Naomi's aunt lives in an older Japanese house

"Caitlin gulped in the coolness of the entryway as she stepped out of her sandals and up into the house. The tatami was new, pungent, and felt soothing on her bare feet--she wanted to lie down on it, to stretch out in front of the fan like she did in her apartment. Sachiko instructed Naomi to show Caitlin to Mayumi’s room--one of two bedrooms in the back of the narrow house. Naomi pointed out the tiny courtyard on the way, really a light shaft, but striking, with several potted plants and a deep ceramic hibachi of water lilies and goldfish." (PAGE 160)

The city of Kyoto was originally laid out in a gridlike pattern, and the typical Kyoto machiya or townhouse within that grid was a long wooden home with narrow street footage, stretching deep into the city block and often containing a small central courtyard or tsuboniwa. For those who can't travel all the way to Kyoto, a Kyoto style machiya can be seen and entered in the Boston Children's Museum ( being one of Boston's sister cities.

Naomi's aunt Sachiko lives in a small machiya of the sort that are fast disappearing as urban folk grow reluctant to spend money on repairing old homes, preferring instead to tear them down and start anew. In a machiya such as Sachiko's, rooms are floored in tatami mats and laundry is often dried on a platform on the roof instead of a balcony.
A narrow Kyoto street like Sachiko’s.
Back bedroom such as what Naomi and Caitlin slept in at Sachiko’s.
Some rooftop laundry platforms.

Other Kyoto topics:

Iwakura, Mt. Hiei • Traditional Kyoto architecture

For a description of what it is like to live in a larger Kyoto style machiya see Kojiro Toshida's "Living in Machiya":

© 2001 Holly Thompson and Stone Bridge Press