Japanese “Ki” House

The first architectural method is the Japanese “Ki” house.

The Japanese word “ki” means both “wood” and “spirit,” which refers to the temperament, feelings, and climate.
The compound meaning of the word “Ki” is a house made of domestic wood that is suited to the climate and temperament of the Japanese people.

Even with the development of civilization, we still do not have control over the climate. The situation has not changed since time immemorial, where we humans have to adapt to the climate because the climate does not adapt to us. The irony is that we have turned the climate into something unlivable and dangerous.

Even though the world is getting warmer, there is still a huge difference between countries and regions, so it is only natural to consider the climate of the place where you live as the most important factor. It is natural for house designs to differ from place to place.

The same is true for the human temperament. The way we express our emotions, the way men and women relate to each other, the way we relate to our families, and the way we relate to our neighbors differ greatly from country to country. Different temperaments lead to different ways of living. If the principles of life are different, it is only natural that the floor plans and other designs will be different. There is no such thing as a uniform plan or construction method throughout the world.

Ignoring the obvious, modern Japan is trying to apply the same concept to the construction of houses. The result will be a vicious cycle of global warming and other factors that will eventually lead to further deterioration of the climate.

Prefabricated, panelized, 2×4 imported homes and even steel plate homes are just a few examples. This is the worst industrialized home that only pursues profits.

Building a house in the land of Japan.

If you take Japan’s climate, the Japanese people’s temperament and lifestyle seriously, there is no question that a house made of wood is the answer. It is a natural consequence that the layout and design of the house should be done in a way that makes use of the wood. It is frightening to see how Japanese house building has strayed so far from this fundamental concept. Unfortunately, most of the houses built with conventional axial construction methods, which are considered to be Japanese wooden houses, are not Japanese wooden houses at all.

Today, only about 20% of Japanese lumber is used in the construction of houses, and the majority of conventional construction methods are built not with native lumber, but with non-native lumber that has crossed the sea. In addition, solid wood is disappearing and being replaced by artificial materials called laminated wood.

If you look at the interior, you will want to cover your eyes. Vinyl cloth, plywood flooring, and other flimsy finishes, as well as the richness of solid wood and plaster have become nostalgic scenes. Although the term “traditional Japanese construction method” conjures up the image of inheriting Japanese traditions, in reality, it is a foreign construction method.

Some people describe these changes as technological progress, but if you look at it with a straight face, it is more likely that the densely accumulated techniques have been cut to the bone, and we have fallen into a shallow method of frivolously creating only the surface.

I mentioned in the previous section that the architectural method, i.e., passive house building, is the essence of house building, and if we aim to build a healthy house in Japan, the first architectural method is the Japanese “Ki” house.

In a climate with a lot of humidity and a severe difference in temperature between summer and winter, the basic premise of a Japanese “Ki” house should be to use thick materials grown in our own country, to build the frame of the house using a method of wood construction that has been developed over an uncanny amount of time, and to finish the floors, walls, and ceilings, which make up the majority of the living space, with solid Japanese boards and plaster.

However, it is very difficult to make use of these natural materials. If we return to the traditional way of building houses and materials, there will be no problem, but in reality, many materials and surrounding technologies have changed drastically, no matter how much we use domestic solid foundations, pillars, beams, and boards.

For example, foundations have changed from stone to concrete, roofs are no longer made of thatch, walls have changed from earth and boards to mortar and siding, insulation has been placed in the walls, and windows have changed to aluminum sashes.

The floor plan has also changed from the shape of the Chinese character 田 to a multi-bedroom house. If you take a close look at these changes, you will see that they all have one thing in common: they have become vulnerable to moisture.

Moisture absorption and desorption properties have disappeared, drafts have disappeared, ventilation has become poor, sunlight does not penetrate deep, etc. This construction method has unintentionally led to the spread of moisture damage.

In order to make the best use of domestic lumber, it is necessary to add architectural methods that cover the weaknesses of these modern construction methods and change them into positive aspects. Let’s think about how to achieve this.

Yoshiaki Tanaka

From the book “The Real House I Finally Found


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