"Bernard lived in a traditional Japanese one-story wooden house. Past a courtyard outside, where a bicycle rested against a wall in the half-light of a flower bed, we entered the kitchen, a large room with a concrete floor adjoining the main room. After taking off our shoes, we climbed two steps, still in our coats, lowering our heads to pass the sliding partitions that opened onto the living room, and we progressed in our socks onto the tatami mats, our bodies slightly inclined." (Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Faire l'amour, éditions de Minuit, p.140)
Hundreds of machiya are demolished every year in Kyōto.
The street we live on was once lined with these townhouses, now only one remains.
If nothing is done, Kyōto's charm will disappear. The municipality, aware of the ongoing disaster, did issue a decree requiring owners to notify the city hall of their intention to raze a machiya to prevent further indiscriminate destruction. But given the number of houses demolished each year (about 6000), I wonder if this measure has ever been effective. It is said that a machiya has many disadvantages to live in, especially for the elderly. They are difficult to heat in winter, drafty, there are steps and stairs to climb. In addition, living in a machiya was until recently a source of a complex because to admit it was to say that one was unable to afford a modern environment...
In recent years, however, the machiya has become the object of a new craze. Many people are buying and renovating them. Some properties are being reborn for resale or rental. It is often said that foreigners value them more than the Japanese and that they are even the subject of successful real estate transactions on their part. Knowing that all non-Kyōto people are considered foreigners (including people from Tōkyō), I wonder who will protect these facade alignments (machinami) that make the city beautiful in the future?