urban thoughts


Juxtaposition of small and large in central Tokyo

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

the culture of threshold

Threshold.  Front doors.  Public - private.  The in-between space.  

Transition from public realm to private space.  Fascinating for architects - it's a complex space.

In Japan, strangers and neighbours only come to the 'genkan' - the entrance hall where you take off your shoes.  It is rare to be invited into the private domain, to step up into the house.  Only specially invited guests.

And the letter box, is usually on the front gate - not the front door - so the postman does not have to cross into the semi-private space ... similar to the US, France, Belgium - many countries have separate 'mail boxes'.  But note the official plaque with the names of registered residents and the authorised address and post code.

What is different is having the name of the family on the front of the house - not the name of the house, but the name of the family.  

On the 'mail box' are the official registered residents - and the postman will not deliver unless the name on the letter matches with the one on the 'mail box'.  I discovered this when living in Tokyo and a dear friend sent me a Birthday card.  Like many friends, she uses has never got used to my married name and uses my maiden name.  However, the postman did not know who Lucy Malein was and returned the card to sender - all the way back to Berlin.

Here are some images from suburban Kobe: you can see the front door up the steps, behind the gate.

 Family name, letter box and door bell at street level.
Decorative metal gate, brick detail, front door, family name and letter box.

 Family name and door bell on horizontal Flemish style bricks.
 Extended family - looks like recent addition.
 Gate post in grey bricks with inset family name on white marble; fancy metal gate.
 Family name on dark green marble.
 Family name on white marble; granite gate post.
 Gate post in decorative brick with letter box and family name.
 Horizontal metal gate, name and mini garden - wintertime.
 Family name - engraved but a bit worn,
 Family name and some shinto New Year decorations - steps to front door through metal gate.  Hope you appreciate how every example is different and personalised.