Little House In Ise

The Disturbed Child
April 11, 2008, 15:15
Filed under: Expat, Family, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

The kanji characters for shoji are 障子. Translated literally they mean something like “disturbs children”. There are few words whose origin is more clear and appropriate. Shoji are paper windows and a feature of traditional Japanese homes. As you might guess, they tear easily. Small children must maintain enormous restraint not to rip the paper with their little fingers, crayons, baseballs and jump ropes. I’ve also noticed that “Restraint” and “children” tend to be mutually exclusive concepts. So paper covered windows clearly would be trouble for little kids. In Ise, we replaced the paper in four shoji, twice. Once we did it ourselves. The second time we called in a pro — Grandma. In both cases the need for new paper was due to my two wonderful, creative and clearly disturbed children’s games.

The new house in Tokyo has shoji only in the master bedroom. The paper looks old and soft. It’s a lot like butcher-block that has gotten wet and dried many times. Ours have probably weathered several rainy seasons. On sunny days the paper glows with a friendly, diffuse white light.

On our first day in the new house, I went from room to room making up beds and getting them ready for our first night. I did the kids rooms first and then the master. The bed was closer to the windows than we had planned and while flopping the comforter over the top, I put the first hole in the shoji.

Shoji disturb me too…


3 Comments so far
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We have 40 year old shoji in my dojo. And a kids program. I am so nervous when the kids are anywhere near the shoji (sensei would be highly displeased if they tore it), so it disturbs me too.

Comment by Karen

Is the paper itself that old or the frame? Either way, you and your sensei have my most sincere respect for your patience and trust. Do you do bokken an jo too? Scary!

The last time we replaced the paper we switched to a durable plastic sheet that is advertised as being cat-claw resistant. It looks like the real thing but knowing it’s plastic left me disastisfied.

Comment by Eric Holcomb

I think the frame and the paper are the same age, but I’m not 100% sure. I just know that when he told me how old it was, it made me even more nervous than I was! We did bokken and jo, but luckily the shoji is not THAT close to the mat. At our old dojo, they were further away. In the new dojo, they are just about 3 feet from the end of the mat. One of the teachers mentioned being afraid someone will put a mop/broom handle through them while mopping/sweeping the mat.

Comment by Karen

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