Kyoto is known for its high temperature and humid summers. Today, people use air-conditioning to cool their homes and make it through the hot season of the year. However, needless to say, until the invention of air-conditioners, people had to stand the heat without the use of any electricity what-so-ever. One of their ways of cooling down, was to spill water around the house to keep the ground cool. This is called uchi-mizu. Another way was to build houses that would let out hot and humid air out of the house. Most traditional houses in Kyoto are designed like this. These special houses are called machiya.
In the central area of Kyoto, houses are built side-by-side. There is very little space between these houses. So, normally, air from outside would not flow into the house on its own. However, machiya were designed so that wind is created within the house. Here is how. Machiya are narrow, built with a courtyard between two buildings. Though they are built closely next to each other, the homes all lie north and south, so that every entrance door would face the main road. The front half of the house that faces the main road is usually a shop, and the owner lives in the back building. During the summer, as the sun heats the roof tiles, an up-current of air is created. The air from the entrance, and the air from the back door, which is cool because of uchi-mizu, is pulled into the house. This use of air circulation pushes out the hot and humid air into the courtyard like a fan.
We can learn a lot from the knowledge and culture of Kyoto. Not only does Kyoto have eco-friendly customs, but the prefecture has maintained these traditional houses and other Japanese cultures despite modernization. Throwing away culture and knowledge from our ancestors and using electronic technology instead, goes against the idea of sustainable development. Adapting to the climate and surrounding environment where you live is crucial for a safe earth. Be creative and find ways to be eco-friendly while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle like the people of Kyoto.