Traditional Japanese Architecture

Traditional Japanese Architecture

Traditional Japanese Architecture

Traditional Japanese Architecture and interior design are amongst the most remarkable aspects of Japanese Culture. In the course of history, architecture in Japan has been shaped by natural and artificially imposed factors; combined, of course, with the inherent Japanese aesthetic sense.

Earthquakes, volcanoes and typhoons necessitate houses be rebuilt or renewed more often than in other economically advanced countries. Taking into account mild climate, buildings historically took shape unsubstantial and light enough to allow for quick exit, and minimal injury during sudden tremors and possible collapse.

It could be one of the reasons explaining things like singular windows, built into thin walls; or small openings through walls straight to the outside (in kitchen or bathroom ventilation for example). While those would be unthinkable in cold countries because they simply would mean death in frosty winter – in Japan are just not taken seriously.

Conditioned by these and other determinants, to a curious new observer, the works of Japanese architecture can appear ambiguous – impressive and amazing or unsubstantial and bewilderingly disappointing – all in the same time. Shabby… or having elusive but certainly superb aesthetic value.

Most people however, upon closer examination, will eventually experience the subtle enchanting phenomena of Japanese creative work, as it uncovers itself gradually, and attracts repeatedly; to the point of being addictive.

Just like traditional Japanese garden with each step forward revealing to the eye yet another unexpected point of scenic beauty, so does Japanese exterior and interior design. The more you look, the more you discover about its truly unique allure, probably because it is closely entwined with the ultimate source of creativity itself – nature.

In recent years cheaper standardized apartments lacking vernacular originality are slowly overtaking the residential areas of Japanese suburbs, flats in westernized multistory urban buildings in the city are frequently owned forms of property. Japanese people however, love their traditional architecture, so classic Japanese buildings with their distinctive roofs are prestigious in the country today, and are considered to equate quality, style, and also financial status, for being expensive.

Materials used in Traditional Japanese Architecture

Contemporary architecture built in traditional Japanese style will incorporate a modern, fire resistant version of traditional materials used from prehistoric times, namely natural wood and timber (for square posts and pillars; fragments of walls, widows, gates etc). Straw (roofs of farmers houses, and for the tatami flooring).

Stone and bricked earth (for filling the foundation) are now replaced with modern concrete materials.

A variety of ceramic roofing tiles can be used to shape the roof.

Traditional Japanese architecture will include use of various kinds of resistant paper (for paper walls and sliding doors and windows).

Features of Traditional Japanese Architecture

Today, even those houses that are built to look venerable traditional style, will be non-burnable, earthquake-proof, and have hyper modern elements and fragments, such as modern flooring, appliances and equipment installed. Solar panels on Japanese traditional roof look awesome (to see image click here).

Traditional Japanese Architecture - Raised Floor, Square Pillars, Shoji, Garden

Traditional Japanese Architecture – Raised Floor, Square Pillars, Shoji, Garden

Features of traditional structures in Japan are based on shoin-zukuri architectural style of Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo eras, 16~19 century; and kura-zukuri architectural style of Meiji era, 19~20 century Japan.
They incorporate such major features like raised floor (yuka) and supporting square timber pillars, on top of stone foundation; tatami mats flooring in Japanese style rooms (washitsu); paper walls and sliding paper doors (fusuma and shoji). image © By Neepster on Flickr

Traditional Japanese Architecture - Tokonoma Alcove

Traditional Japanese Architecture – Tokonoma Alcove

The reception room’s major feature is built in tokonoma – Japanese alcove, with a decorative pillar. Tokonoma is a mini gallery, a creative space where an aesthetically pleasing art work like calligraphy or painting scroll, bonsai, Japanese dolls, ceramics, ikebana or other decorative items (okimono) can be displayed.


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