Monday, December 14, 2009

Winter Light 冬の光

December 21 will be the longest night of the year. The sun rises low in the south east and sets low in the south west. The buildings and streets of old Shimabara were planned with this in mind. The curvature of Kinse's roof, the height of the building, and the width of the street and front garden ensure that light reaches the whole facade of the houses across the street.

The map above shows the old plan of Hanayacho in Shimabara. The street diagram shows the light angle.

From the Great Gate to Sumiya, Hanayacho was once twice as wide as it is now. The southern half of the street was mostly gardens and cherry trees. The northern half (today's existing street) was open road. All along the gardens there were free standing lanterns. This garden and lantern pattern on the southern side of Hanayacho can now only be seen in Kinse's design and the design of an old ochaya near the Great Gate. Several new buildings are built so high and so close to the street that the old houses on the north side of the street are cloaked in perpetual shadow. During this season, it must be cold to live in such a place.

The drawing is a copy of a photograph from Meiji 10 (1878). Please note the line of gardens, cherry trees, and lanterns along the south side of Hanayacho. Next time you see Kinse, look for the front garden and old lantern.

Winter Light 冬の光





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