Japanese Encyclopedia: Irori
  • Japanese Encyclopedia: Irori

Japanese Encyclopedia: Irori

2016.06.12

Irori is the fireplace that used to be a part of Japanese homes in the past. This article features also places where one can enjoy the sight and warmth of the irori.

Translated by GonzalezLaura

Written by Hiromasa Uematsu

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Image from IRORI Nihonbashi Hostel And Kitchen – The Guesthouse With An Irori

An irori (fireplace) is typically a heating tool used mainly in the farmers' houses. A square opening is cut in the floor and ash, firewood and coal are placed there to heat up the room.

It used to be placed in the center of the room, so during dinner time the family would sit around the fireplace and enjoy gathering together.

5-in-1!? Great Uses for the Fireplace

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The fireplace isn't used just to heat up the room. This one area of the room was also used for cooking, lighting, drying clothes, and it even helped ensuring the durability of the house.

For example, cooking. By putting fish on skewers, and placing them in the fireplace, you can have grilled fish.

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Also, as seen in the picture above, if you hang a pole from the ceiling, you can place a pot at the end of the pole which allows you to cook soups, boil water and make different boiled dishes. By the way, the pole hanging from the ceiling is called a jizaikagi (pothook).

Next is lighting. In the past, when there wasn't electricity, fire was an invaluable source of light. It seems that women used to do needlework by the light of the fire at night.

The fireplace also took the place of the modern day dryer. When clothes got wet in the rain, they were placed around the fire to dry.

Probably the most unexpected role of the irori is that of improving the durability of the house. During old times, people used to live mainly in wooden houses. The heat that would come out of fireplace and into the surrounding atmosphere would draw the moisture out of the wood, which would help keep the wood from rotting. It also helped to keep bugs out.

Facilities Where You Can Enjoy the Warmth of a Japanese Fireplace

Currently, there are very few houses that actually use a Japanese fireplace. Despite that though, there are still some old farming houses, old Japanese-style houses, hotels that are remodeled old Japanese-style houses, cafes, and restaurants where foreign visitors can go and experience this fireplace.

In the past, MATCHA has introduced several facilities where you can see irori fireplaces.

There is, for instance, the IRORI Nihonbashi Hostel and Kitchen, a guesthouse with a fireplace, and Hidefurukawa Satoyama Office, which is housed in a renovated old Japanaese home.

Those interested in Japanese spaces and culture can learn more about facilities with Japanese fireplaces through the MATCHA articles.

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