Heian Kento 1200 – Revitalization of Kyo-machiya


Heian Kento 1200 – Revitalization of Kyo-machiya

Five years after the Heian Kento 1200, the theme of 「伝統と創生」“Tradition and Revitalization” was embodied by public’s expanding interest in the past. With the functions revaluated academically, other aspects of kyo-machiyas were further investigated. Since 1995, a GIS database was established based on the “Kyomachiya Community-building Survey” which was led by the government, Ritusmeikan University and architects with the joint assistance from voluenteer citizens. The survey was divided into three stages: StageⅠ(1995-1998), StageⅡ(2003-2004) and  StageⅢ(2009-2009). Although the database suggested that the number of existing kyo-machiyas was keep decreasing from 34279 to 30348 (decreased by 11.9%) to 27796 (decreased by 8.4%), [1]it was undeniable that the decreasing was slowing down and a renaissance of kyo-machiyas was observed.

As an Kyoto carpenter Shigeru Yamamoto wrote in his book:

“When I first began my career as a daiku, the attitude toward Machiya was negative. It was just an old building that did not meet the modern style of living. Many Machiya were demolished or renovated with modern materials such as aluminum frame windows. We did not hear the word Machiya (町屋) often; my father called them chyouka (町家). However, cultural lenses change over the time as proven by history. I remember when miso soup was believed to be unhealthy at one point, because of the high sodium that it contains. Machiya are now called KyoMachiya, and many people favor them.” [2]   

The most distinctive process of the revitalization was the renovation of machiyas’ function. According to the survey, the number of kyo-machiyas that was renovated for commercial programs has increased from 50 in 1993, 151 in 1998 to around 400 in 2001. Take the Nineizaka and Sanneizaka Preservation District as an example, an increasing number of traditional dwellings were transformed into shops, new-style souvenir shops, restaurants and workshops, which are mainly for luxury and qualitive goods. The following map shows the comparison of building functions between 1988 and 1999[3].

The commercialization of Nineizaka and Sanneizaka was mainly attributed to the change of lifestyle and the boom of tourism. As indicated by the Ministry of Agriculture’s report, with the increasing income, eating-out gradually took a significant share in the food expenditure.  Besides, as has been mentioned in other post, 14 attractions were designated by the UNESCO, which strengthened the Kyoto’s identity as an historical city around the world. The subsidies for preservation increased rapidly along with the growing number of tourists, which created a virtuous cycle and encouraged the creative renovation method of kyo-machiya.[4] The creative methods of preservation during the kyo-machiya revival movement will be further illustrated in another post.

[1] 京都市. “京町家まちづくり調査集計結果.” (1999).

[2] 瀬戸寿一, and 矢野桂司. “京町家づくり千年の知恵-間口三間を生かす独自のこしらえ京町家づくり千年の知恵-間口三間を生かす独自のこしらえ, 2003 : p12

[3] Suebsuk, N., & Nakagawa, O. Transformation and Modification of Historical Building Use, and Owner Motivation for Urban Conservation in the Nineizaka and Sanneizaka Preservation District, Kyoto, Japan.

[4] Muneta, Yoshifumi. Logic of kyomahciya revitalization. Kyoto: Gakugei Publication, 2008

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