Japanese Architecture

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An image of a traditional Japanese architecture
An image of a traditional Japanese architecture

Japanese Architecture

Japanese architecture refers to the architecture of Japan and the process of architectural design and construction in that country. Architecture has been practiced in Japan since as early as the Japanese mythology period. Japanese traditional architecture also influences other cultures, such as China, Korea, Thailand, and Central Asia. Buddhist temples were typically built with wooden buildings or pagoda towers that depended on intricate brackets to hold up the heavy roofs. 

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Japanese Traditional Building

One of the most distinctive aspects of Japanese culture is its traditional architecture, which is found in residences, castles, temples, and shrines. The following are elements of traditional Japanese buildings:

1. Wood

Japanese buildings used heavy timber (usually cypress) as the main building material. The external appearance of a traditional Japanese house is sleek and simple, but the structure follows elemental architectural principles. Today many Japanese buildings fall into disrepair and are replaced with concrete buildings; however, there has been a recent revival of interest in traditional architecture and techniques.

2. Tatami mats

Tatami mats are the floor covering of a Japanese-style floor. Tatami mat refers to the actual piece of matting and the upper layer of such a floor, traditionally made up of straw-filled layers. It was introduced in the Nara period as an architectural element and has become one of Japan’s most important building materials.

Example of a tatami mat
Example of a tatami mat

3. Shoji & Fusuma

These two Japanese screens originated in China but have become widely popular in Japan. Shoji was imported to Japan in the 7th century and became an integral part of Japanese architecture. Shoji could be made of wood, cloth, or paper, leading to various furniture forms. Fusuma is transom-like panels that are used to divide rooms. They are hung from a white tatami mat and can be moved as needed when necessary.

4. Irori

Irori used to be a common fixture in Japanese farmhouses for heating the house, cooking, and boiling water. The irori is a hearth – or fireplace – built into the floor of a traditional Japanese room and traditionally includes an irori sink. This type of sink has now become rare, and the term is often used to describe a raised platform and a sunken floor.

5. Engawa

Engawa, a raised wooden or bamboo veranda that rounds the exterior border of the structure, is similar to an outdoor corridor. It is often used for drying clothes and other household activities.

Japanese Ancient Architecture

Reflecting its long history, Japanese architecture is as varied as the culture of Japan. It ranges from crude Tumulus-like tombs and storehouses to delicately ornamented roofed buildings to killer samurai castles. The common theme is a strong contrast between the rich natural environment and the man-made structures.

The ancient architecture of Japan belongs to the so-called earthenware period (ca. 10th century B.C.–ca. 7th century A.D.); the architecture of subsequent periods is referred to as the baked-brick period, emphasizing the advanced construction techniques. Because it resists the onslaught of rain, wind, and even earthquakes, the earthenware period is often called the first permanent architecture in Japan. By contrast, baked-brick architecture was constructed by assembling clay panels; later, these were replaced by panels made from wood covered with plaster.

Japanese Architecture of Modern Times

The modern architecture in Japan, which began in the Meiji period (1868–1912), was influenced by Western models, mainly the neo-classical styles of Europe. Some buildings required an astonishing amount of construction materials, but most were built quickly and cheaply. As a result, it was more concerned with technological innovations than traditional architecture’s indigenous aesthetics. A revival of traditional architecture is underway to re-establish its aesthetic characteristics.

Japanese houses have some architectural features that differentiate them from their counterparts elsewhere. Two fundamental features are the tatami mat and shoji. The tatami mat is a floor covering in traditional Japanese homes and other buildings.

Positioning and Characteristics of Japanese Architecture

Japanese architecture and its buildings are characterized by Japanese architectural style, which combines Western and indigenous elements to produce a unique style. The Japanese nation possesses a traditional culture, including its art and architecture, that is rooted in Japan’s basic beliefs, values, and aesthetic sensibilities. The most salient characteristic of architecture in Japan is its formality. Generally speaking, the beauty of buildings in Japan can be attributed to their formal structures.

Japanese houses are usually single-story structures with tiled roofs. The upper part of the house is built with wood and covered with paper, while the lower part is built with earth or concrete. The number of layers varies based on the type of building: in some homes, the lowest part is not visible.

What influenced Japanese architecture

Traditional Japanese culture strongly influences Japanese architecture, including Shinto religion and Zen Buddhism. Japanese architecture is also influenced by Chinese architecture, although it has also taken on its distinctive characteristics. The most important elements in Japanese architecture are shoji and tatami mat.

Importance of Japanese architecture

The importance of Japanese architecture includes:

1. Japanese architecture shows the national artistic decorativeness and its valuable art.

2. Japanese architecture demonstrates how to construct buildings that provide a solution for its environment.

3. Japanese architecture shows the tradition of Japanese people and their culture.

4. Japanese architecture is a good example of art that shows how to make a house more beautiful and better than other houses.

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Categories: History