Traditional Houses

We thought of ourselves
living under a great tree

–Nakamura Yoshiaki


In ancient Japan, there were essentially two different types of houses. The first was what is known as a pit-dwelling house, in which columns are inserted into a big hole dug in the ground and then surrounded by grass. The second was built with the floor raised above the ground. The style of house with an elevated floor is said to have come to Japan from Southeast Asia, and this type of building was apparently used to store grain and other foods so that they wouldn’t spoil from heat and humidity.

In around the eleventh century, when Japan’s unique culture came into full bloom, members of the aristocracy began to build a distinctive style of house for themselves called shinden-zukuri. This type of house, which stood in the midst of a large garden, was symmetrical, and its rooms were connected with long hallways. It allowed residents to enjoy seasonal events and the beauty of nature.

MINKA is a short documentary film about a remarkable Japanese farmhouse and the memories it contains. In 1967, an American journalist and his adopted Japanese son rescued the ancient house from the snow country of Japan, and their lives were forever changed. MINKA is an intimate story about place, architecture, memory and the meaning of home.