The Culture of Windows
Every December I have difficulty displaying my Advent Calendars at home. It has been going on for 16 years now. The reason lies in the fact that windows in a Japanese home (most homes) are not like what they are in Canadian/North American homes. They are not designed the same way because they do not have the same function.
You would think that the basic function of a window in any culture in the world is to let the light in, and so it is. But in Canada windows are also for inhabitants to see out and, to a lesser degree, for the community to see inside as well. Windows are an invitation to the community in that regard. I believe neither of those is true of Japan. Despite the presence here of some very Western style homes (mine not included) the function of windows in a Japanese home is to let in light and keep out intrusive eyes. Community stops at the door, or the garden wall, or the main door’s gate.
The result is windows with no interior (or exterior) window sills (used in Canada for displaying things like decorations, candles, Advent Calendars, planters, etc.), windows with no view of the streets (because even if the glass is transparent the view is often blocked either by another nearby building, or else by the garden fence that stands as another barrier between the home and the exterior world), and windows with deliberately opaque glass (to let the light in while obstructing vision). The point is that obstructing vision is a major and unavoidable theme in the culture of Japanese windows.
In pre-modern days, before the introduction of glass panes, Japanese windows were openings in the wall featuring sliding shutters (covered in paper panels) that allowed some light but still blocked easy two-way vision, or else a solid, unmoving lattice work to let in the air but keep out prying eyes.
In my apartment I have opaque glass in some windows (the bathroom window, for example) and clear glass in others (the balcony). All my windows have wire mesh in the glass as a guard against shattering in the event of an earthquake, which I think is unsightly, but which I have long since ceased to fret about,. The floor-to-ceiling balcony windows are really doors onto the balcony. Because they provide visual access into my apartment from surrounding structures, the drapes are kept drawn for privacy - which is exactly what surrounding homes do as well for the same reasons. That means they are unsuited for displaying something like my Advent Calendar, and are not used as community invitations.
The opaque glass features in the kitchen and the bathroom, so they are also unsuited for Advent Calendar display. My feeling is that the calendar should go in the living room where the majority of our family life occurs. But that is impractical because those windows are the balcony doors that I described.
The exterior doors of the apartment, or the interior doors plus dangling things from the ceiling are the best way to display seasonal decorations - for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and more. The walls are not conducive to decoration because in an apartment building like mine, they are usually just painted or wallpapered cement. It’s a lot less space for festive display than a Canadian apartment of equal or equitable size would provide, I think, and the culture of domestic design dictates the function of the space. The same is true of Canada, of course, and the problem I am describing is merely one of trying to apply Canadian holiday functions to a Japanese domestic design.