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architecture has historically influenced that of
Japan. In spite of this, there are still
major differences between the two. One
variation with Japanese architecture typically
placed people on the floor to sit, whereas that of
China had them sitting in chairs. This
custom began to change though in the Meiji period
influence, besides lifestyle, is the climate.
Japanese have to plan according to the climate and
season changes. Since most of Japan has
long, hot summers, the houses reflect that by
being somewhat raised so that air can move all
around. Wood is a popular choice for
material because it adjusts well to earthquakes
and works well with season changes (cool in
summer, warm in winter).
as well has greatly influenced Japanese
architecture since it's introduction from China
during the Asuka period (593-710). Horyuki
Temple was built in 607 under the influence of
Buddhism, and was registered in 1993 as a
UNESCO World Heritage property. The layout
of this temple has been unchanged and preserved
over the years. The Buddhist deity
worshipped at the temple is housed in the main
hall, which is the oldest wooden structure in the
world and the center of the entire complex.
Nara period (710-794) brought about imitation of
the Chinese capital. A capital city,
Heijokyo, was planned as an imitation of the
Chinese capital and included a checkerboard
pattern for the streets. Nobility were
housed in buildings during the Heian period
(794-1185) that had the main buildings and
sleeping rooms in the center with corridors
connecting other apartments. This style is
called shinden-zukuri and an example of
this is the Tosanjo Palace (1043).
Rikyu in Kyoto is an example of the style popular
during the Muromachi period (1333-1568). Tea
ceremonies were popular then, so tea cottages were
built to reflect this style. Slender wood
elements, simplicity with no distracting
ornaments, and harmony between the cottage and the
landscape garden are indicative of sukiya-zukui.
were built in the 16th century due to the
infiltration of feudal lords into Japanese
society. The lords' sought to enhance their
prestige with them, as well and for military
defense. There are still a few standing
today, with the watchtowers the main attraction.
An example of the shoin-zukuri style is the
Shiroshoin at Nishi-Hongenji in Kyoto, which is a
National Treasure of Japan.
the influence of the Meiji period from 1868-1912,
stone and brick was brought in from Western
architectural influences. Now Japan is
blending traditional Japanese architecture with
modern technology and new materials in the
construction of new buildings.
Himeji Castle is
representative of all the castles found in Japan.
Well-preserved, Himeji Castle's traditional wooden
architecture, stone walls and white-plastered
walls are in their original forms since it was
never destroyed as a result of war. see
in Japan with Buddhist influences came from Korea
and China in the 6th century. Temples were
built for those dedicated to worshipping Buddha,
and within each compound there were several
buildings for the purpose of housing monks or
nuns. By the eight century, each compound
basically consisted of seven buildings: the
pagoda, main hall, lecture hall, bell tower,
repository for sutras, dormitory, and dining hall.
Surrounding the compound was a wall made from
earth that had gates on each side.
main hall in the compound held the most prominent
object of worship, with the lecture hall being
used by monks for study, instruction or for
rituals. In early temples, the lecture hall
was usually the largest building.
There were two predominate tower styles; one in
which canonical writings were stored and the other
that was used to announce the time of religious
observance every day. It was common, in
Buddhism's early days, for pagodas to be in the
middle of the compound. The pagodas held
sacred relics, and these were the main objects of
is the belief that a kami (deity) lives in
practically every natural object ranging from
volcanoes and mountains, to waterfalls, rocks and
trees. These kami are kept in Shinto shrines and
are where people can worship. The shrines
don't have a particular way they are put together
- it depends on the environment. A path or
roadway lined with stone lanterns takes the
worshipper from the torii gate to the
shrine. It is important to Shintoists to
maintain the shrines purity, so worshippers was
their hands and mouths. The shrines have
guardians as well, pairs of lion-like statues
called komainu that are placed in front of
the main halls or the gates.
major styles for the main hall consist of a
temporary main hall and one that has a simple
shape derived from the granaries and storehouses
of ancient Japan. The temporary main hall is
one that was built for special occasions to house
the kami. An example of this type of
temporary structure is the Sumiyoshi Shrine in
Osaka. An example of one with a simple
shape, is the Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture.
The sun goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, has it's own
consecrated area in the inner shrine and the grain
goddess, Toyouki no Omikami dedicated to the outer
of shrine buildings was a tradition meant to
purify the shrine site and renew the materials.
With this in mind, as well as help from fires and
other natural disasters, it explains why the
oldest main Shinto shrine buildings go back to
only the 11th and 12th centuries.
Japanese houses didn't have screens to separate
rooms, they were just open rooms with little or no
privacy. After people began distinguishing
rooms with particular functions (eating, sleeping,
cooking), the use of screens to partition and
separate rooms became popular. These screens
are unlike the ones used now in the Western world
on our windows, they were self-standing (byobu)
and permitted limited privacy for dressing and
sleeping. After this came the paper-covered
sliding doors called shoji or fusuma,
which are still found in traditional homes.
These doors allow light to come through and give
more privacy, but don't offer much by way of
soundproofing a room. A nice attribute of
these doors, for those who like the open areas, is
that they can be removed to open up the space.
designs tend to think of the inside and outside of
a house as a continuous element, not two separate
environments. This can be seen in the
Japanese veranda (engawa) which is essentially a
transitional space for going in or out of the
house. These houses were also designed for
people to be sitting. The doors, windows and
alcoves are situated for the most advantageous
viewing of the gardens or artwork, in a seated
spite of modernization, Japanese traditions have
not been eradicated. As with most Asian
countries, removal of the shoes before entering a
house is customary and in even Westernized homes,
a room can be found with a tatami (Japanese
mat) covering it.
Meiji Restoration in 1868 introduced modern
architectural techniques to Japan, but there was a
reversal in this trend in the 1880's with an
outcry for more Asian models. Change was
reiterated after World War I, when architects like
Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruno Taut came to Japan, a
reassessment of traditional Japanese architecture
took place. Continuing after World War II,
there were efforts to unite traditional and modern
architecture. An example of this is the
Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, designed by
Tange Kenzo. Kenzo is considered one of
Japan's most famous and influential architects
after the war. He blended traditional
architecture with advances scientifically and
of the biggest problems, architecturally, is the
frequency of earthquakes in Japan. Building
earthquake resistant structures is a constant
challenge, but one they are apparently overcoming.
Using the latest earthquake technology at the time
they built their first skyscraper in 1968, the
Kasumigaseki Building. After this successful
feat, other skyscrapers soon followed.
1970's was a period in which architects focused
less on technical expertise and more on the
artistic approach. There was also a shift
away from unmitigated commercialism in
architectural priorities as well.
the bubble economy collapsed in the 90's, there
was a decrease in demand for architectural
expertise. Fortunately during the 80's many
Japanese architects were sought after by other
countries, which carried through to the 90's.
Of all the architects, Ando Tadao has been the
most popular and widely accepted. He has
received many prizes internationally including the
Pritzker Architecture Prize (by the Hyatt
Foundation) and the Royal Gold Medal for
architecture (Royal Institute of British
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