Home > Events, Reviews > At Home In Japan – Beyond The Minimal House – Geffrye Museum London

At Home In Japan – Beyond The Minimal House – Geffrye Museum London

An exhibition that recreates the layout of a standard urban apartment

Tuesday 22 March to Monday 29 August 2011

In the West, the Japanese house has reached iconic status in its architecture, decoration and style. However, is this neat, carefully constructed version of Japanese life in fact a myth? This special exhibition aims to question the widespread stereotype of the minimal Japanese house, characterised by large empty spaces devoid of people and things.

It goes behind the doors of contemporary urban homes to find out how private domestic lives are lived in Japan today, examining a variety of aspects of the home – from decoration, display, furniture and the tatami mat, to eating, sleeping, ‘gifting’, cleaning, hygiene, and worship. Guest writer Michael Graham gives a personal report of his visit (Images ©Michael Graham).

This is a small exhibition at the Geffrye Museum of the Home, giving people a peek of what it’s like inside a typical contemporary Japanese home. Based on ethnographical research by Dr Inge Daniels (University of Oxford) with project-specific photography by Susan Andrews (London Metropolitan University), the idea was to dispel some of the misconceptions that people may have on the way people in Japan live.

Walking through the glass door into the installation I was met with atmospheric sounds and music. There are plants and a Japanese mail box as if I were standing outside some ones home.

The next room is made to look like an entrance hall with a place to store your shoes. Although it was not necessary for visitors to take off their shoes, for some reason, I felt a little rude for not doing so.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors are encouraged to touch the items on display to really get a feel for the place.  There are numerous draws that can be opened with various possessions inside, from neatly folded linens to slightly cluttered kitchen utensils. The attention to detail is amazing! There is also a bathroom area with a life-size photo of a Japanese bathroom accompanied by actual items from where the photo was taken.

The largest space and probably the most detailed is the kitchen, with fully stocked shelves, cupboards and a large table with all place settings laid out ready for a family meal.

What does not show up so well in some of my photographs is just how good the overall effect looks, with the life-size images backed by light screens; this effect really makes you feel as if it’s actually a window you are looking out of. That with the added audio of conversations and the sounds of people having a meal, it really did put me right slap bang in the middle of an authentic Japanese household for at least an hour or so.

Another section to explore is a traditional style room complete with tatami flooring and folded bedding – short-legged tables support photo albums full with pictures of real-life everyday moments in Japan.

Of all the scenes I saw, I really felt as though the view in this photo really took me to Japan, the effect really worked well.

I encourage anyone who has an interest in Japan to check out this exhibition. It’s the closest you will get to being in a modern Japanese home without having to get on a plane.

Exhibition admission: £5.00

Concessions: £3.00 and under 16s free

Please note that last admission to the exhibition is at 4.00pm each day.

Given the subject matter of our exhibition we have considered how best to acknowledge the disaster in Japan. From today, we are supporting the Red Cross appeal and anyone who visits us can make a donation in the collection box at the front desk.

Special thanks to Geffrye Museum in London.

Slide show images ©Susan Andrews

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Author profile:

Michael Graham has been a fan of all things Japan for over 5 years. He regularly attends Japanese related events and writes about his experiences on his blog The Love of Japan.







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Categories: Events, Reviews
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  1. April 23, 2014 at 4:02 pm

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