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STORY 5

To the Center of the Home

STORY 5

To the Center of the Home

A kitchen as a part of the doma of the Ito House, a farm house built in the late 17th– early 18th century.
(Japan Open-air Folk House Museum, Kanagawa © Naohiro Utagawa)
  • Traditionally, the doma included a kamado (wood-burning cooker) and sink, or water supply, and the combination of the doma and the adjacent itanoma, where dishes were prepared, constituted what we today call the kitchen. Such kitchens, where women traditionally managed household chores, were often situated in the darker and colder north side of the house, and involved significant physical labor, including moving up and down between the doma and the itanoma as well as working on the floor.

  • Japanese kitchens underwent significant changes in the early 20th century. While mechanisms involving fire and water were still placed within the doma, gas cookers and sinks that allowed one to cook and wash standing up became available. Against the backdrop of modernization and urbanization, a movement to improve homes and living conditions started. Studies were performed on how people moved in the kitchen to make it easier to perform daily chores. The sizes of kitchen products also became more standardized, enabling industrial production. Gradually, the kitchen became a space of its own within Japanese households.

The post-war shortage of housing and the reconstruction of Japanese homes in the 1950s saw the development of high-rise apartment blocks equipped with “Dining-Kitchens,” where Western-style table and chairs were placed next to the kitchen facilities, further liberating housewives from excess movement and enabling them to talk with family members while cooking. Subsequently, the concept of “LDK” or Living-Dining-Kitchen was developed, making it the central hub of the home where occupants spent most of the time during the day.
Eliminating the walls separating these rooms allowed a wider living space and enhanced the visibility of kitchens, making visual attractiveness equally as important as functionality. With kitchens increasingly central to people’s lifestyles, LIXIL is continuing its pursuit for technological innovation to enhance functionality and design and contribute to people’s happiness at home.

Sunwave, one of the founding companies of LIXIL, developed a technology to mass-produce deep-drawn pressed stainless steel sinks in 1956, a groundbreaking post-war innovation in Japan. Until then, stainless steel sinks were hand-welded by craftsmen and cost five times more than a standard sink. Thanks to the new technology, every apartment in the large-scale housing blocks developed and sold by the Japan Housing Corporation from 1957 were equipped with stainless steel sinks, which further created the trend of having high-quality, low cost stainless steel sinks in Japanese kitchens.

A kitchen with wooden floors and tiled sink in the 1950s, indicating that the kitchen moved into the “living space” of the house. Tiled sinks were considered high-end, and more affordable sinks made of polished cement were also popular during 1920s to 1950s.
(© LIXIL Museum)
A kitchen with wooden floors and tiled sink in the 1950s, indicating that the kitchen moved into the “living space” of the house. Tiled sinks were considered high-end, and more affordable sinks made of polished cement were also popular during 1920s to 1950s. (© LIXIL Museum)
The first deep-drawn pressed stainless steel sink, placed in a high-rise apartment in 1958. Shiny, attractive and durable stainless steel sinks symbolized a new era of housing in Japan.
(Housing Apartment History Hall, Urban Renaissance Agency, Tokyo)
(© LIXIL)

With modern-day kitchens being more visible within the home, many creative and innovative mechanisms are built in to make them easy to use while keeping these small spaces tidy. The Japanese are considered masters when it comes to managing small spaces, and similarities between the organization and compact nature of Japanese kitchens can even be related to the skillfully packed Japanese bento box.

(minowa studio / amanaimages)

(© LIXIL)

Today, the Living-Dining-Kitchen space is the "heart" of the home where memorable moments take place every day.