Dozo (土蔵)

Dozo (storehouses) are traditional Japanese architectural structures with outer walls made of mud and finished with plaster. They are usually simply referred to as 'kura' (storehouse) and buildings constructed in this style are called 'Dozo-zukuri' or 'Kura-zukuri' (earthen-wall building style). As well as those built as warehouses or for storage, there are also some which were constructed with the dual function of storage and shop. Buildings of this type which combine shop and dwelling are sometimes called 'misegura' and developed as an off-shoot of the original buildings built for storage.


The origin is not clear. They were also built in the Middle Ages together with tradesmen's houses (merchant's houses), and in modern times, with the arrival of firearms, lime plaster stud wall techniques were also used on castles for fire-proofing and bullet-proofing, and mud walls over 30 centimeters thick as Dozo-zukuri style were extensively used on defensive structures such as guard towers and turrets keep from the late Azuchi-Momoyama period to around the Edo period. From the Edo period, the construction of dozo for fire-proofing and theft prevention flourished, often with the adoption of techniques developed in castle construction, and this created an impression of affluence. From the Meiji Period onwards, some mud walls were finished with mortar rather than lime plaster, creating a western look. Again, some were constructed with bricks or Oya-ishi stone instead of mud walls. Nowadays, the dozo construction techniques are used on restaurants, businesses and museums to create a traditional look.

Outer finish

The outer finish is a stud wall finished on both sides, with plaster on top of the mud daub, or a variety of planks.
Some dozo were finished with 'namako-kabe' in which rectangular plain tiles are fixed to the wall and fine plaster mounded up into the gaps between the tiles in a way which resembles the fishcakes called 'ita-kamaboko.'
In some cases plasterers use trowels to create reliefs of pictures or words on the plaster walls.

Nowadays, tinplate, steel plate or corrugated plate is used instead of wooden boards.

Fire Resistance Capability

Most walls are over 300mm thick and the outer doors are also made of mud, with the outside of the doors coated with mud and plaster.

It is noted for their fire resistance, with many examples in which the dozo survived fires during the Edo period in which there were many great fires and also during the air raids in modern times. However, the fire bombs used in the air raids were weapons which caught fire after penetrating roofs, so in cases where the firebombs directly hit the roof, there were many examples in which the outer walls remained intact, while the inside was burnt out.

Again, in the past, whenever a fire broke out in the neighborhood, a plasterer going by would run in and use clay prepared for fire prevention purposes to block up all gaps and prevent the dozo from catching fire.

Works Mentioning Dozo Storehouses

Japanese classic Rakugo (traditional comic storytelling) called Nezumiana (rat hall): There is a scene in which a person who moves from rags to riches with a large store, when one day, while fire-proofing, he neglects to cover the vent called Nezumiana, and the whole dozo storehouse burns down, so he is turned out on the street.

Streets with Many Kura Storehouses
There are quite a few examples of towns boasting 'streets with many kura storehouses' as tourist spots. Most of them are not dozo storehouses for storage but misegura buildings (a shop constructed using the fireproof system of construction known as dozo-zukuri style or kura-zukuri style) which combine shops and residences.

Landmarks in Tochigi City
The main street in Tochigi-juku (Tochigi City), a staging post on the Nikko-Reiheishi Kaido Road is called 'Kura-no-machi Odori' (literally, main street of the town of kura).

Main buildings Registered as Cultural Property in Makabe Town
Makabe castle town. There are more than 100 buildings registered as national tangible cultural properties, and these include many buildings constructed with the dozo techniques.

Kawagoe City landmarks
Kawagoe clan castle town. The main street is called 'Kura-zukuri no machinami' (the street of kura-zukuri buildings) and it is designated an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.

Sawara no Machinami (the street of Sawara) (Katori City, Chiba Prefecture)
It prospered as a base for water transport and a large number of dozo buildings can be found in the area designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings, and many old houses remain including the former house of Tadataka INO.

Hirafuku-juku (Hirafuku staging post) (Sayo Town, Hyogo Prefecture)
Many dozo buildings remain behind the stone wall along the Sayo-gawa River.
This is well-known as 'Kawabata scenery.'

Wakasa-juku (Wakasa staging post) Kura-dori Road (Wakasa Town, Tottori Prefecture)
Constructions other than those using the dozo techniques have been prohibited, resulting in a street with a continuous row of dozo buildings.

The Utsubukitama-gawa River (Kurayoshi Town, Tottori Prefecture)
Usually called 'Shirakabe Dozo-gun' (dozo buildings with white walls). It is in the Yabase-orai Road which is said to have been surveyed by Tadataka INO.
An Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings

Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

[Original Japanese]