View Full Version : Indonesia, Philippines, a glance into Japan's past ?

A ke bono kane kotto
Jun 13, 2010, 05:18
I saw a documentary about the Philippines and Indonesia. Many country people still live in huts and wood houses without windows. This is what houses looked like in Japan before the Westernization. Traditional houses with thatched roofs or just poorly built wooden shelters were the most common habitations in Tokugawa Japan. Nicer merchant or samurai houses were preserved in cities like Kyoto, but all the poor houses were destroyed. Those that we can see in open air museums like the Nihon Minka-en are much nicer than what most ordinary houses must have been.

I think that if we want to have an idea of what peasant houses in Japan looked like at the time of the samurai, and how people lived (this we cannot see in open air museums) the best is to visit remote Austronesian islands. These people are also animists, like most Japanese peasants (Buddhism was for the elites, and Zen specifically for the samurai).

Jun 13, 2010, 17:05
I see what you mean. Having travelled throughout South-East Asia for 3 months myself, I have had the opportunity to see the "huts" your are talking about. But don't expect to find them everywhere you go. Jakarta, Manilla and other cities are just as much concrete cities as Japanese ones. Even in the country one has to push quite deep, out of the beaten tracks.

Indonesia is huge and I only saw a tiny part of it, but it is in Lombok (island next to Bali) that I experienced the traditional lifestyle, with people still living in tiny windowless houses where the thatched roof touched the ground. These are usually one-room huts with earthen floor. They aren't quite like Japanese ones because even poor traditional Japanese dwellings had two floors (even if the top floor was like an attic accessible through a ladder), and the "ground floor" was actually elevated from the ground because it was covered with tatami. The elevation prevented to damage the tatami in case of floods. Some houses had no windows, but it was common to have paper windows. The inside of houses was quite dark and often further darkened by the soot of the kitchen fire, since smoke couldn't escape easily (no exhaustion hood at the time) and filled the attic and ceiling. In that respect some of the larger traditional Indonesian huts I visited also had a kitchen built on earthen floor in a windowless house. The feeling must have been the same in Japan.