Shinminka by ISSHO Architects Fuses Traditional and Modern Design

This small house from Japan has been built in the style of the regions more traditional structures. It harks back to a time before Japan become the technological hub it is today.


The project, dubbed Shinminka, has been created by local architecture firm, ISSHO Architects. Completed in 2016, it makes use of traditional materials fused with modern solutions to provide a safe, earthquake-resistant, home.

SHINMINKA ISSHOArchitects Japan Exterior Humble Homes


Shinminka is a relatively simple and humble structure. It contains a total of 613.54-square-feet (57-square-meters) and is spread across a single floor. The main building proponent, timber, is evident from both the interior and exterior, and helps form the more traditional aspects of the home’s aesthetic.

SHINMINKA ISSHOArchitects Japan Living Area Humble Homes


It’s set in Motobu in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. Okinawa is renowned for its rich forests and the surrounding ocean views. According to the architects, the people of this region created lifestyles built upon their connection with the natural surroundings, and it’s this mentality that formed the inspiration for Shinminka.

SHINMINKA ISSHOArchitects Japan Kitchen Humble Homes

The simplicity of the home is apparent from the outset. It has a square plan and is topped by a pyramid roof. The eaves of the roof extend beyond the home’s “walls” to create a sheltered wrap-around deck. Because of the extensive framing, they’ve been able to forgo solid walls in most places, opted for glazing where appropriate.

SHINMINKA ISSHOArchitects Japan Bathroom Humble Homes

The inside of the house has a back-to-basics feel. Polished concrete floors and the timber structure making up the bulk of the finish. The focus of the interior, is the exterior. The house is almost entirely fronted by patio doors and windows, which provide view outward views from any room.

SHINMINKA ISSHOArchitects Japan Floor Plan Humble Homes

In terms of layout, about half of the home is taken up by an open plan L-shaped kitchen, dining area and living room. The other half is dedicated to two bedrooms, a bathroom and a walk-in closet.

For more Japanese houses, check out this small but functional family home by Kazuteru Matumura. Or, House of 33 Years, a showcase in flexible design and future use. See all Japanese houses.

Via ArchDaily
Photos: Koichi Torimura

Niall Burke

Structural engineer by day, tiny house designer by night. Niall has a keen interest in small spaces, green design, and sustainability. He started developing Humble Homes while studying for his masters degree in engineering. He is the founder and managing editor of Humble Homes.

  1. Bravo! Delightful design inspired by tradition but with updated materials, though frankly, if the house were mine I would add hardwood floor, some folding louvered wooden inner screens (instead of roll-up bamboo blinds as now) add some “real” comfortable/traditional furniture, and art worth looking at on the walls. What a joy the house is — and so small. A jewel of a casita! The bathroom shower (despite the roll-up blinds) strikes me as both a voyeur’s and an exhibitionist’s delight. If I had a flat lot here in my state, I would built something much like it, but alas, my lot is on a hillside. Well done to the team of architects and the lucky owners. Some incredibly delightful traditional design out of Asia! These comments are honestly and respectfully submitted.
    Stephan of Arkansas

  2. Gads! Looks like a rough and ready campground kitchen plus shower block.

    Functionality – 10

    Aesthetics – 0