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At Home in Japan: Beyond the Minimal House

AT HOME IN JAPAN – Beyond the Minimal House

Tuesday 22 March to Monday 29 August 2011

View from a living room onto a domestic garden in Nara, Japan (detail) photograph by Susan Andrews

View onto a domestic garden in Nara, Japan. © Susan Andrews

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.

The exhibition recreates the layout of a standard urban apartment. Visitors will travel through an entrance hall, a ‘western style’ room, tatami room, bathroom, and, finally, to the LDK – ‘living-dining-kitchen’ – area, the largest communal space inside the home. Each of these rooms will be filled with a selection of the everyday possessions with which inhabitants might surround themselves. We hope that through an active engagement with these day-to-day spaces and objects, visitors may not only experience a degree of what it feels like to be at home in contemporary Japan, but also to encounter another culture on an empathetic level instead of gazing at and imagining its exotic nature from a distance.

At Home in Japan is based on original ethnographic research by Dr Inge Daniels (University of Oxford), carried out over a one-year period (2003) inside thirty urban homes in the Kansai region (Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka). It also draws on project-specific photography by Susan Andrews (London Metropolitan University). Both Daniels and Andrews collaborated on a richly illustrated book entitled The Japanese House: Material Culture in the Modern Home.

Exhibition admission: £5.00/£3.00 concessions. Under 16s: free

Related Programme of Events


Study Day: At Home in Japan

Saturday 14 May, 10.00am – 4.30pm. Tickets £40 (£30 concessions). Includes coffee and light lunch.

We will explore the historical influence of Japanese art, design and culture on homes and gardens across the world, before examining the West’s vision of Japanese homes and the reality of home life in Japan today. Speakers include the exhibition’s curators, Dr Inge Daniels and Susan Andrews, Dr Katarzyna Cwiertka, Dr Jill Raggett and Dr Sarah Teasley.

Special Evening: At Home in Japan

Wednesday 18 May, 5.45 - 8.30pm (talk at 6.15pm). Tickets £6 (includes exhibition entry and glass of sake).

An evening inspired by our special exhibition will include a curator-led talk, and a demonstration on Japanese food and customs.

Ikebana Workshop

Saturday 2 April, 1.30 – 4.30pm. Tickets £30 (includes materials but not lunch).

Learn the ancient art of Japanese flower arranging and create a centrepiece for your home.

At Home in Japan – Exhibition Talks

Sunday 12 June – with exhibition curator Dr Inge Daniels. Talk at 2.00pm and repeated at 3.30pm. Admission Free.

Sunday 2 July – with exhibition curator Susan Andrews. Talk at 2.00pm and repeated at 3.30pm. Admission Free.

An opportunity to explore and discuss themes and a selection of the photographs and objects on display.


Easter Holiday Activities: Homes from Around the World

Tuesday 12 – Friday 15 April, 10.30am – 12.30pm and 2.00 – 4.00pm. Admission free.

Create fabulous crafts for your home inspired by homes from around the world.

May Half-Term Holiday Activities: Japanese Homes

Tuesday 31 May – Friday 3 June, 10.30am – 12.30pm and 2.00 – 4.00pm. Admission free.

Explore Japanese homes and create decorations, kitchen-ware, photo albums and Japanese treats.

Notes to Editors

1) For further information and images, please contact Nancy Loader, Press Officer, on 020 7739 9893 or

2) The Geffrye explores the home from 1600 to the present day. The museum’s focus is on the living rooms of the urban middle classes in England, particularly London. A chronological sequence of period rooms show how homes have been used and furnished over the past 400 years, reflecting the changes in society and patterns of behaviour as well as style, fashion and taste. The museum is set in the former almshouses of the Ironmongers Company, elegant,eighteenth-century buildings in Shoreditch, East London. It is surrounded by attractive gardens, which include an award-winning walled herb garden and a series of period gardens highlighting the changes in town gardens from the 17th to the 20th century (open Apr–Oct).

3) Admission: FREE

Address: 136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, London E2

Tel: 020 7739 9893



Travel: London Overground: Hoxton station (directly behind the museum)

Tube: Liverpool Street station, then bus 149 or 242 from Bishopsgate 

Old Street station (exit), then bus 243 or 15 minute walk

Buses:67, 149, 242, 243, 394

Open: Tue–Sat, 10am-5pm, Sun & Bank Hol Mon, 12noon–5pm

Closed: Mons (except Bank Hols), Good Friday, 24, 25, 26 Dec and 1 Jan. The museum will also be closed for a public holiday on Friday 29 April 2011.

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