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.
Lafcadio Hearn, was an Irishman who was a naturalized Japanese and who took the name Koizumi Yakumo. He is well known as the writer of such books as Kwaidan, which contains ghost stories including Hoichi the Earless and Snow Woman. Lafcadio Hearn’s Old Residence is the house where he spent half the year, from May through November in 1891, with his new bride Setsu. Setsu was the daughter of a samurai family from Matsue. The residence has been well preserved and few changes have been made. It is also known as “Herun’s Old Residence”, Herun being a rendering of his name - Hearn, in Japanese Roman letters. He loved the name and he often used it himself.
Lafcadio Hearn’s Residence was originally built for a samurai of the Matsue Clan during the period 1716~1735. It is said that Hearn, eager to live in a samurai house, rented the residence which was unoccupied at that time.
Hearn especially loved a room from which he could see the garden on three sides. He enjoyed the garden so much that it was mentioned in his book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan.
Old Hinojuku honjin is the only honjin (the inn for the nobility and daimyo) building existing in Tokyo today. The original building was destroyed by fire on New Yea’s Day in 1849. What remains today was rebuilt by the proprietor of honjin and Nanushi (village officer), Sato Hikogoro. The construction works took as long as ten years until 1863. He lived here and reopened honjin in December, 1864. Keenly aware of importance of self-policing at the time of the fire, he enrolled at Tennen Rishin-ryu swordsmanship school. Being conferred full mastership later, he opened a dojo at home, where the members of the Shinsengumi including Kondo Isami, the commander, and Okita Soshi, the captain of the 1st unit, dropped in and practiced kendo on their way to Kyoto. There remains a room where Hikogoro’s younger brother in law, Ichimura Tetsunosuke was provided shelter after he visited Hikogoro to hand him the picture and a personal memento of Hijikata Toshizo, the deputy leader of the Shinsengumi. Old Hinojuku honjin is a historically important place not only as a honjin building but also as the place with many other roles.
Hatago, or also called hatagoya, were the inns that offered accommodationand meals to the travelers at shukuba (post stations) along the national highways in the Edo period (1603-1868). The word “hatago” means “traveling basket,” which was originally derived from baskets that contained food for horses and were carried by travelers. From there, the word came to be used for a bascket in which travelers carried their own food and goods. In due time, it took on the meaning of “the meals served at inns,” and then of an “inn” itself.
Hatago were classified into three types by its capacity; Oo-hatago (large-sized inns), Chu-hatago (middle-sized inns) and Sho-hatago (small-sized inns). Also a hatago with meshimori onna (rice serving women) was called Meshimori-hatago, and without these women was Hira-hatago.
Staying without meals had been the rule, but after the middle of the Edo period, the half board system was commonly adopted. However, hatago were notorious for terrible meals, dirty futon mats and crammed shared rooms !
There are several traditional hatago still in existence today.
Honjin was a special lodging established in a post station of the main national roads in the Edo period (1603-1868). It was built for use by daimyo, Hatamoto (direct retainers of the Shogun), government officials, Imperial envoys, Imperial family members, and Monzeki (Buddhist priests of aristocratic or imperial lineage). The word “honjin” originally means the camp or field headquarters of a general from the late Heian period to the early Edo period. Later on, accommodations for a general were also called honjin, and then it was diverted to lodgings for travelers of high social rank.
In most case, the proprietor of general office managing a post station (Toiya) or the village head officer (Nanushi) was appointed to be the proprietor of a honjin. Those who owned honjin were not warriors but they were given the privilege of wearing swords and a surname (myoji taito). They were also allowed to build the gate and the entrance porch for their private area.
The site where Honjin was built usually had an area of more than 3,300 sq m, and the main building was built in accordance with formalities, which included the Onarimon Gate and the raised room (Jodan-no-ma) as the main guest room. Presently, there are 13 honjin existing and open to the public. Among them, the largest is the honjin at Kusatsu-juku post station on the Tokaido Road. With as many as 39 rooms, a building area of 1706 sq m, and a site area of 4727 sq m, it is designated as a national Historic Site.
Shokasonjuku Academy is where Yoshida Shoin, a distinguished intellectual in the Choshu domain, ran a private academy in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is designated as a National Historic Site.
It is a one-storied small wooden house with an area of only 50 sq m. Originally, it only had an 8-mat lecture room. With the increase in the number of disciples, a 4.4-mat room, two 3-mat rooms, the doma (earth-floored space) and a mezzanine floor were added by the hands of Shoin and his disciples.
In 1842, Bunnoshin Tamaki, Shoin’s uncle, founded a small academy in his house. Later it was discontinued for a while but Gorozaemon Kubo, Shoin’s another uncle, repaired the barn into a lecture room and resumed the academy. Then in 1857, Shoin took it over and developed many youths.
He treated his disciples equally regardless of the social status. Most of his disciples were sons of low-ranked warriors. Though he taught at the academy for less than three years, his disciples absorbed his ideas and played key roles in bringing about the Meiji Restoration. His disciples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Yamagata Aritomo, Ito Hirofumi and Shinagawa Yajiro.
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.
Tea house has an entrance 60cm in height and width called Nijiri-guchi or Nijiri entrance. Nijiru means “to move forward on your knees with both hands down on the floor”.
Nijigi-guchi is said to be introduced by Sen no Rikyuu who had this idea when he saw fishermen ducking to enter their boathouse in Hirakata City, Oosaka, and applied it to his Nijyou tea house. It is customary that upon entering a tea house, visitors bow their heads, kneel down with their hands on the floor and move forward with their knees. Nijigi-guchi is regarded as a boundary to separate the inside of a tea house from the outside world. The low entrance makes any visitor regardless of their social status humbly bow upon entering and it allows the cleansing of impurities from the outside world before entering the tea room.
Nijiri-guchi also has a spatial stage effect. Tea house is usually small. But by entering through an even smaller nijigi-guchi, visitors feel that the tea house is higher and deeper than it actually is.
Nigiri-guchi is an original concept that embodies a spirit of humbleness which is a virtue unique to Japan.