A 100-Year Old Kura and Townhouse, Renovated into the Cafeteria of a Japanese Kindergarten

all photos by Tooru Akiyama

Matsuzaki Yochien is a 100-year old Kindergarten in Yamaguchi, Japan. And on the occasion of their 100-year anniversary the school wanted to expand, but in a thoughtful way that respects the community where they have looked after the local children for decades. So they decided to purchase an adjacent machiya and kura that had been built right around the time the kindergarten was founded.

the 100-year old machiya and kura, which was adjacent to the kindergarten

Matsuzaki Yochien hired Shigeru Aoki Architect & Associates, an architecture firm specializing in renovations, to help turn the machiya and kura into a spacious cafeteria and playroom that would maintain historical elements of the old structure.

The architects got to work removing tiles, thatched soil, unnecessary earthen walls and finishes to reduce the weight of the building, ensuring it was up to code and seismic performance. They then enclosed the wooden townhouse within a large steel frame structure, rendering it as more of a play area, rather than architectural structure. Large glass windows were added so locals can observe the school’s activities from the street as they pass by.

The result, which was the recipient of a Good Design Award last year, is one of the best uses of a renovated machiya we can think of. Not only does it create a visually enticing space but it preserves history and exposes children to their own local history of craftsmanship and architecture.

large floor-to-ceiling windows allows views into the kindergarten

children eating lunch next to the historical structure

original wooden pillars, roof and other details

a tea room, presumably for the staff and teachers to use


  1. find a contractor

    July 30, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Wow, awesome renovation. I am impressed when architects and designers remodel old buildings, but leave the most soulful in them. The kindergarten was already a hundred years old, this is a very long time, I’m afraid to imagine what happened there before, because buildings of this age are difficult to maintain in good conditions. Thanks for sharing this information, good luck!

  2. God Bless The Child.

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