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Split personality dwellings

September 28, 2010

Do you know what this is? Yes, thank you, I know it’s a house. But it’s a fairly rare remaining Bunkajutaku (Culture House)–at least in Tokyo, there are probably more in the country side. You know what one is, because in all likelihood, you, like most “first-world” people have seen “My Neighbour Totoro” and Mei and Satsuki’s house is a Bunkajutaku. It’s the ultimate hybrid Japanese house.

See, on the right side, it’s all “Japanese-y” and on the left it has one good “Western” addition which is usually a living room (lots of scare quotes because, yes, they are big and fraught terms that can wait for a better place to be pulled apart).

These kinds of houses were, at one point, all the rage. Try image googling 文化住宅 (cut and paste) and you can see quite a few of them. I took this picture last Thursday when I was lost, somewhere in Matsubara, near that mischievous Tokyo Swimming centre. It was huge and beautiful, and really to do it justice I should have gotten shots of the luscious garden too.

It’s kind of interesting to think about the Bunkajutaku versus the contemporary house. Without going knee deep into the problems of calling any construction method “traditional,” Japanese houses now tend to be of a kind of modern, western-ish construction often with a single tatami room/Japanese room/tea room. So, in the early 20th century houses had a front (show off) Western room added on, and now, somewhere in the house is a “traditional” space. I wouldn’t really call any Japanese house Western, even if I call it “modern,” because, you know, they got their own thing going on–as it should be. But still, if you think of the flip flop between what is modern, and what is fashionable, it’s a bit of fun to ponder. But either way, the hybridity thing lives on.

Ah hybrids. I do love my cyborgs.

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