On Thursday, August 8, Tomodachi members and guests gathered at Tokoname Restaurant in Manoa for the annual “Let’s Talk Luncheon.” This year’s featured guest speaker was Ms. Pauline Chakmakjian, a Trustee of the Japan Society of the UK and a Governor of the English-Speaking Union. She is an expert in the subject of Freemasonry and has also had the experience of living in a machiya. Machiya, literally meaning ‘townhouse,’ are made of wood. Major fires in the 1800s destroyed many machiya so today there are virtually no examples of machiya more than 120 years old in downtown Kyoto. They were the homes of merchants. From the street view, machiya appear to be narrow but are actually very deep. This is because merchants were taxed according to the width of street front property. Machiya are distinguished by their features such as battari shogi (a wooden fold out bench in front used to display the merchant’s wares or sit on), inu-yarai (a bamboo cover in front to act as a dog barrier), komayose (hitching post), koshi (lattice doors), and mushiko mado (‘insect cage window’ on the second floor for ventilation).
Machiya are an important part of Kyoto’s historical and cultural heritage, built in the traditional style of wood construction. The number of machiya has been slowly decreasing as they are costly to repair, dangerous with their steep steps, and not resistant to earthquakes or fires. Most machiya are currently used for private homes or businesses. It is even possible to stay at an Iori machiya (see www.kyoto-machiya.com for more information).
JASH would like to thank Ms. Chakmakjian for taking time to give a lecture during her Hawaii visit. A big otsukaresama to outgoing co-chair Shirley Miyamoto for her two years of hard work in planning and coordinating Tomodachi events.