A feature of the house I’m looking forward to is the engawa. An engawa is a narrow space that serves as a transition space between the indoors and outdoors. It’s a place where you can sit, drink coffee, and vegetate while viewing the outdoors. The engawa was common in traditional Japanese homes but rare in modern Japanese homes. Too bad, I think it’s the best aspect of a Japanese house.
My grandparent’s house in Tokyo had an engawa that ran the whole side of the house and faced a small garden. I spend a lot of time in that house, every summer as a child and throughout junior high. The house was located in Tokyo’s Yanaka district, a quiet section of the city that’s dense with temples and shrines.
Opposed to newer sections of town:
Many of the houses in this district, including my grandparents’, survived the fire bombings during the war. Unlike the rest of Tokyo, it retains a hint of “old Japan”. If you’re not familiar with the fire bombings, the animated movie Grave of the Fireflies from Hayao Miyazaki’s studio opens with a realistic depiction of the fire bombings. I highly recommend this movie, its available at Netflix. Even though it’s based on a true story, it’s a rare films that works better as an animation than with live actors. Caution, it’s a serious film and not your typical Disney or sci-fi fantasy animation.
After my grandparents passed away our family decided to sell the place, it’s been replaced by a multi-story condo building. I sure wish one of my relatives had kept it, it’s such a good location. On a clear day you could see Mt. Fuji from the second floor.
I found this blog that has photos of the street where my grandparents’ house was located. In the fourth photo down, my grandparents’ place was at the top of the slope. The remaining photos depicts a house that was a few houses down from my grandparents’ and houses a museum for old “daimyo” clocks.
The current state of our engawa and raised floor:
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I came across your site when I was looking for the meaning of engawa (was editing a paper on architecture this morning)…and now I realized that I already spent about 2 hours on your site already 🙂 I enjoyed seeing the developments of your house-building project. I like Japanese culture, design, and yes, food! Can I write a blog about your house? If this ok, you can send me photos in my email (indicated here). Please share a little bit about you and your wife so I can write a bit about the owners of this beautiful house. Congratulations and best wishes! P.s. Hope the koi fishes are now safe from the predator birds. 🙂
Sure no problem.
Thanks! If ok, please send me photos of your house through my email. By the way, I also like “suikinkutsu” and hopefully, I can build it once it’s time to build a house with my husband. 🙂 Have fun! Thank you again!
Hi Mr. Mori,
I wrote to you previously. As I mentioned to you, I fell in love with the design of your house so I wrote about it and shared some of your photos. You can already view it at
Thank you so much again for your openness and trust. God bless you and your family this 2011 and beyond!