When most rooms in Japanese houses had tatami floors, an easy daily cleanup was done with broom and dustpan. Sweeping removed dust quickly and was a simple activity that kept everyday life clean.
Such scenes are seen less and less often these days, but is this a good thing, even though our lifestyles are getting more diverse? Just to clean up a small space, we have to pull out a vacuum cleaner, use it for a short period, then put it back.
Bearing this in mind, why don't you keep a broom and 'harimi' (paper dustpan) in your room? A harimi is made from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin, and the size is about 20cm. The color of a harimi is appropriate and it will fit in with any kind of room. The size is quite small and it does not appear jarring.
Daily tools like a harimi look wonderful, even when left lying around in a room. Moreover, a harimi is very useful when used with a small broom for little spaces such as desktops and shelves.
Chizu-shuku in present-day Yazu-gun, Tottori Prefecture once flourished as the largest post town in the prefecture in the Edo period (1603-1868). The old houses and the guideposts still remain in this historic town. Among the houses on the old street stands out the residence of the Ishitani family, who had owned huge areas of agricultural and forest land since the Edo period. Denshiro Ishitani, the head of the family in the Meiji period (1868-1912) was a member of the national parliament.
Denshiro conducted a large-scale repair work to the former building in 1919, and about ten years later, completed the present residence with 40 rooms and 7 store houses on the site with an area of about 10,000 square meters. The main building has the features of old samurai residences. The householder’s room facing the garden is built in Shin-zukuri style. The stroll style pond garden can be viewed from each room. Several architectural styles are in good harmony with each other in this magnificent residence. It is registered as a national Tangible Cultural Property and designated as a municipal Cultural Property.
The residence of the Nakamura family located in Yuto-cho Ubumi, Nishi-ku, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref. is a historic Japanese house, which is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property. In 1483, the head of the Nakamura clan, Nakamura Masazane, became a retainer of the Imagawa clan and moved to the village of Ubumi. In the 16th century, when the province was ruled by the Imagawa clan, the Nakamura clan served as the local governor and controlled military ships on Lake Hamana. Later, the Nakamura clan served for the Tokugawa clan and was appointed as the Imagiri military ship and food supply administrator (Imagiri Gunsen Hyoro Bugyo).
The residence is presumed to have been built around 1688. It is a one-storied house in Yosemune-zukuri style with a large thatched roof. Surrounded with trees growing in a huge premise of 3,000 square meters, this historic house is well preserved as the treasure of the town. From 2001 to 2003, the house was demolished and restored to the present form.
The Uematsu family’s residence located in Susono City Chuo-Koen (city park) in Senpuku, Susono City, Shizuoka Pref. is a private house of an old-established family. According to the oral tradition of the family, the Uematsu family moved from Owari province (present-day Aichi Pref.) to this place in 1193, when Minamoto no Yoritomo did hunting at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The generations of the family head served as Nanushi (village officer) in the Edo period (1603-1868).
The time of its construction is not clear but presumably at some time in the early 18th century. The house was nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1973 and donated to the city. Then it was dismantled and restored in the city’s Chuo-Koen (park) , which is a scenic spot of the city and famous for the Goryu Waterfall, a National Monument.
It is a two-storied house, which was very rare at the time. The monitor roof for natural lighting and ventilation is set at the top of the roof. Doma (earth floor), kamado (old-styled kitchen range), irori (fire hole) and nando (closet room) are preserved inside the house.
The Yoshihara Family Residence is one of the historic residences in the region. It served as a residence for successive wealthy farmer family, the Yoshiharas, who were the descendants of Fujiwara no Kamatari and moved from Kyoto. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1991.
From the talisman preserved in the family, the main house was supposedly built in 1635. It is the oldest farmhouse in Yosemunezukuri-style (a square building) with a thatched roof. The large main house includes six rooms and the doma (the earth floor space). The large doma space is supported by the double beam system without using any pillars.
The interior of the house is provided with every luxury imaginable for a farmhouse of the time. The velar-cut figure of the thatched kirizuma (gabled) roof remains in the original beautiful form. The nure-en (a shallow veranda) at the back of the house gives a touch of old Japan. The Yoshihara Family Residence is reminiscent of good old days in Japan.
Sokken Yasui’s residence located in Kiyotake-cho, Miyazaki-gun, Miyazaki Pref. is a designated National Cultural Asset. Sokken Yasui, a great Confucian scholar of the late Edo period, was born in the town of Kiyotake in 1799. Since his childhood, he was fascinated by learning. His accomplishment was highly evaluated as the comprehensive study of Confucianism in the Edo period, which served as the foundation for the near modern study of Chinese classics. He also fostered as many as 200 excellent figures including Kanjo Tani and Munemitsu Mutsu, base don the idea of “One should begin planning for the day in the morning. One should begin planning for the year in the spring. One should begin planning for their life in their youth.”
On the grounds stands a stone monument with the verse written by Ietatsu Tokugawa. The plum tree planted by Sokken himself still remains in the garden. Visitors can sense the atmosphere that produced a great thinker, who had a large influence in the world of thought at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
There is a custom in Japan in which people purchase or receive a hamaya (evil-repelling arrow) on a visit to a shrine for the first time (hatsumode) in the new year (oshogatsu). The arrow is a good luck charm for good fortune in the coming year. Sometimes the arrow comes in a set with a hamayayumi (evil-repelling bow).
The origins of the hamaya come from a ritual called 'jarai', a customary ceremony that took place at new year in the imperial courts to exhibit people's abilities with bow and arrow. The target used during this ritual was called 'hama', hence the names 'hamaya' ('the arrow that hits the target') and 'hamayumi' ('bow used for the target').
Originally, jarai only took place in imperial courts, but during the mid-Heian period, the word 'hama' ('ha' means 'destroy' and 'ma' means 'evil') changed its meaning. The ritual then became a custom at new year in which common people gave a toy bow and arrow to any family with a male child.
Other customs that developed include setting up a hamaya on a ridge in the direction of the 'demon gate' when building a new house, and sending hamaya and hamayumi to relatives and friends on the 'hatsu sekku' (first annual festival) of a newborn baby.
When did it become customary taking the shoes off when entering a house in Japan? According to one of theories, it was during the Nara and Heian period when the tatami mat was first introduced to household. Tatami is made of rice straw, therefore, it was considered as sacred, connecting to the gods. Around the same time, shoes were introduced from the Korean Peninsula and became popular among the aristocrats. It is not difficult to imagine that people hesitated to walk on tatami mats with their shoes on, which may be a blasphemy to the gods. Westerners wear shoes all day long until they sleep. They find it uneasy to take off shoes at an entrance of a house when they visit Japan. It is generally regarded as bad mannerism to take shoes off in front of people in the West. The meaning of taking off shoes varies, and is dependent on the country and the culture.