Machiya: Traditional Japanese Houses
A ‘machiya’ is a traditional wooden house that is especially typical of Kyoto city. Machiya originated during the Heian period (8th-11th century) and were continuously developed during the Edo and Meiji periods. It was the artisans and merchants of the cities who lived in machiya.
Structure of Machiya
Kyoto machiya are wooden houses with a narrow front and great depth. Normally, the front is 5 to 6 meters wide, while the bottom is up to 20 meters deep. Sometimes, machiya contain one or more small interior courtyards. The workshop or shop is at the front of the building, right after you walk in. On the inside, machiya are divided into private areas; a series of rooms with raised wooden floors covered with tatami (straw mats) and an unlifted service area that includes the kitchen.
Nowadays, most machiya have been converted into cafes, restaurants, and shops, meaning that you can enjoy the traditional atmosphere over coffee and a sweet. If you want to see machiya in Kyoto, the Nishijin area is the area you should visit. This old textile weaving district still boasts a high number of machiya, which gives the area a picturesque and traditional feel. You can also find the Textile Center, the Urasenke Chado (tea) Research center, and an amazing public bath, Funaoka Onsen.
If you book a tour with one of our private guides and you like historical districts, they will make sure to take you to this lovely area as well.