Ajirochaya is a project that will convey its history and culture in the same location for the next 100 years and on.

The purpose of this project is to renovate and open up five buildings owned by Ajiroen, a long-established retail shop specialized in Japanese tea in Yokoyama-cho, Hachioji City, to local people as a commercial and cultural facility. Located seven or eight minutes by foot from the north gate of JR Hachioji Station, the rectangular plot is sandwiched between Koshu Kaido Avenue and a public walk on the north and south sides. On this plot five buildings stand close together: two storehouses (kura) built in the late 19th century to early 20th century, a Japanese-style house and a shop built immediately after World War II, and a reinforced concrete building built in the late 1960s to the early 1970s. As part of this project, a small town block was created as a conglomeration of the history of Hachioji and the consolidated elements of the community by rebuilding the shop, renovating the four other buildings, laying a garden path (roji) north and south through the elongated plot, and making a small open space garden (niwa) facing the public walk.

The roji is a 1.0 m to 1.5 m-wide garden path that connects a space used as storage that was made by building a roof between two buildings on the north, and it extends to the public walk on the south. The garden path was paved with concrete and flagstone, and runs between and around the buildings, making it possible to walk between the buildings on the north and south, and reach the kura located near the center of the plot.

The kura is a public space created by renovating a two-story storehouse that was more than 100 years old, built in the middle of the Meiji period (Meiji period: 1868 to 1912). It will play a role as a cultural facility for Ajirochaya as it will be used as the venue for exhibitions, lecture meetings, concerts, rakugo performance and other forms of entertainment. To retain as much of the hundred-something-year-old building as possible, so that the history of the building can be felt in every part of the building, only its exterior walls, some of the interior walls, and the electrical work was redone.

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The niwa is a small space garden open to the public facing the public walk on the south. A bench and a well are located in the space covered with decomposed granite soil, and a variety of plants are planted around the bench and the well. Old garden stones were half-buried to be reused as steps provided to eliminate the height difference with the front road. The space is used for seasonal events such as rice-cake making and film shows, and is a nice place to rest for pedestrians.

The Ajiro residence, a wooden Japanese house built for the owner of Ajiroen immediately after World War II, was renovated with a bedroom and a water supply for a bathing room and toilet added on for use exclusively as a residence. The eight-mat room that was originally the living room was restored and renovated as a Japanese room with half-timbered interior walls. Other rooms such as the dining-kitchen and bedroom were renovated as Western-style rooms suitable for modern lifestyle with white painted walls without exposed columns on the wood floor. The remaining features of the Japanese house such as the light transoms, and the logs and rafters along the veranda remained but the house was renovated into a modern house.

Building A is a new two-story steel-frame building constructed in the place where the former shop was located. The house-like building composed of three rectangular planes in two layers forms a gate-like structure, and plays a role of the north gate for Ajirochaya. Two of the three rooms on the first floor were placed parallel to the floor plan of the kura and Ajiro residence, while the room on the second floor was rotated five degrees to make it parallel to the road, Koshu Kaido Avenue. The concave ceiling follows the form of the house-like roof. The largest room of the first floor was designed to be the Ajiroen shop, and the remaining two rooms are spaces for rent. Ease of movement was taken into account with the roji extending to the kura through the first floor, where staircase to the second floor are also located. The building with gable roofs and eaves gives the impression of a traditional Japanese house. At the same time, the building looks like it is floating and even adds a sense of tension because the contact surfaces between each room were minimized.

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Building B, a three-story reinforced concrete building with the unique features of buildings built in the late 1960s to the early 1970s, like steel window frames with frosted glass, was renovated as a building for rent. The existing steel window frames painted blue, and the existing green mosaic tiles on the front of the first floor were left untouched, but new steel window frames and doors were installed as necessary. The interior of the first floor was stripped down, but the second and third floors, and the staircase connecting both floors were renovated while making use of the existing features.

Building C, a two-story storehouse, was built in the middle of the Meiji period like the kura that was located in the place where an old shop used to be located. Building C was deconstructed, moved, and rebuilt on the side with the public walk. Building C will be rented and used as a pop-up shop when an event is held in the niwa. In order to move the building, where other buildings stood so close to it, the Ajiro residence was moved to the space where the old shop used to be located in order to secure the route necessary to move Building C. In addition, all the columns that had been worn out were patched on the first floor, and the reinforced concrete foundation was tightened with fastenings in order to improve earthquake-resistance.

Ajirochaya is a project the purpose of which is to convey 100 years of Hachioji history and culture, which has flourished with the textile industry since the Meiji period, in the newly renovated town block for the next generation. The site of Ajirochaya consists of five buildings with different historical backgrounds and uses, a niwa, and a roji connecting the buildings to the niwa. We were struck by the strong spirit of the owner who wanted to restore the buildings handed down for generations and turn them into Ajirochaya for posterity in this neighborhood occupied by many condominiums without opting to build a condominium himself. The shopping area in Yokoyama-cho used to flourish as the center of Hachioji, but historical buildings have recently been rebuilt one by one as condominiums. We hope the project will be a reminder that there are other possibilities.

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In addition, we also think Ajirochaya represents the future of public spaces. At present, urban public spaces in Japan only have public facilities provided by governments, traffic facilities such as stations and roads, and commercial facilities built with huge amounts of capital. However, there used to be different kinds of public spaces; less-traveled streets used to be a place for housewives’ gossip and children’s playgrounds. We would like to recreate a familiar public space in Ajirochaya by introducing kura, niwa and roji in the community. We believe that we can produce an ideal way to create new public spaces different from those provided by governments or those with huge amounts of capital if individuals are willing to open up the spaces they own to their communities little by little, and such spaces continue to grow in number.

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