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Mushikomado Shoki Guardian Statue Battari-shogi benches Shitaji Mado Window Okudosan Inu Yarai Torii Kura treasure storehouses Komayose
Mushiko mado window
Mushiko mado literally translated means ''insect cage window''. These windows, always on the second floor, are rectangular and cut as bars from the second story walls. Kyoto's humid summers are famous for being terribly hot and humid. Cut through the upper floor walls, these windows were designed as a discrete way of ventilating a home. These windows let the cool are in and the hot air out, and yet someone on the street level is unable to see into the house (privacy has always been prized in Kyoto).

Shoki Guardian Statue Shoki Guardian Statue
On the roof above the entrance to many machiya, you may see a 20-30cm clay statue wearing Chinese-like clothes. This is Shoki. Shoki is originally from ancient China. One day the emperor of China was sick in bed and had a dream. Shoki appeared in the dream and swept away the demon that was trying to steal the empress's treasure. When the emperor woke from his dream he was no longer sick. This is where the belief began that Shoki was a guardian. Shoki appeared on Kyoto machiya roofs in the late Edo period (1600-1867). In those days, machiya often had demon tiles on the roof to keep evil away. One day the wife of merchant living in a machiya looked at a demon tile across the street from her home and suddenly became ill. No one could find a cure for her and soon people began to say that the demon tile had caused her to become ill. A doctor who knew of the Shoki story order a tile maker to created a Shoki doll. When they put the doll facing the demon tile that the woman had looked she became well again. Since that time Shoki have been placed on the roof above the door of machiya. When you walk around Kyoto, look for them.

Battari-shogi benches Battari-shogi benches
Battari-shogi are wooden benches that fold out from the street front of a machiya home. Battari refers to the sound the bench makes as it hits the ground. Shogi means floor bench. The benches were first used in the Heian period (794-1185) as a place to display the things a merchant was selling, for the merchant and a customer or two to sit down, and as a place for merchant family members to sit in the evening to watch the activities on the street. Later, in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), larger benches were created to display more goods; these benches could be folded away. Nowadays, it is extremely unusual to see a battari-shogi folded down and in use. But you can still see them if you look hard (they are often the same color, dark brown, as the wood wall behind them).

Shitaji Mado Window Shitaji Mado Window
Shitaji mado are barred windows cut right into the earthen wall of a machiya. The master of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), came up this idea as a simple way to decorate at tea ceremony room and let in a little light. A lattice made of bamboo or tree branches is attached inside. Sometimes, for interior rooms, paper is glued to the lattice. If the window is on an exterior wall, usually no paper is used. Common shapes for shitaji mado are large rectangles (with rounded corners), and horizontal ovals. This kind of window is often seen next to a sliding door or tokonoma alcove.

Okudosan Okudosan
Okudo is the Kyoto word for the traditional, pre-20th century kitchen hearth (called kama in standard Japanese). Kyoto people have many words that use the san suffix, which is usually used to refer to a person in a polite way: as in Tanaka-san (Mr./Mrs./Ms. Tanaka). Okudosan refers to the area where house wives prepared meals with big pots over the hearth (often built of thick day with holes for the pots). To protect the home from fire, special talisman from Atago Shrine (home of the dirty of fire: on Mount Atago or Atago-san ! on the west side of Kyoto) were placed near the oven (they still are!). The largest hearths had three iron pots: one for boiling water, one for cooking rice, and for side dishes. You can still see these practical, built-to-last hearths in many old machiya townhouses. Usually there is a shelf above the okudosan where the lucky god Hotei stands (7 in a row are especially lucky). The chubby, cheerful god is a symbol of good business and thousands visit Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine, etc. every year in February to get a new Hotei statue (clay).

Inu Yarai Inu Yarai
Inu yarai is a bamboo fence that curves (sometimes straight) outward to the street from machiya homes. This device served several purposes: 1) it prevents the machiya earthen or wooden wall from becoming dirty from rain splashing up from the road; 2) it was meant to stop dogs from peeing on the wall (Inu means dog); 3) it keep people from loitering in from of the machiya and leaning against the wall (remember: Kyoto pulsed with street life of all kinds until the middle of the 20th century; 4) inu yarai also made it difficult for burglars to climb the wall.

Torii Torii
Torii is the shrine gate. Usually it is made of rock or colored auspicious red-orange (best example is the huge one at the Heian Shrine). The torii put on the machiya house is very small and thin. People put them on the bottom of the outer wall. One of the example in the city is the wall of Hiiragiya Ryokan facing Oike Street. It prevents someone from dirt the wall or peeing on the wall by reminding them of shrine god. The contrast of dark wall and torii's red-orange looks beautiful too.

Kura treasure storehouses Kura treasure storehouses
Wealthy machiya family often have a fireproof storehouse on their grounds of their residence. These distinctive thick-walled (more than 50 cm. of clay on an inner bamboo latice), bright white plastered structures were used to safely store family valuables: lacquer, kimono, furniture, family heirlooms and usually some food as well. Many kura have special plaster decoration on them: waves and rabbits (many babies, fast growing) are often used as symbols of increasing prosperity. Decoration is usually on the doors and windows. The inside features thick beams and posts. The windows and doors are opened on occasion to let air flow through but firmly closed the rest of the time, in case a fire does start.

Komayose
Komayose is a wooden grid put around a machiya house wall. It serves to protect the wall from being damaged by rude folk passing by. It is a common machiya structure that began to appear in the paintings from the late Edo period (1600-1867). All komayose may look similar, but they are made with different materials, and can be sized to a wide range of dimensions.

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