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Japanese
Architecture

ABOUT JAPANESE ARCHITECTURE


Japan has an interesting variety of buildings that exhibit
different architectural forms from humble farm houses to
grand imperial palaces. Architectural styles have evolved
from pre-historic to modern times. Early native designs
were exposed to strong influences from the Asian mainland,
imported styles were subsequently adapted to suit local
tastes, and recent history saw the introduction of Western
architecture into Japan.
Buildings were traditionally

built in wood - in part


because of the abundance
of timber and due to the
material's relatively good
resistance toearthquakes
Unfortunately,
many
buildings were lost through
the
years
to
natural
disasters,
the
humid
climate, fires and wars.

EARLY JAPAN

Early Japan
TheJomon Periodlasted from around 13000 BC to 300
BC. The inhabitants of Japan at that time were mainly
gatherers, fishers and hunters. Dwellings were built
directly over an earth floor with a wood foundation
and a thatched straw roof. Inside the house, the floor
may have been hollowed in, which is why Jomon
Following
the Jomon Period,
Period houses are often called
"pit dwellings".
theYayoyi
Periodlasted
from
around 300 BC to 300 AD. The
period is characterized by the
start of widespreadRicefarming,
resulting in the appearance of
permanent
settlements
with
bigger populations. Communities
became organized in villages as
a whole, with areas demarcated
for granaries, storehouses and
living
quarters.
Houses,
especially the granaries, were
built on stilts to keep away mice.
Structures such as village fences
and watch towers appeared.

SHRINES

Shrines
In ancient times,Shintoceremonies were held outdoors at temporarily
demarcated sites without buildings. Later, temporary structures were used
which eventually got replaced by permanent shrine buildings housing the
deity. Early shrine buildings predate the introduction ofBuddhismand
reflect native Japanese architecture styles
Among the earliest shrine architecture styles are the Shinmei style as
represented by theIse Shrineswhose halls resemble ancient storehouses,
and the Taisha style as represented by theIzumo Shrinewhose buildings
resemble ancient residences. Furthermore, there is the Sumiyoshi style as
represented by theSumiyoshi ShrineinOsakawhich is also considered to be
close to a natively Japanese shrine architecture style.

The arrival ofBuddhismin the


6th century brought along strong
architectural influences from the
mainland.Kasuga ShrineandUsa
Shrineare among two early
shrine construction prototypes
which already show more distinct
foreign elements. Towards the
Edo Period,
shrines
became
increasingly
ornate
as
exemplified
by
the
most
spectacular of them all,Nikko
Toshogu Shrine, which was built
in the 17th century

TEMPLES

Temples
Templescame along with the import ofBuddhismfrom China
around the 6th century. At first, temples resembled those in China
closely in features, such as having wide courtyards and
symmetrical layouts. Some of the oldest surviving temple
buildings exhibiting these features can be found inNara, in
particular atHoryuji(the world's oldest wooden structure),Todaiji
(the world's largest wooden structure),YakushijiandKofukuji.
Asukadera, located about 25 kilometers south ofNara City, is
considered the oldest Buddhist institution in Japan.

As time passed, temples


were increasingly designed
to suit local tastes. Newly
introduced sects from the
mainland contributed to
new temple architecture
styles. Temples began to
exhibit less symmetrical
features, and many started
to
incorporategardensin
their compounds.

PALACES

Palaces
Imperial palaces are the seat of theEmperor. In the
past, a new palace was built with the relocation of the
capital every time a new emperor ascended to the
throne. In 710, the first permanent capital was set up
inNara, and thus the first permanent palace, the
Heijo Palace, was built. The palace's former site is
From the 14th to the 16th century,
open to tourists today and
exhibits a few rebuilt
Japan went through a period of
structures.
civil war. With the arrival of peace
in theEdo Period, feudal lords
started
to
build
palaces
for
themselves too. These palaces
were usually situated within the
castlesbut separate from the main
keep. They served as residences,
offices and reception halls. Most
castle
palaces
have
been
destroyed, leaving only a handful
of original ones, most notably the
Ninomaru Palace atNijo Castleand
some recent reconstructions at the
castles ofNagoya,Kumamotoand
Hikone.

CASTLES

Castles
The civil war also gave the impetus for the construction of
castles. Initially built for purpose of fortification, the castles
became the center of government and status symbols for the
provincial lords as war drew to an end and Japan was
reunited in thelate 1500s. Hundreds of castles used to stand
across the country, but due to wars, natural disasters and
past governments' policies to limit their numbers, today only
twelve castle keeps survive from the feudal era, while a few
dozen others have been rebuilt in the 20th century.
The primary material for
castle construction used to be
wood, but most of the rebuilt
castles
were
constructed
using ferro concrete, and thus
they look authentic from the
outside but not from within.
Two of the best original
castles,
i.e.
castles
that
survived
the
post-feudal
years, areHimeji Castleand
Matsumoto Castle.

SAMURAI RESIDENCES

Samurai Residences
During theEdo Period(1603 - 1867), thesamuraiwere
required to reside in the castle towns that surrounded the
castles. The grandeur of a samurai's house was determined by
his rank in the hierarchy. Strict regulations had to be followed;
for example, the size of the pillars and the type of gates to be
used were pertained by status. While higher ranking samurai
lived closest to the castle in large houses with spacioustatami
rooms andgardens, lower ranking samurai had more humble
residences further away from the castle

TOWNHOUSES

Townhouses
Townhouses were inhabited by craftsmen and merchants,
further down the social ladder in the past. Many
townhouses had relatively narrow facades but extended
wide into the back because taxation was often based on
road access. A typical townhouse had its store in front,
the living quarters behind, and a storehouse (kura) in the
back. Storehouses were fire-insulated with earthen walls
to protect valuable goods from the threat of fires.

FARMHOUSE

Farmhouse
Farmers made up the majority of Japan's population into
theMeiji Period(1868-1912). Different farmhouse
construction styles developed according to widely varying
weather patterns. However, architectural similarities can
be seen between dwellings across the country, such as
the wooden facades, thatched roofs, sunken hearths
(irori), earth floors for stable and kitchen, and living
spaces on elevated wooden floors that may have included
some tatami rooms in case of
the more well-off
Farmhouses
were families.
the
most
numerous among the old buildings
but were rarely preserved, and
thus the remaining ones that we
see today tend to be the more
prestigious ones, such as those
that belonged to village heads or
those in remote locations such as
ShirakawagoandMiyamawhere
entire
villages
have
been
preserved to a certain degree.
Open air museumsare also good
places to see regional styles of
farmhouses.

MEIJI PERIOD

Meiji Period
TheMeiji Restorationof 1868 saw an influx of
Western concepts on almost all aspects of life, from
clothes to food, entertainment to architecture. Brick
buildings are legacies left behind from this era, and
they can be found especially at the handful of port
towns that were early opened to international trade,
such asYokohama,Kobe,Nagasaki,HakodateandMoji

MODERN

Modern
Japan is a hotbed for contemporary architecture with
lots of eye-catching creations mainly in the leading
cities, especiallyTokyo. The growth of big cities has
led to the appearances of skyscrapers and a variety of
buildings exhibiting artistic imagination.
Many Japanese architects
have made their mark on the
international
scene.
Star
architects
include
Ando
Tadao,
who
has
won
numerous
architectural
prizes and has designed
many buildings both in Japan
and
abroad.
Multiple
museums designed by Ando
can be found onNaoshima,
an
island
in
theSeto
Inland Seathat has become
famous
as
a
site
for
contemporary art.

FIN!!