Hearths, Tables, and Samurai Welcome Feasts

My newest Hiro Hattori novel, BETRAYAL AT IGA, features a welcome feast gone horribly wrong.

In medieval Japan (and in traditional homes to this day) the tables looked quite different from the ones in Western homes. While Europeans used waist-high tables and sat in elevated chairs, Japanese tables looked like this:

Samurai Dining Table

People knelt (or sometimes sat cross-legged) on cushions placed directly on the floor.

In poorer homes, or on occasions when formal tables were not used, families ate while sitting or kneeling around the irori, a sunken hearth with a bed of fine dirt or sand upon which fires were kindled.


The irori was also used to heat the home, and the smoke from the fire helped keep the thatch in the roof in good condition, both by keeping it dry and by discouraging insects.

Characters in my novels often sit, eat, or talk around the hearth, much as their real historical counterparts would have done through much of Japanese history.

(Photos taken at Nihon Minka-en, the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum in Kawasaki City, Japan.)