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Japanese Architecture






Summary of Japanese Architecture



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Japanese Garden

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Chinese 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 (1868-1912). 

Another 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).

Buddhism 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.

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The 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).

Katsura 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.

Castles 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.

After 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.

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Himeji Castle
World Cultural Heritage

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 more...

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Shinjuku skyline

Mini Liberty, Tokyo

Traditional Wall

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Hiroshima Castle


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