Kyoto Nijo Castle Machiya Project – Part 8


Follow our journey as we renovate a traditional machiya townhouse in Kyoto. Once complete, the renovated machiya will be offered for sale.


To help complete the exterior look, we plan to install hanging screens over the front and back windows.

The sudare reed screens are a key feature of machiya. These roll-screens are a traditional way to keep homes cool in summer months by blocking the sunlight from directly hitting the glass windows while still allowing the breeze through. In Kyoto they serve an additional task of providing privacy. They have been used since the Heian period (794-1185).

Good-quality screens can last up to 10 years. They do lengthen naturally over time, sagging into a slight U-shape. This needs to be taken into account when ordering screen length. Although they come in several shades of brown, they eventually all fade to the same grey-brown color.

They need to be brought inside during typhoons since they are only attached via hooks.


Machiya were generally built to standardized sizes, with many of them having similar door and window sizes. This makes it possible to find replacements at the salvage stores without always needing to rely on custom orders.

When we bought the house it had an aluminum sliding front door – a later addition. It’s possible to buy new doors designed in a traditional style but we thought we would try our luck for an old wooden door from a local salvage shop. There are quite a few old stores in Kyoto city that specialize in re-selling vintage and antique fixtures, stocking rows and rows of doors, shoji screens and lattice windows. It was a matter of finding something in the right style and the right dimension.

Our architect called around to a few salvage stores to find someone that had one in the correct size. It was harder than expected with only one store currently having something in stock. We went down to check it out in person. It will be stained to match the darker wood stain for the koshi-mado latticework that will be installed over the ground-floor window.

The door salvage store.

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