Japanese Minka

Kew's Minka was originally a farmhouse built around 1900 in a suburb of Okazaki City, near the southern coast of central Japan.

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Japanese Minka

Japanese Minka

Historical information

Until the middle of the 20th century, many country Japanese people lived in wooden houses called minka. They had sturdy wooden earthquake-resistant frames for mud-plastered walls and thatched roofs - the equivalent of British wattle-and-daub cottages.

Minkas fell out of favour in Japan during the latter half of the twentieth century, being thought to be inconvenient and uncomfortable. Many were demolished and replaced by modern houses which lasted under 30 years.

This constant building and replacing of newer houses produced vast quantities of industrial waste, whereas minkas could be either reconstructed or used as fuel.

In 1997, the Japan Minka Re-use and Recycle Association (JMRA) was established to promote the benefits and conservation of minkas.

When the Yonezu family bought it in 1940, it was dismantled and moved to another part of the city. After the death of Mrs Chiyoku Yonezu in 1993, JMRA acquired the house and donated it to Kew as part of the Japan 2001 Festival.

The dismantled wooden framework was shipped to Kew, where construction began on 7 May 2001. Experienced Japanese carpenters reinstated the intricate joints formed without the use of iron nails. A Japanese ceremony was held when the framework was completed on 21 May.

A team of British builders who had worked on the Globe Theatre in London built the mud wall panels. The roof was then thatched with Norfolk reeds and wheat straw. The Japanese Minka was completed in November 2001 and today, visitors can go inside and wonder at the maze of beams.

4 comments on 'Japanese Minka'

mizukusa kasumigaura says

14/02/2012 1:24:13 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for introduce Japanese minka. I introduced kew gardens minka in my bloggers page.but in Japaese. http://yasato-ishioka.blogspot.com/2012/02/blog-post.html

Kew Feedback team says

14/09/2010 11:16:19 AM | Report abuse

Hi Terry, thanks for your comment. There are no planned works to the minka house at present; we will however arrange for the reported apparent woodworm to be investigated by a timber specialist.

Terry says

07/09/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

visted the Minka house at Kew on Saturday and I was surprised to see such a huge amount of woodworm activity in the beams. This looks active still. Anything being done re this?

Giles Frampton says

20/04/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

The Minka frame was actually re-built by the carpenters of McCurdy & Co of Reading. Some help was given by a Japanese carpenter over a 2 week period BUT the greater part was overseen by Peter McCurdy (builder of the Globe Theatre)and is a testament to his knowledge and skill!

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