Harima Topics

2022.03.22 Behind the Storefront: The Character of Edo-period Merchant Townhouses

What might the townscape surrounding Himeji Castle have looked like back in the Edo period? Remnants of its old buildings provide clues that spark the imagination about the days of yore. Traces excavated suggest that the area’s traditional wooden merchant townhouses were generally long with a narrow front. These townhouses, called ‘machiya,’ were distinct for having a shop space in the front and almost half of the plot’s rear bare. A Himeji City Archaeological Research Center staff member says this was normal, that you could call it a free space for the residents. Some built kura storehouses on theirs, while others had gardens to grow their food. Indeed, the character of every townhouse lay not in its front but at the back behind the store.

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