The Smell of Tatami

Phrase Reference: ‘over here’= in Tokyo

At my new residence, I may only reside here for a short time as the owner intends to knock the house down and build something modern. Criminal! I thought. Anyway, I thought it might be worth documenting as I haven’t commented much in the way of interiors or dwellings recently.

Cycling or just casually strolling around neighbourhoods over here is an experience of architectural exploration for me. You can generally work out the year the house was built by identifying familiar characteristics, either by the shape of the windows or the style of the front door etc. Unless a modern building has some notable stand-out features, I generally take more interest in old wooden structures, especially ones that are over 40 years old, partly dilapidated and covered in ivy. Heaven!


When I first lived in Tokyo, old wooden houses were still fairly common to see around the ‘Ku’ (inner city) and ‘Shi’ (the suburbs). When I use the term ‘old’, that means built it the 70s or 80s. ‘Old’ has an entirely different meaning over here. Observing and documenting residential architecture in Tokyo has always been an interest for me. I got the bug while house hunting in Tokyo about 15 years ago. Every weekend, we viewed a considerable amount of places. Ranging from old shacks (my cup of tea) to state of the art interiors. Some of them way out of our price league, though it was engaging being shown round and just acting the part. You could say the house viewing experience was akin to going to an art exhibition made up of entirely installations and industrial design. We generally viewed old houses. The older the house, the cheaper it is to buy. Plus lease holders are exempt from paying property land tax for houses built over 30 years ago. And that saves a few quid on your outgoings each year. So regarding property, the trend over here is, basically, you buy the land and knock down whatever structure is presently standing upright on it. Mad isn’t, it?


The following slideshow presents ‘at a glance’ interior and the exterior

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Interior/Exterior Characteristics

The next slideshow presents typical characteristics of an interior built between the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. The main characteristics would be wooden sliding doors, a variety of patterned glass, squatting toilet, a visible electric system and not forgetting the smell of the tatami mats. From about 30 photographed objects, I’ve whittled it down to about half a dozen. The more prominent, identifiable and characteristic objects survived the cut!

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