Japanese “Ki” house

Ki means wood and spirit.
Japanese kanji “木” is wood and Japanese kanji “気” is mind or spirit and “気候” is weather. 木 and 気 both are pronounced “ki”.            

So, Japanese “Ki” house has multi meanings.

The term “Japanese Ki” house has a complex meaning, such as a house made of domestic woods that suits 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.
It is ironic that we have turned the climate into something dangerous and unlivable.  

Even though the world is getting warmer, the differences between countries and regions are huge, so it is only natural that the climate of the place where you live is of utmost importance. It is natural that house building differs from place to place. 

The same is true for the human temperament.

The way emotions are expressed, the relationships of men and women, family relationships, neighborly relationships, etc., vary greatly from country to country. 

Different temperaments have different ways of living.  

If the principles of life are different, it is natural that the floor plan and other designs will be different. 

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan or construction method.

In today’s Japan, we are trying to apply such identification, which ignores these obvious, to house building as well.

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, two-by-four, imported houses, and even steel-plate houses are just a examples. These are the worst kind of house building by the industry for the purpose of profits.

Building a house in the land of Japan.

If we take seriously the climate of Japan, the temperament of the Japanese people and their way of life, there is no question that a house made of wood is the answer.

It is a natural consequence of this that the layout and design of the house should be in such a way as to make the most of the wood.
It is frightening to see how Japanese house building has strayed so far from this fundamental principle.

Even more unfortunately,
Most of the houses made of conventional wood, which are considered to be Japanese wooden houses, are not.

It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that domestic timber is now rarely used in house building.

The majority of conventional construction methods are built using non-native timber from overseas, rather than native species.

In addition, solid wood is disappearing and being replaced by artificial materials such as laminated wood.

In addition, the thick timber has disappeared, leaving only thin timber.

Japanese wooden houses can no longer be counted on to be sturdy and reliable.

Naturally, the way of constructing the wood has also changed.

Gone is the dynamic and strong timber frame, replaced by the poor pre-cut and hardware of mass production.

If you look to indoors, you’ll want to cover your eyes.

Vinyl crosses, plywood flooring and other flimsy finishes have replaced the richness of solid wood and plaster which became a nostalgic landscape now.

The term “conventional construction methods” may sound like a traditional Japanese method, but in fact it could be called a foreign construction method.

Some would describe this change as a technological advance, but if we take it seriously, it is more likely that we have lost the densely built-up skills and have degenerated into a shallow, frivolous method that just only make the surface.

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

In a climate with high humidity and severe temperature differences between summer and winter, it is essential to build a house using materials grown in your own country, using a wooden framework that has been perfected over many years, and using solid Japanese boards or plaster for the floors, walls and ceiling which make up the majority of the living space.

However, it is very difficult to use these natural materials in the best possible way. If we could return to traditional building methods and materials, there would be no problem, but the reality is that many of the materials and surrounding techniques have changed dramatically, even if we use thick domestic foundations, posts, beams and boards.

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

The floor plans have also changed from the Japanese Kanji character “田” plan to LDK layout. A closer look at these changes shows that they all have one thing in common: they have all become more vulnerable to damp.

The loss of moisture absorption and desorption, the loss of draughts, the loss of ventilation, sunlight does not penetrate deep enough etc., have all led to a construction method that unwittingly contributes to the damage caused by damp.

In order to make the best use of thick domestic timber, we need an architectural approach that covers up the weaknesses of these modern methods and turns them into positives. Let’s take a look at how this can be achieved.

Yoshiaki Tanaka
From the book “A real house I finally found “


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