Shōji paper sliding doors in the Rinshunkaku at Sankei-en (Important Cultural Property)
Shōji doors next to the tokonoma alcove, Rinshunkaku
View along wood-floored engawa towards a corner showing shōji edge-on and, on the far side of the corner, from the inside, with light shining through.
A tatami room surrounded by paper shōji (paper outside, lattice inside). The shōji are surrounded by an engawa (porch/corridor); the engawa is surrounded by garasu-do, all-glass sliding panels.

A shōji (しょう, Japanese pronunciation: [ɕo:ʑi]) is a door, window or room divider used in traditional Japanese architecture, consisting of translucent (or transparent) sheets on a lattice frame. Where light transmission is not needed, the similar but opaque fusuma is used[1] (oshiire/closet doors, for instance[2]). Shoji usually slide, but may occasionally be hung or hinged, especially in more rustic styles.[3]

Shōji are very lightweight, so they are easily slid aside, or taken off their tracks and stored in a closet, opening the room to other rooms or the outside.[4][5][6] Fully traditional buildings may have only one large room, under a roof supported by a post-and-lintel frame, with few or no permanent interior or exterior walls; the space is flexibly subdivided as needed by the removable sliding wall panels.[7] The posts are generally placed one tatami-length (about 2m or 6 ft) apart, and the shōji slide in two parallel wood-groove tracks between them.[8] In modern construction, the shōji often do not form the exterior surface of the building; they sit inside a sliding glass door or window.[5]

Shōji are valued for not setting a sharp barrier between the interior and the exterior; outside influences such as the swaying silhouettes of trees, or the chorus of frogs, can be appreciated from inside the house.[9] As exterior walls, shōji diffuse sunlight into the house; as interior partitions between rooms, they allow natural light deep into the interior. While shōji block wind, they do allow air to diffuse through,[9] important when buildings were heated with charcoal.[5] Like curtains, shōji give visual privacy,[4][7] but they do not block sounds.[4][10] Shōji are also thought to encourage a home's inhabitants to speak and move softly, calmly, and gracefully, an important part of the ethos behind sukiya-zukuri architecture.[9] Sliding doors cannot traditionally be locked.[10]

It rose in popularity as an integral element of the shoin-zukuri style, which developed in the Kamakura Period (1123–1333), as loss of income forced aristocrats into more modest and restrained architecture.[11] This style was simplified in teahouse-influenced sukiya-zukuri architecture,[12] and spread to the homes of commoners in the Edo Period (1603–1868), since which shōji have been largely unchanged.[4] Shōji are used in both traditional-style Japanese houses and in Western-style housing, especially in the washitsu (traditional Japanese-style room).[8][13] The traditional wood-and-paper construction is highly flammable.[14]

  1. ^ "Fusuma vs Shoji". Simplicable.
  2. ^ "What is a Futon?". Futon Tokyo. 1 October 2015.
  3. ^ see kake- and hiraki-shōji below
  4. ^ a b c d Larson, Brooke. "What are Shoji? Complete Guide to Japanese Paper Screens". Japan Objects.
  5. ^ a b c Sukiya Living Magazine article about shoji screens
  6. ^ "Shouji 障子". JAANUS -- the on-line Dictionary of Japanese Architectural and Art Historical Terminology.
  7. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference what was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ a b "How do shoji screens work?".
  9. ^ a b c Linnea Anderson (April 16, 2015). "DIY Japanese Shoji Sliding Door Panels".
  10. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference live was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  11. ^ "Shoin-zukuri: Japanese architectural style". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  12. ^ "Sukiya-zukuri 数奇屋造". JAANUS.
  13. ^ Spacey, John. "Washitsu Traditional Japanese Rooms". Japan Talk.
  14. ^ Cite error: The named reference edo-tokyo was invoked but never defined (see the help page).