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Spirited Away: A Traditional Japanese Home in the Countryside

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Spirited Away: A Traditional Japanese Home in the Countryside

November 10, 2023

Regular readers of our site are likely aware of our admiration for The Modern House, the impeccably curated UK-based real estate website. A few years back, when the company launched a biannual print magazine devoted to thoughtful design and considered living, we were offered a sneak peek and found ourselves poring over the story on Ryo Kashiwazaki’s enchanting weekend home.

In 2018, the acclaimed footwear and accessories designer bought an old traditional house in the Japanese countryside, about an hour from Tokyo, where he and his family live. He was looking for a rural escape from urban life (and his demanding job as creative director and founder of Hender Scheme, his artisanal leather goods brand) as well as a place for his two young boys to be able to “explore and play in nature without constraint,” he told the magazine.

“The children are delighted with this old folk house as it reminds them of the ones they see in anime movies, especially when I open and close the shutters. They are always in high spirits here and have fun finding wild frogs and beetles. We wake up feeling incredibly refreshed in the morning here, and I love spending time relaxing on the porch – the flow of time in a day is different from the city.”

Here’s a glimpse of their slowed-down, idyllic life in the country.

Photography by Mariell Lind Hansen, courtesy of The Modern House Magazine.

&#8\2\20;the porch is one of the charms of a japanese traditional house& 17
Above: “The porch is one of the charms of a Japanese traditional house…. Another charm for me is the high quality of the craftsmanship that this house was built with, especially the beauty of details like the sliding doors, wooden frame and joinery that has stood here for over 100 years,” Ryo told the magazine.
&#8\2\20;the house is \130 years old and was originally built with a thatch 18
Above: “The house is 130 years old and was originally built with a thatched roof. It was changed when the former owners renovated it 20 years ago. They invited a first-class carpenter from Fukushima prefecture to live here and repair this house during the winter. The exterior remains the same as it was. When I moved in I cleaned up the interior a little, and replaced the heating and air conditioning.”
the kotatsu, a low table with a heavy blanket, is a traditional japanese home f 19
Above: The kotatsu, a low table with a heavy blanket, is a traditional Japanese home feature. “During the colder winter months, the kotatsu, which has a heating element underneath, becomes an important part of our daily life – a place to eat, drink, play and rest,” says Ryo.
the rattan floor seats were made in nagaoka, in niigata prefecture. an akari la 20
Above: The rattan floor seats were made in Nagaoka, in Niigata prefecture. An Akari lampshade hangs above.
the doma, an indoor outdoor space in traditional japanese homes. 21
Above: The doma, an indoor-outdoor space in traditional Japanese homes.
“this bedroom gets excellent light,” says ryo. 22
Above: “This bedroom gets excellent light,” says Ryo.
leather slippers and rug by hender scheme. &#8\2\20;the leather we work wit 23
Above: Leather slippers and rug by Hender Scheme. “The leather we work with at Hender Scheme changes over time, and this is the most interesting aspect of the material. Homes, too, change depending on who lives in them and how. But in both, an element of tradition – the unchanged – is good. There are things that should be broken and things that don’t have to be broken. This house connects me to that idea.”
&#8\2\20;i like older architecture, which drives my imagination to wonder w 24
Above: “I like older architecture, which drives my imagination to wonder why these buildings were made in such ways. Once these traditional houses were just ordinary dwellings, but today they require the skill of a specialist craftsman. It’s hard and expensive to find people who are able to do repairs on the houses now – it’s a skill that is being lost in Japan”
the outbuilding is used for firewood storage. 25
Above: The outbuilding is used for firewood storage.

For more on Japanese design, see:

N.B.: This story originally ran on October 11, 2021, and has been updated.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the article about?

The article is about a traditional Japanese home in the countryside called 'Spirited Away'.

Where is the home located?

The home is located in the countryside of Japan.

What is the significance of the name 'Spirited Away'?

The name 'Spirited Away' refers to the famous Studio Ghibli animated film, which featured a bathhouse with spirits. The home in the article takes inspiration from that film.

What are the key features of the traditional Japanese home?

The key features of the home include a thatched roof, sliding doors, a cozy interior with tatami mats, and a beautiful garden.

Is the home open to the public for visits?

No, the home is not open to the public for visits. It is a private residence.

Who designed the home?

The home was designed by a Japanese architect named Katsutoshi Sasaki.

What is the concept behind the design of the home?

The design of the home aims to seamlessly blend traditional Japanese elements with modern comforts and functionality.

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