HOME > about chiiori > the house





Finding Chiiori

In 1971 Alex Kerr first discovered Iya Valley, a remote region in Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. The impassably steep Iya Gorges kept the valley so secluded that over the centuries refugees from Japan's civil wars fled into Iya and settled there, notably the Heike survivors from the Genji/Heike wars of the 12th century. Even now Iya people speak a dialect with traces of ancient Heian court language.

In 1973 Alex bought an old thatched farmhouse in the hamlet of Tsurui, in East Iya. Dating from around 1720, the house is typical of old Iya construction: with wooden floors, irori 囲炉裏 (floor hearths), and massive beams and rafters - all smoked black from centuries of fires burning in the floor hearths.
The house took the name Chiiori 篪庵, which means "House of the Flute."

Structure of the House

Chiiori is one of the oldest extant houses in Tsurui, and it can be dated to roughly the Genroku Period (1699-1720), the same time that the Kimura House down the hill (a designated Important Cultural Property) was built. The houses are very similar. In size they measure 8 bays by 4 bays (a bay, or ken 間, is the space between two pillars, the length of one tatami). With just a few exceptions, this is about as big as houses get in Iya.

Inside is one large zashiki (reception room, grand, but traditionally rarely used except for parties and special guests), a central living room, where the family gathered around the floor-hearth, two small sleeping rooms, and the kitchen.

housephoto6.jpgChiiori after the roof repair March 2009
housephoto1.jpgChiiori's irori (floor hearth)