During the Edo period, the wealth of a merchant was measurable by the length of the house front, because the tax paid was proportional to the frontage of the plot of land.
Under of this unusual tax system, the merchants were trying to reduce the facade as much as possible. And since the depth wasn’t taken into account, the houses were built with a narrow facade and with a very long body. Hence, the machiya houses were nicknamed “ell’s bed"…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: