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The austere translucent dividers known as shoji doors or shoji screens are a mainstay of shoin-zukuri style Japanese architecture.



What Are Shoji Doors?

Shoji doors are sliding doors or room dividers consisting of wooden frames covered with sheets of translucent paper known as shoji paper. They first emerged in twelfth-century Japan, where they remain common in houses and apartments. Shoji doors typically slide on tracks either above or below the door, and they’re easy to move due to their light weight.

What Are the Origins of Shoji Doors?

Shoji papers first appeared in Japanese homes during the Kamakura Period between 1123 and 1333. This was a period of economic downturn for the Japanese aristocracy, which led builders to embrace more economical materials and methods. The wood-and-paper construction of shoji doors combined affordability with understated elegance, and the style has remained fashionable ever since.

What Are Shoji Doors Made Of?

Shoji doors are built on a frame known as a kōshi. Traditionally, these frames are made from either bamboo or a coniferous softwood with a straight grain pattern. The paper panels are typically made from washi, a translucent, wind-resistant paper woven from kōzo, gampi, mitsumata, or hemp fiber. Prior to the late 1800s, silk was a common material for shoji, but as washi quality improved, silk doors receded.

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How to Use Shoji Doors

Shoji doors and shoji screens serve many purposes in a shoin-zukuri style Japanese house, functioning as sliding panels in any room. You can use them as room dividers to turn a large room into two smaller spaces, add them as doors to a private hot tub, or treat them like translucent windows or window covers.

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