The wooden houses of Kyoto are unique feature of Japan’s ancient capital. Known as machiya, they’ve helped create the city’s distinctive low-rise character. But now, they’re under threat. This next report looks at a movement to try to save them. American Simon Baumer likes Kyoto machiya so much that he bought one to live in. His home is about a hundred years old. Every day, we spend time in different rooms, experiencing, like, what’s great about each one. In the winter, we spent much time in a kotatsu room, keeping warm. In the spring and in the summer, we’ll open up the windows and enjoy the weather outside. We love it. These days, a growing number of people are interested in buying old machiya- either to live in themselves or to convert into accommodation for visitors to the city. We’ve received inquiries from all over the world- Taiwan, Singapore, the U.S.- including some multi-millionaires.
‐We can’t find it anywhere else.
‐We converted a kotatsu room from charcoal into electric.
‐We converted a futon closet into a toilet.
‐We converted a walkway from outdoor into indoor.
‐You can buy a new house anytime, but you can’t build a new machiya.
*Steep = 階段が（急な）、Beam = 梁（はり）
However, the owners of the machiya are often unaware of the demand and are selling them for redevelopment. As of 2010, there were around 48,000 old houses left in Kyoto. Fusae Kojima is one of those who worry about this trend. She runs an NPO dedicated to preserving machiya. If Kyoto is to remain Kyoto, we must pass on the culture of wooden architecture, including machiya. After consulting with Kojima, some owners have decided to preserve their machiya. The owner of this row of five houses was approached by a construction company that wanted to buy the land. For a moment, she considered selling up. But Kojima paid a visit and advised her the buildings had many original architectural features. I was told the tiles and wooden fixtures were valuable. I started to think I would rather restore these machiya and rent them to people who can appreciate them. Kojima’s NPO is now working with Kyoto City to encourage owners not to destroy their machiya, to keep the historic townscape for the future.
-It’s important to preserve aspects of the culture that people identify with.
-We have cultural preservation societies, historic and architectural building societies.