For this article Birgit Jürgenhake tells the story of Machiya’s. They are wooden townhouses, with different variations built throughout Japan. Ma means ‘space’ or ‘between’, chi means ‘road’ and ya means ‘shop’. So in other words: a space along the road with a shop. A machiya is usually a dwelling with a shop situated towards the street. The machiya first appeared in the 11th and 12th centuries when merchants in Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, used tables to display their products in front of their house. Eventually the shop was built into the living space with patio gardens bringing light and nature into the relatively small and long house. Although some machiya houses are protected as Japanese heritage, many are disappearing.
“Today machiya are part of the old city centres and streetscapes are filled with them, creating a beautiful and lively urban area, with modern high-rise towering next to them.”