Lose Yourself in the Style of Japanese Home Decor
It was the year 1727.
Dressed in a peach-colored Kimono 着物, the tapping tune from your Geta-clad 下駄 feet resonates across the halls of your Sukiya-Zukuri-structured 数寄屋造り abode rich in Japanese home decor as the tranquil scenery of the beautiful yet destructive Mt. Fuji draws you in. Like a mellifluous Hogaku 邦楽 produced by a Koto 箏, whispers of rose-tinted Sakura さくら trees brushing against the Shoji doors blend in harmony with the gushing water streaming down the Shishi-odoshi 鹿威し. A dramatic barging on one of your Fusumas 襖 transported you back from your afternoon daydreaming. They were the soldiers of Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune who ordered to have you slayed after learning about your espionage against Emperor Nakamikado. As swift as the winter breeze, the horrified look on your face reflects upon the Samurai‘s サムライ Katana カタナ as your whole life as an undercover spy during the Edo period flashes before your eyes.
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Then a buzzing sound coming from your phone breaks the deafening silence and wakes you – it was your friend from the 21st century who might have just saved you from experiencing death in the worst possible way. Your dream, although tragic and a nightmare in disguise, bestowed upon you the privilege of having a glimpse of what it is like to live in a Japanese traditional home and immerse yourself in various Japanese home decor. Rooted from their Shinto 神道 and Buddhism beliefs that worship the forces of nature or Kami 神 , the Japanese way of living is deeply intertwined with natural elements. This ideology birthed the Japanese home decor centered on the Zen philosophy or finding beauty in the unadorned and simplistic form of art. Japanese home design celebrates minimalism as manifested in light, space, form and materials evident in a traditional Japanese house allowing the absence of nonessential matters or orderliness to be the focal point of the overall interior design.
Japan’s architectural heritage is as majestic and profound as their colorful history which the walls of their grand temples and noble farmhouses have witnessed over the years. One of the most notable Japanese traditional home design is the SUKIYA-ZUKURI 数寄屋造りor Suki meaning delight in the pursuit of elegance based on the context of tea ceremony; this design is patterned on the style of a Japanese tea room or CHASHITSU 茶室. This traditional Japanese residential home originates from SHOIN-ZUKURI 書院造 or a Samurai house focusing on the reception area that is mainly used as a discussion room for planning wars and battle tactics. This Edo period house eliminates formality or fixed style offering an honest and hospitable atmosphere to its residents. The concept of the trendy Wabi-Sabi 侘寂 as well as the Japanese art of flower arrangement or IKEBANA 生け花 originated from this functional architectural design.
TAKE A STEP INSIDE THE ART OF JAPANESE HOME Decor
EDO PERIOD – MEIJI PERIOD
Japanese civilization remains prominent and relevant for its great contribution to the fields of arts and literature – one of which is architecture as manifested in various traditional Japanese houses that have withstood periods of wars and natural disasters. Regardless of the ancient social hierarchy to which these Japanese home designs are attributed to, a traditional Japanese home decor is rooted and constructed from the same natural materials almost as if a reflection of a condescending society that evaluates a person’s value based on his social ranking despite of the fact that we are all vulnerable creatures cut from the same cloth.
The initial and culturally-driven Japanese home decor you are exposed to is the GENKAN 玄関 or the entry vestibule. This area greets your presence and politely asks you to remove your shoes and to leave them at the doorstep. Removing shoes before entering the house is an entrenched tradition in Japan that can be traced back to the Heian period when Japanese people used to wear Zooris and Getas; these footwear gets easily covered in mud which makes it harder to clean for houses with Straw mat flooring or TATAMI 畳. A traditional Genkan has a platform stone called the KUTSUNUGI-ISHI 沓脱石 where you leave your outdoor shoes followed by a wooden platform called the SHIKIDAI 式台. Often, there is a cabinet for you to place your dirty shoes at. Not much has been altered in Genkans found in a modern style Japanese home design except that the stone is usually replaced with just a sunken area before the elevated wooden platform.
Decorate your home the Japanese way through the art of WABI-SABI .
A traditional Japanese-style room is called WASHITSU 和室, an open room that has no specific purpose. According to Joel Neff, “Washitsu is a place where light and air move easily, where purpose is defined by the needs of the occupants. The Washitsu, in other words, is whatever you want it to be.” Although the essence of Washitsu is difficult to grasp within words, its components are rather simple, pure and straightforward. Often coined as a Tatami room, the main element of a Japanese style room is a Straw mat flooring called TATAMI 畳 that is approximately three by six feet with edges that are bound with a strip of black or gray fabric. This floor surface is convenient in terms of — cleanliness as guests will be required to leave their shoes to avoid dirt from sticking, noiseless for its soft surface, and comfort from sitting and kneeling on a ZABUTON 座布団 or a Japanese cushion in front of a CHABUDAI チャブダイ a low wooden table, or even lying on a FUTON 布団 or a Japanese bedding.
Another major Japanese home decor is a SHOJI 障子 or FUSUMA 襖 – the latter is a sliding panel acting as an interior wall that can easily be detached to rearrange spaces within the house; this has heavier and opaque paper or cloth which can be decorated as compared to a Shoji. A Shoji is the exterior wall that is made with translucent paper stretched over a wooden frame; it serves both as a window and a door not only to reveal the Zen garden but also to diffuse light and air throughout the room – bringing one closer to nature. Japanese people are fond of breathable spaces, hence, RANMA らんま or a wooden transom panel found above a Fusuma that is intricately designed and carved is also installed to allow more air and light to move between rooms.
JAPANESE SHOJI AND FUSUMA – image courtesy of Flickr | The Kimono Gallery | Nippon
Traditional Japanese home decor predominantly incorporates wood since Timber is abundant across the country. Apart from its resistant to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, wood is also an ideal material that can endure Japan’s humid climate. These are some of the most artistic Japanese traditional furniture: BYOBU 屏風 or a decorative folding screen is mainly for decoration but also to establish privacy, OSHIIRE 押し入れ or a large closet is where Futon, Zabuton and MAKURA 枕 or pillows are stored, finally the TANSU 箪笥 or chest is a wardrobe space and storage drawers built in sections for portability.
TOKONOMA 床の間 is an alcove built into the wall that is elevated about four or five inches above the floor where Japanese crafts and decorations sentimental to the residents are placed such as SHODO 書道 or Japanese calligraphy, KAKEJIKU 掛軸 or a hanging scroll, YAKIMONO 焼物 or Japanese pottery, SATSUMA-WARE 薩摩焼 or Japanese porcelains, paintings like UKIYO-E うきよえ or KAIGA 絵画, and plants or flower arrangements like IKEBANA 生け花 or BONSAI 盆栽.. These artistic Japanese home decors adjust as the season changes. A respected guest is traditionally seated next to the Tokonoma with their back facing the spot; a humble gesture that avoids showing off your wealth or prized treasures in front of your visitors.
Another multipurpose traditional Japanese home decor is the ENGAWA 縁側or an elevated wooden veranda which circles the house functioning both as a porch and an outside corridor when Shojis are shut closed. This area is where Japanese people love to sit and have tea and cakes on a summer afternoon but primarily this feature serves as a prelude to the garden.
Japanese people view bathing as a leisure activity and long baths are common for them. However, long before they had the privilege to take baths inside their humble abodes, they would often visit communal baths or SENTO 銭湯 to pamper and wash up. It is not until the Meiji-era when bathrooms became a staple of a Japanese home and are constructed inside. Based on their tradition, it is customary to clean yourself before entering the bath hence, a segregated room is dedicated for this tradition. Baths are often in a separate room from the where the toilet is located. The earliest Japanese bath tubs are made of wood and are commonly short and deep.
More than keeping their places stylish and sleek, Japanese people perceive their home as a place where the sense of meditation and comfort are always invited. Home is a place where they can be who they are.
Are you feeling that inner Zen in you and itching to renovate your place based on these Japanese home decor ideas? Tokyo Grand Renovation (TGR) is eager to help you discuss your Japanese style interior design cravings. Conveniently located in the leading business district in Metro Manila, TGR’s headquarters is at 9110 La Campana St. cor. Trabajo St., Brgy. Olympia, Makati City, 1207.
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