玄関 genkan—hallway

In Japan houses are mainly made of wood. Which makes me think they learned nothing from the tale of the three little pigs. Especially when you look at the weather map and see this:

Anyway, a house made of timber may not make you feel particularly secure, especially in a land with more than its fair share of natural disasters. But on the plus side, they build them incredibly fast.

A neighbour’s house was recently levelled, and a replacement house is being built on the same site. Yesterday, it looked like this:

Imagine my astonishment when I passed the same spot on my way home from work this evening (just 24 hours later) and saw this:

All the beams were in place and the roof was already on. I was interested to see that the roof consists of sheets of plywood. It’s a single storey house, smaller than the one it replaced, possibly to suit the needs of an older couple.

 

When the old house was knocked down, they also removed a small shrine that stood in the corner of their property. I was a bit shocked; I assumed they would leave the shrine in place, as removing a shrine essentially means leaving a god homeless. Perhaps they had some kind of ceremony.

If you look at the floor-plan, you can see two areas without wooden floors:

Just inside the front door is an area called the 玄関 genkan. This is a part of the hallway that is physically inside the house, but symbolically outside.

You walk into this tiled area with your shoes on, and then take off your shoes before stepping up onto the wooden floor of the hallway proper. There is lots of storage space for shoes.

With sufficient practice (i.e. living your whole life in Japan), you will take off each shoe and step up onto the wooden floor without either foot touching the tiled floor, and your shoes will be facing in the right direction for when it’s time to go out again.

I don’t know whether it’s acceptable to sit on the wooden floor while putting on and taking off shoes.

 

Behind the newly-built house, there is a covered well.

 

Now, ordinarily one might be tempted to lift the cover and peek inside. But, remember, this is Japan. The well is almost certain to contain one or more of:

SADAKO

 

The jazz-loving narrator of a Murakami novel

 

Or perhaps Okiku.

So, probably best to leave that lid on.

 

 

 

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