoma.  When the owner is a wealthy farmer, he should also receive  Samurai guests in the room with Tokonoma, or alcove, is a corner located in the best place of a guest room (i.e. the most distant point from the entrance).  Generally, TTokonomaa is decorated with Kakejiku(掛け軸), a long vertical hanging scroll.

We have renovated the room with Tokonoma first, just after we bought this old house one year ago.

After repairing walls by ourselves, we asked a Hyogushi(表具師), a professional guy specialized in dealing with wall paper to furnish the walls with traditional wall paper, named Karakami(唐紙).  The guy put paper nicely on the walls with the same method as has been done more than 100 years ago.

After the work, the room with Tokonoma regained its original splendor of the old days.


Guests of higher class have had different entrance than that for the owner family.  The entrance for guest is called Shikidai(式台).