Last two weeks the Rakumachirakuya festival is being held throughout Kyoto. Activities ranging from a cooking class to an insight lecture into working with roof tiles are held in kyo-machiya’s to promote machiya culture.

Some of the private machiya’s are opened which makes the festival a great way to see behind the otherwise closed doors. One of the workshops I visited was about making roofs. This is an extremely labour-intensive  process, from making the tiles (which is largely made and formed by hand) to placing the tiles on the roof. Not much has changed in the last century, except from the material (now mainly imported from China) and some of the techniques, like the types of ovens used. Amazingly, according to the roofer, almost half of the tiles are not usable because of the variable quality in a batch. As an extra quality check, a few of the roofers have inherited this old habit of using their tongue to check the water permeability of the tile.

Next to showing old crafts (like making roofs, or making the clay walls), the Rakumachirakuya festival, also shows new approaches by design students.. Once upon a time in Japan a couple of generations lived under one roof, but nowadays that has changed. One of the students made a reference in his design to this tradition by redesigning a 100 years old machiya to be used as a community house for younger and older genarations. Another design example redesigned a machiya into a library combined with a sweet shop.

A good start is the Kamanzacho Cho-Ie, a 130 years old machiya which has been renovated three years ago with the help of the World Monuments Fund. Once it was owned by a familiy of saw makers, now it is rented out to Kyo-machiya Achitects, an organisation of carpenters, and other craftsmen specialised in restoring machiya’s and used as a community meeting place and model house. The bubble beneath shows a street view of the place. I also made two other bubbles: inside downstairs and inside upstairs.

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