Lecture by Professor Yoshifumi Muneta
In 1864, many houses in Kyoto were destroyed by a fire caused by the Hamaguri Rebellion. The construction of the workplace-cum-dwelling townhouses known today as machiya began shortly afterward. The wooden architecture provides a special nostalgic atmosphere to the city’s landscape. Even today, the remnants that epitomize the way of living as practiced by the original inhabitants and their wisdom and innovative spirits abound. To help you understand the true charm of machiya architecture, we asked Professor Yoshifumi Muneta, a machiya expert and researcher advocating machiya restoration efforts, to answer four key questions.
Typical Machiya Layout
It’s been almost 70 years since the end of the war, but contemporary architecture has failed to create a landscape that outshines the ambience rendered by machiya townhouses, both individually and collectively, as well as the streets surrounding them. The people who have lived in great historic urban centers around the world, like Paris and Florence, know how to appreciate the beauty of kyo-machiya, which are to them at least on an equal footing with the urban splendor of European cities, and they know how to enjoy life based on that appreciation. Machiya were first discovered by artists as attractive spaces to live and work. Young people with good taste followed suit.
The long-time residents of machiya are also re-discovering their beauty, which lies below the superficial surface.