by Ewa Nowogorski
There are two types of sliding doors in Japan, called shoji and fusuma. The primary difference between fusuma and shoji is that fusuma are opaque. Although fusuma may be constructed from paper it is typically a thick course grained paper that isn’t translucent. Shoji on the other hand are made from a thin waxed paper that lets light through.
I think many foreigners come to Japan and fall in love with these kinds of doors. True, traditional doors offer no sound proofing and paper doors are very fragile and easy to break, but home design that incorporates sliding doors instead of hinged doors is fantastic because they are space saving.
Sliding doors first started being used in Japan during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). Houses were becoming larger and more well-built. These doors, which can be removed, were removed in the summer to open up the room and help with airflow, alleviating humidity. The paper screens also allowed for sunlight to enter the room while also providing privacy, which was very useful before glass doors and windows were invented. They were initially very heavy and used in very large mansions because they were expensive, but the designs gradually became lighter and they started being used in smaller houses as well.