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Friday, Nov. 20, 2009

Early modern home exhibited

Staff writer

Chochikukyo, a residence built in 1928 in the foothills of Mount Tennozan, Kyoto Prefecture, was probably one of the first houses in this country to be designed using the metric system, as opposed to the traditional measurements of bu, sun, shaku and ken.

News photo
Open house: Chochikukyo was probably the first house in Japan that was designed and built using the metric system.

So what, you ask? Well, it's a symbolic difference, but an important one, because it represented a revolution in the thinking of architect Koji Fujii.

Born in 1888 in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, Fujii studied architecture at Tokyo Imperial University, worked for six years in the construction company Takenaka Corp. and then spent nine months in 1919 traveling in Europe and the United States. On his return he took up a teaching position at the newly formed Kyoto Imperial University, and at the same time began work on his dream house. Eight years and four houses later (he built, demolished and rebuilt on the same block of land), Chochikukyo was completed.

The house is considered a masterpiece because Fujii liberated himself from accepted Japanese conventions (hence his adoption of the metric system) and created a hybrid of Japanese and Western modern styles. For example, he combined the living and dining room to create a large communal space — with floorboards — but then set a slightly raised tatami mat room off to one side. It is a template that is still being imitated today.

Residents and visitors to Kyoto Prefecture can visit Chochikukyo by appointment (visit the Web site at www.chochikukyo.com). Meanwhile, Tokyoites have a rare opportunity to learn about the house and its maker through an in-depth exhibition currently being held at Gallery A4 in Shinsuna, Koto Ward.

For more information about the exhibition, visit www.a-quad.jp

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