Kaso (physiognomy of the house) (家相)

Kaso refers to the study of fortune telling which is similar to Feng Shui, Kigaku (fortune telling based on Chinese 12 year cycle) and etc. It is sometimes classified as the study of posteriori destiny.

According to books written by Takahisa MIYAUCHI, it refers to the idea or practice of the Yang (bright) and Yin (dark) houses on a good physiognomy of land, upon the desire for happiness of ones living. Particularly, in Japan, Yang (bright) Feng Shui spread as the form of Kaso. However in Japan, although 'Chiso' (physiognomy of the land) and 'Kaso' are separately defined, comprehensively 'Kaso' is applied.


According to a book of Takahisa MIYAUCHI, houses are the most fundamental center of one's existence and from ancient times people have made efforts to protect life or fortune, but natural disasters (eg. earthquakes) were mysterious in those days so they desired to understand 'the principles governing and controlling the world' including factors for disasters, as a result of which the concept of living space materialize, over the years cultivated through knowledge, a standard influencing the construction of a house, from an outlook of the world was produced.

In Yukio EGUCHI's book, the relation of taboos or magic to the existence of magical beliefs are similarly described and defined in Shokokusha publication's 'Dictionary of Architecture' in an item on Kaso at the beginning, as 'a popular beliefs of the folks' which has the same origin of Shijin-soo.

History of Kaso in Japan

Hereafter, Japanese history after the Edo period is mentioned

Edo period

According to Hideaki MATSUDAIRA and Goro HONMA, there was a sudden increase in the practice of Kaso from the Tenmei era to Kasei era, and peaked during the Kyowa era to Kasei era.

Akira NAITO claims that there were 100 books, of which the year and month of publication could or could not be specified (ref. Akira NAITO, 1961). A tally by Takashi YOKOYAMA shows that there were 50 books in which the year and month were specified (ref. Takashi YOKOYAMA, 1981). The research results by Aga MURATA, of 176 books most were published in the Bunka, Bunsei and Tenpo eras. These books were taken as a basis.

As for regulations regarding publishing during the Edo period, the following examples are mentioned in the books by Hideaki MATSUDAIRA and Goro HONMA.

In one of the books on Feng Shui, Chin KYOSAN stated 'The secret of the three powers [heaven, earth and man]' was imported from China by the Fourth Unsen Ship in 1969, but a part of it was deleted with ink, after 1685 the book was banned (ref. Osamu OBA, 1967).

In September of 1801, Hachibei KAWACHIYA, a publisher from a Minami-Kyuhoji Temple in Osaka filed the book 'Horsemanship' by Tokei MATSUKURA, which was banned due to debasement of morals. However, the following May it was filed again, and approved in July as a result.

Similarly, in September of 1802, Gohei HARIMA, a publisher in Nagahori Shinsaibashi cho, Osaka, filed that some problems may arise in the calendar from the two books 'Benwaku book oral instruction' and 'Tenwakeshokeiheitengi graphic illustration.'
Ryutatsu ASADA, who was a famous scholar of the calendar in those days testified and approved the books.

Meiji and Taisho period

According to a literally work of Takahisa MIYAUCHI, the government ordered a detailed survey to each prefecture to see how far the prohibition had influenced the daily life. Especially as in 1872, Kaso was forbidden as it was considered to be a kind of Inshi jakyo (evil heresies) by Kyobusho (Ministry of Religion). As explained earlier.

Therefore, following the trend during the Taisho period and academic journal 'Architecture Journal' and similar journals published this movement which continued until the early Showa period, with regard to folklore there has been no progress in the study of folk dwelling, religion and related fields. It has been analyzed similarly.

Showa period

In the books by Hideaki MATSUDAIRA and Goro HONMA, commented 'By the way, signboards put up in downtown city, which give the orientation of Kaso, could not escape any professional consciousness as some faults were always attributed. This must be carefully noted.' 'Several dozens of signboards in Kaemon TAKASHIMA, in Tokyo alone, indicating the pun, 'uranai' (fortune-telling) and 'uranai' (not selling) were put up, finally the police were summoned (omitted), such kind of pickers were many in the city' which was a pity (the part in quotation mark is a citation). Part of it is converted to modern-day Kanji (Chinese characters).

In 1931, Kanichi UCHIDA, insisted on recognizing from the view point of nature and geography, but could make no progress.

In 1946, the Ministry of Education, council for superstition took a survey 'Is Kimon [demon's gate] to be avoided,' surprisingly one may believe or not, two thirds of the reply was 'Yes.'

In the late 1960's, Kyoshi SEIKE applied three fields of architectural planning, architectural history and geography to further this study. Seike seems to have argued that Kaso had a certain level of scientific nature from the viewpoint of architectural study.

In 1981, Akihiko MIYANO studied further the correlation between directional fortune in Kaso and natural environment and reported that it matched the natural environment in Xian and Luoyang in China.

Various theories

Shozan SAKUMA opposed the standards used in general Kaso.

Originally the climate of Japan is very humid, which is different from that in China which is mostly dry.'
Therefore, the architecture in China and Japan differ in form and style accordingly.'
Thus the form of eaves and the construction of veranda-like porches are completely peculiar to Japan, and also the shape need not be similar.'
One should know that changing the style goes against the climate and the land.'
The statement such as this remained, because he believed that the theory of Kaso cultivated in China should not be adopted in Japan. For example, Shozan SAKUMA argued that the barn, granary, lavatory, etc. should be detached, not be positioned in the east or southeast of the main house as the light from the east and the winter light from the southeast is blocked. He is said to have asserted that the barn or storeroom is to be positioned in the corner of Kimon (northeast) to avoid the strong summer light entering the house in the morning, and in this particular position is approved upon the condition of the solar rays and four seasons.

Schools and Thoughts

Hideaki MATSUDAIRA and Goro HONMA divided the school of Kaso roughly into three.

Kamiya Koreki (old calender) school

The Kamiya-Koreki school, based the study of Kaso on the art of divination. Kyusei (nine stars having own color, respectively, used for astrology) was applied for the orientation.

According to the books of Aga MURATA, in the study of Kaso during the Edo period, Inyogogyo (the cosmic dual forces [yin and yang]) and the five elements 'wood,' 'fire,' 'earth,' 'metal' and 'water' was assigned by the number of jo (counter for tatami mats; measure of room size) which could predict a synastry or rivalry. According to Aga MURATA, in the kaso theory during the Edo period, as an example, it is said to have been used such as, 'something like the adjoining rooms of nine jo (counter for tatami mats) or eight jo have a luck of earth giving rise to metal' (the part in the quotation marks is cited from the book by Aga MURATA). However, it is mentioned that such an idea does not to exist in the Chinese book as an authority.

In the books by Hideaki MATSUDAIRA and Goro HONMA, the Kamiya-Koreki school, could positively appraise by the number of mats in a room.

Matsudaira Tohato school

Matsudiara Tohato school applied the basics of Feng shui dynamics for the study of Kaso. As for orientation, the Oriental zodiac is utilized.

Matsudaira Kinkaku school

Matsudaira Kinkaku school was called an eclectic school as it utilized a combination of Feng Shui and Kyusei. And according to the documents of Hideaki MATSUDAIRA and Goro HONMA, the Matsudaira Kinkaku school had a negative stance towards the running water method.

Difference of practice

Hideaki MATSUDAIRA and Goro HONMA emphasized that there are differences of practice produced upon existing various ways of appraisal such as the ryusui (running water) method, the way of Hattaku school, each school adapted different methods giving rise to the following differences.

Center Point of House

There are roughly three ways in selecting the center of the house.

Selecting the center of the whole premise.

Selecting the center by the shape of the house.

The living quarters of the owner or the living room is selected as the center.

Aga MURATA wrote that during the Edo period, the living room of the owner or the inner living room is considered as the center of the house, in the case of an owner being absent for a long period of time, it becomes necessary to protect one's fortune by selecting one more center of the premise with a caretaker who serves as an owner, in which case one can think of a house having two centers.

Methods to determine the orientation

Kyusei, the Oriental zodiac, Happo (8 directions), 24 directions and so on.


The insistence that Kaso is a superstition, raises a lack of unity in literature regarding one's fortune, lack of objective description and weak scientific data regarding surrounding water and Kimon, indicates a dilution of the theory of Kaso.

As regards to this, Takahisa MIYAUCHI revealed that rationality is meaningless but it is important to clarify the outlook of a house, also Shozan SAKUMA describes in some sections 'the Kaso theory cultivated in China should not be applied to Japan' which suggests a lack of unity.

Hereafter, person's supporting or opposing is described from an academic point of view.


Tomifumi TAKANO (a report on the physiognomy of Kaso in the Ueda region, Nagano Prefecture, 1963).

Kan SATO, Rikijiro SATO (a debate on the beliefs in relation to Inui and Kimon [the northeastern unlucky] direction, person, a thing to be avoided by Rikijiro in 1976).


Takashi SUGAI (the birth year unknown - 1985)

Kazushi OSHITA (the birth year unknown - 1985)

Cho NISHIZONO (the birth year unknown - 1986)

Kiho OKUMA, (academic journal 'Archetecture Journal,' Story of Kaso – Unknown) stated that Kaso is mostly a superstition, introduced from China.

Chuta ITO (academic journal 'Archetecture Journal,' on the orientation of Kaso – Unknown) states that in Japan, Kaso was a popular theory from the Kasei era.

[Original Japanese]