[Japanese Roof Tiles]

In Japan, it is said that currently about half of the houses have a roof with Japanese tiles. These tiles, made of earth, are therefore eco-responsible.

Historically, earthen tiles were invented in China and these techniques reached Japan via the Korean peninsula and it was around 588 when the Asuka temple (the first Japanese Buddhist temple recognized as such) was built that tiles made with these techniques were used.

At first, the tiles were only used for temples, but later they were used for the roofs of palaces where high-ranking people lived. The first palace was Fujiwara-kyu. This palace needed two million tiles, a number much higher than the number of tiles in the temples of that time. So in the present Nara Prefecture, tile makers were multiplied to meet this demand. But as it was not enough, the craftsmen of the current prefecture of Osaka, Shiga, Kagawa were also called and the tiles were transported to Fujiwara-kyu.

As you have understood, in Japan, the tile was considered as an expensive good, and the common people could not and had not the right to put some on the roof of their house. However, this situation will change in the Edo period. Indeed, the city of Edo, former name of Tokyo, was known for its frequent fires because of the houses made of wood and paper piled up to the others. To remedy this big problem, it was decided that even the common people could use tiles for their houses. At the same time, just at this time, a tile maker in the present Shiga Prefecture, managed to create a lighter and cheaper kind of tile. Thus, the use of tiles in Japan developed in the houses of common people too.

In Japan, among the tiles, there is one called onigawara, which literally means demon-tile, which is used to be placed at the ends of the roofs. This one, which has a well-defined function, that of keeping the rain away, also has a symbolic value: by representing the head of a demon, one wished to put the demon on one's side and be protected. It is interesting to note that the first onigawara did not represent demons, but lotus flowers and it is from the Nara period that representations of these evil beings appear.

Nowadays, tile is not only what you find on the roof of a house, but you can find it in food too. In Yamaguchi Prefecture, there is a type of buckwheat noodle called "kawara soba" made with brown buckwheat noodles, broiled egg, and beef on top of a hot kawara tile. In Kagawa and Hyogo prefectures, you can also find a kind of noodle in the shape of a tile called Kawara-senbei. It is a dry, sweet cake that you can eat while drinking tea or hot chocolate. Come and see our online store, you will surely find what you need for your tea break!

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