Research & Works

Window Ethnology

photo by Sato Koji

The peoples that once populated regions from North Eurasia to North America lived in earthen huts with soil-covered roofs. These roofs had an opening at their apex, which structurally could not be filled. Peoples that utilized these openings as entryways used ladders that were decorated at the tip with guardian spirits. These openings were the first windows. They were also seen as passageways for people’s souls to travel between the human world and the heavens. Why did people choose to live in such closed, uncomfortable spaces?

The true value of these dwellings no doubt lay in their use as sleeping places, as they offered a dark space where one could lay embraced by the earth protected from the threats of nature. From this perspective, the skylight was the single biggest contradiction of these dwellings. Yet, without a window, they would not have had a connection with the outside world. The history of human dwellings thus started out with this built-in contradiction.

BUNAK HOUSE "Deu Hoto" Desa Ekin, Kec.Lamaknen, Kab.Belu, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia
BUNAK HOUSE "Deu Hoto" Desa Ekin, Kec.Lamaknen, Kab.Belu, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia

Sato Koji Associate Professor, National Museum of Ethnology / Architectural Anthropologist

Graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo in 1977. Withdrew from the university in 1989 after completing doctoral program credits. Holds a masterʼs degree in engineering. Majored in architectural history and ethnological architecture. Has been engaged in conducting field surveys and research in the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and South Korea since 1981. Publications include Shirīzu kenchiku jinruigaku <Sekai no sumai o yomu> 1-4 [Reading the Dwellings of the World: Architectural Anthropology Series 1-4*] (Gakugei, 1998–1999), 2002 nen souru sutairu risan ikka no sugao no kurashi[Seoul Style 2002: Life as It Is with the Lee Family](Senri Foundation, 2002), and Brikorāju āto nau nichijou no boukensha tachi [Bricolage Art Now: Adventurers in Everyday Life*] (Seigensha Art, 2005).