The Oldest Private House in Japan – Hakogi Sennenya in Kobe 

Introduction to Hakogi Sennenya

Sennenya means thousand-year house. The oldest existing private house in Japan, Hakogi Sennenya (箱木千年家) is a nationally designated important cultural property. The house is located on the shores of Lake Tsukuhara, which stretches across the city border with Miki City, Hyogo Prefecture. The height of the building is about 8 meters and the heavy thatched roof are spectacular.

How old is Hakogi Sennenya?

There are various theories about the age of construction of this house. The document that remains in the Hakogi family recorded that the upper building was built in 806 in the early Heian period. On the other hand, according to experts, the current architectural style is presumed to be in the Muromachi period (1338-1573).

Masato Hakogi who is 88 years old, is the 51st owner of the family tree, said, “If you look up the family tree, you will reach the great-grandson of Fujiwara no Kamatari. ” (Fujiwara Kamatari was a Japanese statesman and politician during the Asuka period. He was born in 614 in Yamato Province in Japan. He was the founder of the great Fujiwara family that dominated Japan from the 9th to the 12th centuries.) It is said that there is a record of the house receiving the name of “Sennenya”, which means “thousand-yeared house” in early Edo period.

How is the interior of Hakogi Sennenya like?

The interior of the house is surrounded by silence and cool air, and the floor and door boards retain the texture of wood that has been shaved with a hand-adz (hand-adz is an ancient and versatile cutting tool similar to an axe but with the cutting edge perpendicular to the handle. Adzes are used for smoothing or carving wood in hand woodworking). The pillars are as hard as iron that are able to withstand the wind and snow for a long time.

Relocation of Hakogi Sennenya

In fact, the village was submerged due to the construction of the Donto Dam (Dondo Dam is a dam in Miki, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan that catches the waters of the Sijimi and Yamada rivers) and the Millennium House was forced to relocate to its current location in 1977. Mr. Hakogi, who grew up in the house before the move, recalled that was cold in winter and it was difficult to replace the roof. He exclaimed “Indeed, it is fit to be designated as a national cultural property.”

The Secrets of Sustainability of Hakogi Sennenya

In May 2019, the craftsmen from seven countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom) visited Japan at the World Thatched Conference visited the Millennium House. While learning about thatched roofing techniques and the preservation of cultural properties, they were amazed by the beauty of the house that didn’t make them feel the years. Mr. Hakogi explained that a land that gets dry easily and good quality water are the secrets of sustainability. He said that the hardships of their ancestors can be seen in every corner of the house, that is why he wanted to share the difficulty of continuing to protect cultural properties.

How to get to Hakogi Sennenya

From Kobe Electric Railway Minotani Station, take the city bus 111 to Tsukuhara, the western end of Yamada-cho, Kobe.


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