Daidokoro Monogatari: Stories of the Japanese house from the kitchen

Noemí Gómez Lobo, Diego Martín Sánchez

DOI: https://doi.org/10.20868/cpa.2021.11.4829

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Telling a story (monogatari) about the Japanese kitchen inevitably entails reflecting on the most celebrated architectural typology in the country, the detached house. After World War II, it became the basic unit that shaped the Japanese urban landscape. Rapid economic growth resulted in a clear pattern not only in the housing market but also in family composition. Influenced by western models, conventional gender roles were embodied in the breadwinner (salaryman), related to corporate centers, and the full-time homemaker (sengyō shufu), associated with the domestic space. Among all the rooms, the kitchen was the clearest in its premise: the place where the wife cooks. This gender construct was encoded in its spatial articulation, with the kitchen being hidden from the rest of the house and usually occupying a dead-end position. Japanese architects have challenged these conventions through radical house designs, often praised for their smallness, whiteness, and lightness. However, it is necessary to go beyond this ‘fetishization’ to evaluate these proposals for the relationships they pose. Their bold designs are not only ground-breaking in formal terms but go further, subverting normative notions of domesticity and suggesting alternative gender ‘performativities’ in architecture. The kitchen is often the site of the most outstanding experimentation, materializing inventive concepts of living. Questions concerning technology, economy, and above all, gender unfold in this domestic workplace. If connected or isolated, visible or hidden, it materializes power relations through architectural actions. From a critical gender perspective, this article takes Japanese houses from the 20th century to the present day, showing diverse strategies and exposing those architectural principles and social conventions against which they rebel. These houses foster the creation of alternative realities, disrupting preconceived ideas of what is a kitchen, what is a house, or what is a family

Palabras clave

Domestic space; House design; Kitchen; Gender; Japanese architecture


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