Japanese carpentry always amazes me. One feature is particularly cool: the "yuki-mi" (snow-viewing) shoji screen doors. Shoji in and of themselves are cool -- the wood slats creating a warm contrast to the white rice paper (who in the West would've thought about making a wall out of paper!), while letting in a soft, translucent light. But the yuki-mi is the icing on the coolness cake. Allow me to explain: a traditional tatami-mat Japanese room usually has a "en-gawa" corridor between it and the outside wall. Shoji screens are used for the dividing wall. In the summer, one opens the screens to enjoy the view of the garden outside of the en-gawa. At night or when you want privacy, you close the shoji screens.
The problem is, in winter, people in the room want to close the shoji to keep the heat in, but you still want to see the garden. Hence, yuki-mi, which is a glass section of the shoji screen. The rice paper section in front lifts and is held in places by tiny side springs. So you have a barrier to keep in the heat, but you can see through it to the garden outside covered in snow. Pretty cool, eh?
Now, back to the story at hand. All of our guestrooms have a "veranda" in place of the en-gawa corridor. So there's the tatami room, the shoji screens, the veranda, full windows or glass patio doors, and (for the 1st floor rooms) a garden. This past October, we built new gardens for 2 of the rooms. Those rooms' patio doors had been made of obscure privacy glass. We changed them out to clear glass so guests could enjoy the new garden. With last night's snow, the guests in those rooms could keep the shoji closed, look through the yuki-mi glass sections and enjoy the view of the snow, all while staying warm. The yuki-mi shoji which had been there all along, but had been rendered useless by the privacy glass, finally got their chance to be utilized! A Cool Japan feature realized by this American innkeeper.