“Minka” An Extraordinary Short Film About a Really Old House (in Japan)

The short film “Minka” was promoted on Facebook today via The Fox is Black, Living in a Farmhouse from 1734 (March 1, 2012).

Japanese Lanterns
photo: peabody111 – http://www.sxc.hu/profile/peabody111

I was going to share and leave a message on Facebook but the film really moved me beyond the allotted characters so I thought it was more blog appropriate.

It wasn’t the beautiful cinematography, serene music, or even the touching story that first attracted me to the story. It was the year – 1734. I was very curious about what homes in Japan looked like in 1734, compared to what we have here in Philly, circa 1734. Fortunately, some of which are still just as much loved and lived in as the minka (a traditional Japanese farmhouse / folk dwelling) portrayed in this film.

When we are introduced to the minka, I am reminded of farm houses I visited in Germany, decades ago, where the barn is attached to the home and the entire structure is massive, full of dark corners and rich wood. The focus of the interview is a gentleman who, together with a correspondent from the Associated Press, moved the minka and rebuilt it, on a hill overlooking the ocean where it seems to have always been. The house, the view, the garden, and the rooms within are all serenely balanced – calm. Although the photos of the owner’s lives show a lively, happy family life, the house is a strong, quiet, reliable container (not bad for something from the 1730s held together by what looks like twine).

The minka was completely disassembled, like vintage log cabins, and moved to the new location, almost piece by piece. The relationship of the house to the landscape and it’s owners, was enhanced by the rituals (blessings) the owners conducted while they were building the house, and later by the life they lived together in the home. Not only a symbol of traditional Japanese culture, the minka is an active participant of ongoing culture and is considered partially responsible for the happiness of those who dwell within its walls.

The film eloquently expresses the relationship between man and domestic architecture, and how the path of both is intertwined together. So many times during the film, I said, yes – this is exactly how I feel about houses, row or otherwise, and why I just couldn’t ever live in anything without history, beauty (albeit small), a voice, or a soul. Because it’s never just a house, nor should it ever be.

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