A Meiji era engawa bearing a resemblance to a veranda, with people for scale. Note the slope of the ground under the engawa, and the traditional stone step.
Engawa, with sliding glass doors outside, and yukimi shōji (shōji with both paper and glass panes) inside. The solid wood amado leaning up against the corner is a storm shutter, and is usually stored away.

An engawa (縁側/掾側) or en () is an edging strip of non-tatami-matted flooring in Japanese architecture, usually wood or bamboo. The en may run around the rooms, on the outside of the building, in which case they resemble a porch or sunroom.

Usually, the en is outside the translucent paper shōji, but inside the amado (雨戸) storm shutters (when they are not packed away).[1][2] However, some en run outside the amado. En that cannot be enclosed by amado, or sufficiently sheltered by eaves, must be finished to withstand the Japanese climate.[3] Modern architecture often encloses an en with sheet glass. An engawa allows the building to remain open in the rain or sun, without getting too wet or hot, and allows flexible ventilation and sightlines.[4]

The area under an engawa is sloped away from the building, and often paved, to carry the water away. The area directly outside the paving is usually a collector drain that takes water still further away.[3] The engawa is thus a way to bridge the obstacles good drainage puts between the indoors and the outdoors.


The engawa is supported on posts, identical to the other uprights of the house.[5] A row of uprights runs long the inside of the engawa, and the shōji sliding screens run between these; a second row of uprights runs along the outside of the engawa.[6] The posts traditionally stand on half-buried stones,[5] pounded into the earth with a specialized maul, and the wood posts shaped to fit the upper surface.[6] More recent houses may use concrete footings.

The engawa floor may not be finished, or it may be polished or lacquered.[5]


A temple in Kyoto with, from top to bottom, hiro-en, ochi-en, and nure'en. Note that part of the hiro-en is enclosed. Drainage provision is obvious.

En means an edge; gawa a side.[7] The terms en and engawa were historically used interchangeably,[8][9] but engawa now generally refers to the veranda directly outside the shutters.[citation needed] Types of en include:

Positional terms

If there are fewer than three en, an en may be described by more than one of the positional terms.[10][11]

Structural terms

Relation to other house components

The core of a traditional Shinden-style building was the innermost room or moya (母屋) (see diagram). This was surrounded by the hisashi (廂,庇), which was on the same level, and was usually inside the windows and shitomi storm shutters. The hisashi was often a ring of tatami-floored rooms, but could be an unmatted en; see also hirobisashi (広廂/広庇/弘廂). In a large building, there could be further layers of tatami-floored rooms,[12] courtyards, and further floorplan complications.

In Shoin-style buildings, the positioning of the engawa varied more, and the storm shutters slid rather than being hinged (usually horizontally). The modern Sukiya-style of building uses amado, storm shutters that not only slide but pack away in a cupboard called a to-bukura by day; unlike the Shoin-style shutter, these generally run on the outside of the engawa.

The width of an engawa varies with the building; 1–1.3 m (3 ft 3 in – 4 ft 3 in) is common, while large temples may have over 3 metres (9.8 ft) of engawa. The engawa is supported on posts, identical to the other uprights of the house. The posts stand on half-buried stones[5] or concrete footings.

Cultural role

Engawa are often proportioned so that one can sit on the edge and observe the garden.[14] They provide a space for playing children and casual visitors.[4]

An engawa is part of the house, and shoes are therefore not worn on it. Guests' shoes are lined up pointing outwards.

While engawa declined with the Westernization of Japanese architecture,[4] they are making a comeback in modern architecture.[4][15]

See also


  1. ^ [En]. The Daijisen. Shougakukan. 1995.
  2. ^ "Shoji Screens". www.rothteien.com.
  3. ^ a b A., Kester, Jeffery (18 March 2017). "The Kester House & Garden". kesterhouse.com.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b c d Duits, Kjeld (14 June 2008). "1890s • Woman in Room". Old Photos of Japan.
  5. ^ a b c d e Edward S. Morse (1885). "5: Entrances and Approaches". Japanese Homes and their Surroundings. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  6. ^ a b Edward S. Morse (1885). "1: The House". Japanese Homes and their Surroundings. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  7. ^ "The definition of engawa". www.dictionary.com.
  8. ^ "Engawa 縁側". www.aisf.or.jp. Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  9. ^ "En 縁". www.aisf.or.jp. Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System.
  10. ^ "Nure-en 濡縁". www.aisf.or.jp. Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System.
  11. ^ "Ochi-en 落縁". www.aisf.or.jp. Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System.
  12. ^ "Shinden-zukuri 寝殿造". www.aisf.or.jp. Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System.
  13. ^ "Hisashi 廂". www.aisf.or.jp. Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System.
  14. ^ "ELEMENTS - The Engawa". Archiscapes. 15 January 2015.
  15. ^ Reinholdt, Eric (9 December 2014). "Design Workshop: How the Japanese Porch Makes a Home Feel Larger". Houzz.