I love the Japanese style house, because it is simple and practical. One room could be a living room, a bed room, a dining room or a study room. My parent’s house was built in the early 20th century and I grew up there. I used to hate the old house because the bathroom was so cold in winter. The restroom was located under stairs and this made me scared and I could not go by myself till entering elementary school. In winter, it was a nightmare to move from one room to another due to its coldness. In summer, we couldn’t sleep well on muggy nights. We had to survive sultry nights with only fans. I dreamed to live in a modern apartment with a clean and automated bathroom, air conditioners and bright corridors.
My parents broke down the old house and built a modern new house after all their kids left. I liked their new house, but I sometimes wonder whether they could have reformed the old house into a modern one with earthquake proofing and the latest equipment. When I traveled in Japan, I encountered beautiful old houses that had to be torn down because no one lived there. I started to take an interest in how to maintain and renovate old houses with useful equipment.
Japanese Style House of Kanjiro Kawai
Kanjiro Kawai’s house is one of my favorite old Japanese style houses in Kyoto. Kanjiro Kawai’s house could be a reference point of how to maintain a Japanese house with practical and convenient manners. It is astonishing to experience a different world behind a sliding door on a pedestrian side street.
Kanjiro Kawai was a ceramic artist leading the Japanese handicrafts protection and folk art movement known as “Mingei”. Mingei movement had a vision of elevating everyday utilitarian objects into artworks worthy of study and appreciation. Artworks included woodwork, folk paintings, textiles and pottery.
Kanjiro Kawai designed and built his house in 1937, referring to his hometown houses and Hida Takayam area’s houses. Kanjiro Kawai’s house is integral to Kawai’s vision. It has wide open windows, very cozy living rooms and a huge ascending kiln to bake ceramic arts. The ascending kiln was so huge that I was worried about whether it was safe to construct it among so many wooden houses in Kyoto.
Kanjiro Kawai’s furnishings and collections are unique as his works. You can see around his house in one hour, but you can stay more than 2 hours if you wish. Kanjiro Kawai’s house is about 20-30 mins walk from National Museum or Sanjusangen-do.
Chinese Bronzes of Sen-oku Hakuko Kan Museum
In Kyoto, you will find various kinds of museums and galleries, from tiny and cozy museums such as Kawai Kanjiro’s house, to Kyoto National Museum, to enjoy Japanese Arts or just take a rest. Kyoto National Museum was constructed in 1895 with Western Europe influence. The museum changes special exhibitions seasonally.
I visited Sen-oku Hakuko Kan. One of the financial cliques, Sumitomo Zaibatsu, collected old arts from Japan and neighboring Asian countries from pottery and calligraphy scrolls as well as important Chinese bronzes and Korean ceramics. The collection is large and varied. The design of bronze ware seems very exotic and it’s fun to find several animals in the patterns.
My favorite was the collection of hundreds of unique Chinese bronzes the museum has collected over more than 100 years.
Sen-oku Hakuko Kan is located near Tetsugaku-no Michi between the Nanzenji Temple and the Ginkakuji Temple. If you want to take a rest with some air conditioning, Sen-oku Hakuko Kan is very reasonable. The site was not huge, but I spent nearly 2 hours there to enjoy Chinese bronze.
In Kyoto, each museum and gallery is near famous and popular historic sites, so it is enjoyable to stop by unique museums.