machiyaSarah Mahoney, anthropology ’18, is the recipient of Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology Best Undergraduate Paper Prize. The award recognizes the recent UCI graduate for her paper, “Kyoto Funiki: Atmospheres of Living” which examines the relationship between machiya - traditional, narrow Japanese townhouses made completely out of natural materials – and contemporary living in Japan.

Mahoney’s interest in machiya was piqued during a trip to see a medical specialist in Kyoto. When she transferred to UCI from her university in the Bay area, she looked for an opportunity to return to the Japanese city.

 “It was that architecture that stuck out to me,” she says. “It has this atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re really in Japan.”

She began reading everything she could on the homes and - thanks to funding from UCI’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Summer Undergraduate Research Program (UROP SURP) and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship - she was able to take her second trip to Kyoto.

machiyaUpon her arrival, she immediately began her field research. She interviewed café owners who had converted the machiya into quaint coffee shops and restaurants. She spoke to Japanese  young and old. She read up on machiya history and the city’s plans for their future, and took photos of the homes around Kyoto. After returning from her semester abroad, she couldn’t help but look for another opportunity to go back to Japan and continue her research on machiya. And thanks to National Geographic Society and their Young Explorers grant (now called an Early Career Grant), she flew back to spend the summer at Kyoto University.

Mahoney’s work has been highly lauded; in addition to receiving the SUNTA prize and awards and funding above, she also earned the Ruth Benedict Paper Prize and Most Outstanding Student Award within the UCI anthropology department, as well as the UCI Chancellor's Award of Distinction, UCI Order of Merit, UCI Onnuri Church Scholarship, and UCEAP Promise Award. Her honor’s thesis on machiya earned her the Social Sciences Outstanding Honors Thesis Award at the 2018 Order of Merit ceremony.

Read more about Mahoney’s story here:

-pictured (top to bottom): Mahoney at Kyoto University; traditional machiya architecture. 


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