Sukiya House,
the Master Architect
in Shimogamo, Kyoto

A luxurious Japanese traditional house built especially to hold tea ceremonies. 

What is Sukiya?

Suki refers to the refined and elegant taste of waka poetry and ikebana flower arrangement. It also alludes to Japanese traditional arts, as well as to the enjoyment of the tea ceremony performed in an exquisite manner.

Sukiya-zukuri is one of the styles of Japanese residential architecture. It is characterized by its simplicity, freedom, and sophistication. It also reflects the spirituality of the suki, where the host entertains the guests by refining their inner self, while minimizing the formality and style emphasized in shoin-zukuri.

Sukiya-zukuri is characterized by its use of natural materials, especially wood. Various types of timbers such as bamboo, cedar, pine, and cypress are used for pillars, stile and rail, etc.. depending on the location. The shape of the original tree is often preserved as well.


数寄屋造りは、日本の住宅建築の一つであり、 書院造りで重んじられていた格式や様式を極力排し、数寄者の「内面を磨いて客をもてなす」という精神性が反映されており、



The House History 家の歴史

It is said that it was originally built as a house for the secondary residence of the abbot of Higashi Honganji Temple. It was purchased by the Miki family, a family of priests from the Taga Taisha Shrine in Shiga Prefecture, and has remained so to this day.

 *Higashi- Honganji Temple …The head temple of the Otani sect of Shinshu, one of the Jodo Shinshu sects. Located not far from Kyoto Station, the vast temple grounds include six buildings as National Important Cultural Properties, including the Mikado and the Amida Hall, as some of the largest wooden structures in the world. 

 *Taga Taisha Shrine…one of the oldest shrines in Japan with a history of more than 1,300 years as the head shrine of the 239 Taga Shrines in Japan, which enshrines the parents of the goddess of the sun. 




Its Successive Residents 歴代の住人

A foreign architect and his wife who studied Sukiya architecture at Kyoto University used to live in the house. Additionally, the director of the Japanese Culture Center, the organizer of a cultural salon, and most recently, the family of the president of a video production company also have lived in the house. Regardless of at what point in time, all enjoyed the atmosphere unique to Sukiya architecture.


The Environment 環境

Kamikawara-cho is known as a high-class residential area. Shimogamo-Nishidori Street, where the house is located, is also known as “President Street”. It is famous for its many mansions with large lots, and the residences of the presidents of famous companies lining the banks of the Kamogawa River.

You can enjoy the seasonal nature in the botanical garden (The oldest public botanical garden in Japan. The total area is approximately 24 hectares. In spring, 450 cherry trees of 150 varieties bloom, and the fall foliage is spectacular.) located nearby. Kamo River is also a jogging and walking course for local residents.

The road of Nakaragi no Michi, a 2-minute walk away, is famous for its weeping cherry blossoms. During the summer bonfires, you can see the “Large Daimonji” character (one of the five okuribi, the ritual send-off fires) from Kitaoji-bashi bridge, a 1-minute walk away.




The Guest Flow お客様の導線

Gate~Entrance~Waiting Room

Ajiro 網代(a mesh work)

The original meaning of Ajiro is the bamboo trapping net to catch a fish. From ancient times in Japan, those bamboo or tree bark meshwork have been used for wall boards too. That is why this wall material are called ‘Ajiro’. These designs are particularly popular with tea rooms and Sukiya housing, because Sukiya-architecture prefers the idea that housing should be a part of nature.

Builders made Ajiro with splints of cedar, sawara cypress and bamboo etc, and then applied or installed them on a ceiling or wooden fitting frames. By weaving in every direction but also weaving diagonally, it is possible to produce many different design patterns. 

 Natural light reflecting on the Ajiro is also very beautiful.

「あじろ」とは元々魚を取る為に網の代わりに水中に設置した竹組みの仕掛けのことをいう。 日本では古くより建物の壁となる編み細工の板として、同様に竹や樹皮を編んだものが用いられた為、このように呼ばれるようになったと言われる。


Shitajimado 下地窓 (a bored window)

When applying mud on the wall, the designers left the wooden foundation open without any mud wall so that the opening area seems like a small window. It is said that Sen-no-rikyu(1522-1591) proposed this style when he saw a dilapidated and crumbling local building wall. It is because Wabi* is important for tea rooms.

Currently the materials of Shitaji-mado and the actual wooden foundations are different, and selected materials that have a natural appearance were used to construct the window.

 Generally 1 to 5 common reeds are set randomly and used to make a lattice window. However, for this house, the wood called kuromoji (usually used to make dessert knives in the tea ceremony) was used. Therefore, the window itself blends into the wall and room naturally.

Wabi-sabi*… the beauty to be found in the acceptance of transience and imperfection.




1F Tea Ceremoy Room~Alcove①(Sukiya Style)~Furnace
1F お座敷~床の間①(数寄屋造)~炉

Tokonoma 床の間 (Alcove room)

This alcove is the room to welcome the guests with honor. It is a decoration space in a Japanese tatami room and it’s the place where a Japanese scroll displaying a painting or calligraphy, seasonal flowers, and/or other ornaments can be displayed.


Hikite 引手 (Door Pull)

Commonly called door pull. A door pull is added to sliding doors *fusuma 襖, or hinged doors to help open and close them easily. Wood door pulls mokusei 木製 were common in ancient periods. In general door pulls were made of metal and called hikite kanagu 引手金具. Door pulls, especially in the shoin style *shoin-zukuri 書院造, particularly from the late 15c on, began to have a wide variety of designs, some of which were also used for nail covers *kugikakushi 釘隠. 


Ranma 欄間 (Transom)

A transom – a rectangular opening constructed between the lintels *kamoi 鴨居 or uchinori nageshi 内法長押, of the frame for sliding screens and the ceiling.

Transoms may also be found at the dividing line between a balcony and the interior of a house – whether that be under the ridges of a gate or on a fence above the main entrance *genkan 玄関 of a structure.

In spite of transoms providing a place for decorative expression, they did not lose their function of increasing light and air circulation.
The house uses designs such as pine and bamboo, which are considered auspicious (for the leaves stay green and do not fall all year round).



Ro 炉(Furnace) ・ Rodatami 炉畳(Furnace Tatami Mat)

Ro 炉 is a small sunken hearth installed under the tatami mats and used to boil water for making matcha (green tea).

A rodatami 炉畳 is a tatami mat cut out just the size of the furnace to accommodate the furnace.



Yukimi Shoji 雪見障子 (Snow-Watching Shoji Door)

The Yukimi shoji is comprised of a top half that’s a traditional shoji, and a bottom half that’s glass, so you can see outside even when the shoji door is shut. It got its name Yukimi shoji—yukimi meaning “snow-watching”— because people would enjoy watching the falling snow from the cozy warmth of their room. The shoji screen can also be pulled all the way down to shut out light.


1F Porch~Garden~Service Entrance
1階 広縁(船底天井)~お庭(袖垣)~勝手口(石臼の飛び石)

Funazoko Tenjyo 船底天井 (Ship Bottom Ceiling)

A ship’s bottom ceiling called as “Funazoko Tenjyo” is shaped like the bottom of a ship turned inside out. This shape is often used in sukiya (tea ceremony rooms) and tea ceremony rooms, and makes the room seem bigger. 
You can find this type of the ceiling at the the porch 広縁.

船底天井とは船の底を裏返しにしたような、形状のものをいいます。 数奇屋建築や茶室などによく使われた形状で、平天井より空間が広く感じられます。広縁の天井が船底天井になっています。

Kesyo Yaneura 化粧屋根裏(Decorative Attic)

The ceiling is not a flat ceiling, but shows the composition of the attic as it is in the room.
It is a device to soften the low ceiling.


Sodegaki 袖垣 (low fence flanking a gate or entrance)

This is a small fence which is located at an entrance or side of the garden as a blindfold.
The reason why it is called ‘Sodegaki’ is that the shape of this fence is similar to the arm section of Japanese traditional clothes, Kimono.
The Japanese landscape garden is like a miniature garden of the natural beauty, therefore, the sodegaki fence offers a sense of togetherness with nature not as a blindfold.
For the materials, a spicebush, a hagi bush clover and a bamboo are used. Depending on knitting and bundling method, there are several kinds of sodegaki such as Tama-sodegaki, Kuroho-sodegaki and Kenninji-gaki.

玄関の脇や庭に、目隠しや装飾のためにおかれる小さな垣根。 その形が日本の伝統的な衣類である着物の袖に似ている為、このようによばれる。 あたかも自然の風景のミニチュアであるかのように作られる日本の伝統的な庭において、袖垣は単なる目隠しとしての機能だけでなく、自然のものを集めてそっと束ね上げたその簡素な造形により、自然との一体感を表現する。 材料には黒文字や萩や竹などが用いられ、編み方・束ね方の違いで、玉袖垣、黒穂袖垣、建仁寺垣等の種類がある。

石臼の飛び石 (Stone Mill Stepping Stones)

Matcha 抹茶 (powdered green tea) used in chanoyu (the tea ceremony) 茶の湯 is ground with a stone mill. The art of this is captured in the use of the slices of the mills as stepping stones.


1F LD Kitchen&Bath~Washroom
1階 水回り

1F Western Style Room~Corridor
1階 洋間~廊下

2F Alcove② (Syoin Style)
2階 床の間②(書院造)


References 参考文献



Contact お問い合わせ



 Naoko Miki

東京都中央区銀座 一丁目22番11号