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Japanese architecture ( Nihon kenchiku?

) has traditionally been typified by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Sliding doors (fusuma) were used in place of walls, allowing the internal configuration of a space to be customized to different occasions. People usually sat on cushions or otherwise on the floor, traditionally; chairs and high tables were not widely used until the 19th century. Japanese houses have thin walls because of the mild climate and overlapping, slanted, and slightly curved roofs because of the fact that there is plenty of rain Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, originally built in 1397 especially during early summer. Timber is the traditional building material for (Muromachi period) Japanese houses. It makes them airy which is important during the humid summer months. The disadvantages are that the houses can be damaged easily by earthquakes and fires. Nowadays, concrete and steel are, of course, widely used as well. Japan has incorporated much of Western, modern, and post-modern architecture into construction and design, and is today a leader in cutting-edge architectural design and technology. When Japan opened herself to the rest of the world around the year 1868, Western architecture began to displace traditional Japanese architecture. Nevertheless, some modern Japanese detached houses still have a typically Japanese appearance. The earliest Japanese architecture was seen in prehistoric times in simple pit-houses and stores that were adapted to a hunter-gatherer population. Influence from Han Dynasty China via Korea saw the introduction of more complex grain stores and ceremonial burial chambers. The introduction into Japan of Buddhism in the sixth century was a catalyst for large scale temple building using complicated techniques in wood. Influence from the Chinese T'ang and Sui Dynasties led to the foundation of the first permanent capital in Nara. Its checkerboard street layout used the Chinese capital of Chang'an as a template for its design. A gradual increase in the size of buildings led to standard units of measurement as well as refinements in layout and garden design. The introduction of the tea ceremony emphasized simplicity and modest design as a counterpoint to the excesses of the aristocracy. During the Meiji Restoration of 1868 the history of Japanese architecture was radically changed by two important events. The first was the Kami and Buddhas Separation Act of 1868, which formally separated Buddhism from Shinto and Buddhist temples from Shinto shrines, breaking an association between the two which had lasted well over a thousand years and causing, directly and indirectly, immense damage to the nation's architecture. Second, it was then that Japan underwent a period of intense Westernization in order to compete with other developed countries. Initially architects and styles from abroad were imported to Japan but gradually the country taught its own architects and began to express its own style. Architects returning from study with western architects introduced the International Style of modernism into Japan. However, it was not until after the Second World War that Japanese architects made an impression on the international scene, firstly with the work of architects like Kenzo Tange and then with theoretical movements like Metabolism.

General features of Japanese traditional architecture

Much in the traditional architecture of Japan is not native, but was imported from China and other Asian cultures over the centuries. Japanese traditional architecture and its history are as a consequence dominated by Chinese and Asian techniques and styles (present even in Ise Shrine, held to be the quintessence of Japanese architecture) on one side, and by Japanese original variations on those themes on the other. Partly due also to the variety of climates in Japan and the millennium encompassed between the first cultural import and the last, the result is extremely heterogeneous, but several practically universal features can nonetheless be found. First of all is the choice of materials, always wood in various forms (planks, straw, tree bark, paper, etc.) for almost all structures. Unlike both Western and some Chinese architecture, the use of stone is avoided except for certain specific uses, for example temple podia and pagoda foundations.
The roof is the dominant feature of traditional Japanese architecture.

The general structure is almost always the same: posts and lintels support a large and gently curved roof, while the walls are paper-thin, often movable and in any case non-carrying. Arches and barrel roofs are completely absent. Gable and eave curves are gentler than in China and columnar entasis (convexity at the center) limited. The roof is the most visually impressive component, often constituting half the size of the whole edifice. The slightly curved eaves extend far beyond the walls, covering verandas, and their weight must therefore be supported by complex bracket systems called toky, in the case of temples and shrines. Simpler solutions are adopted in domestic structures. The oversize eaves give the interior a characteristic dimness, which contributes to the building's atmosphere. The interior of the building normally consists of a single room at the center called moya, from which depart any other less important spaces. Inner space divisions are fluid, and room size can be modified through the use of screens or movable paper walls. The large, single space offered by the main hall can therefore be divided according to the need. To the contrary, some walls can be removed and different rooms joined temporarily to make space for some more guests. The separation between inside and outside is itself in some measure not absolute as entire walls can be removed, opening a residence or temple to visitors. Verandas appear to be part of the building to an outsider, but part of the external world to those in the building. Structures are therefore made to a certain extent part of their environment. Care is taken to blend the edifice into the surrounding natural environment. The use of construction modules keeps proportions between different parts of the edifice constant, preserving its overall harmony. (On the subject of building proportions, see also the article ken). Even in cases as that of Nikk Tsh-g, where every available space is heavily decorated, ornamentation tends to follow, and therefore emphasize, rather than hide, basic structures. Being shared by both sacred and profane architecture, these features made it easy converting a lay building into a temple or vice versa. This happened for example at Hry-ji, where a noblewoman's mansion was transformed into a religious building.

Prehistoric period

The prehistoric period includes the Jmon, Yayoi and Kofun periods stretching from approximately 5000 BCE to the beginning of the eighth century CE. During the three phases of the Jmon period the population was primarily hunter-gatherer with some primitive agriculture skills and their behaviour was predominantly determined by changes in climatic conditions and other natural stimulants. Early dwellings were pit houses consisting of shallow pits with tamped earth floors and grass roofs designed to collect rainwater with the aid of storage jars. Later in the period, a colder climate with greater rainfall led to a decline in population, which contributed to an interest in ritual. Concentric stone circles first appeared during this time.

Reconstructed pit dwelling houses in Yoshinogari,Saga Prefecture, 2nd or 3rd century

Reconstructed dwellings in Yoshinogari

During the Yayoi period the Japanese people began to interact with the Chinese Han Dynasty, whose knowledge and technical skills began to influence them. The Japanese began to build raised-floor storehouses as granaries which were constructed using metal tools like saws and chisels that began to appear at this time. A reconstruction in Toro, Shizuoka is a wooden box made of thick boards joined in the corners in a log cabin style and supported on eight pillars. The roof is thatched but, unlike the typically hipped roof of the pit dwellings, it is a simple V-shaped gable.

Reconstructed grain storehouse in Toro, Shizuoka

The Kofun period marked the appearance of many-chambered burial mounds or tumuli (kofun literally means "old mounds"). These are thought to have been influenced by similar mounds in Korea. Early in the period the tombs, known as "keyhole kofun" or zenp-ken kofun (?, lit. square in front, circular in back old tomb-mound), often made use of the existing topography, shaping it and adding man-made moats to form a distinctive keyhole shape, i.e. that of a circle interconnected with a triangle. Access was via a vertical shaft that was sealed off once the burial was completed. There was room inside the chamber for a coffin and grave goods. The mounds were often

decorated with terracottafigures called haniwa. Later in the period mounds began to be located on flat ground and their scale greatly increased. Among many examples in Nara and Osaka, the most notable is the Daisen-kofun, designated as the tomb of Emperor Nintoku. The tomb covers 32 hectares (79 acres) and it is thought to have been decorated with 20,000 haniwa figures. Towards the end of the Kofun period, tomb burials faded out as Buddhist cremation ceremonies gained popularity.

Reconstructed raised-floor building in Yoshinogari

Daisenry Kofun, Osaka, 5th century

Asuka and Nara architecture

The most significant contributor to architectural changes during the Asuka period was the introduction of Buddhism. [3] New temples became centers of worship with tomb burial practices slowly becoming outlawed. Also, Buddhism brought to Japan and kami worship the idea of permanent shrines and gave to Shinto architecture much of its present vocabulary. Some of the earliest structures still extant in Japan are Buddhist temples established at this time. The oldest surviving wooden buildings in the world are found at Hry-ji, to the southwest of Nara. First built in the early 7th century as the private temple of Crown Prince Shtoku, it consists of 41 independent buildings; the most important ones, the main worship hall, or Kon-d (Golden Hall), and the five-story pagoda), stand in the centre of an open area surrounded by a roofed cloister (kair). The Kon-d, in the style of Chinese worship halls, is a two-story structure of post-and-beam construction, capped by an irimoya, or hipped-gabled, roof of ceramic tiles. Heij-ky, modern day Nara, was founded in 708 as the first permanent capital of state of Japan. The layout of its checkerboard streets and buildings were influenced by the Chinese capital of Chang'an. The city soon became an important centre of Buddhist worship in Japan. The most grandiose of these temples was Tdaiji, built to rival temples [8] of the Chinese T'ang and Sui Dynasties. Appropriately, the 16.2-m (53-ft) Buddha or Daibutsu (completed in 752) enshrined in the main hall is a Rushana Buddha, the figure that represents the essence of Buddhahood, just as Tdai-ji represented the centre for imperially sponsored Buddhism and its dissemination throughout Japan. Only a few fragments of the original statue survive, and the present hall and central Buddha are reconstructions from the Edo period. Clustered around the main hall (the Daibutsuden) on a gently sloping hillside are a number of secondary halls: [3] the Hokke-d (Lotus Sutra Hall), the Kfuku and the storehouse, called the Shs-in. This last structure is of great importance as an art-historical cache, because in it are stored the utensils that were used in the temple's dedication ceremony in 752, as well as government documents and many secular objects owned by the Imperial family.

Pagoda at Hokki-ji,Ikaruga, Nara Built in 706

Pagoda at Yakushi-ji,Nara, Nara Originally built in 730

Kon-d and pagoda atHry-ji, Ikaruga, Nara Built in 7th century

Hokked at Tdaiji, Nara, Nara Founded in 743

Golden Temple atTshdai-ji, Nara, Nara Built in 8th century

Shs-in at Tdaiji, Nara, Nara Built in 8th century

Heian period
Although the network of Buddhist temples across the country acted as a catalyst for an exploration of architecture and culture, this also led to the clergy gaining increased power and influence. Emperor Kammu decided to escape this influence by moving his capital first to Nagaoka-ky and then to Heian-ky, known today as Kyto. Although the layout of the city was similar to Nara's and inspired by Chinese precedents, the palaces, temples and dwellings began to show examples of local Japanese taste. Heavy materials like stone, mortar and clay were abandoned as building elements, with simple wooden walls, floors and partitions becoming prevalent. Native species like cedar(sugi) were popular as an interior finish because of its prominent grain, while pine (matsu) and larch (aka matsu) were common for structural uses. Brick roofing tiles and a type of cypress called hinoki were used for roofs. It was sometime during this period that the hidden roof, a uniquely Japanese solution to roof drainage problems, was adopted. The increasing size of buildings in the capital led to anarchitecture reliant on columns regularly spaced in accordance with the ken, a traditional measure of both size and proportion. The Imperial Palace Shishinden demonstrated a style that was a precursor to the later aristocratic-style of building known as shinden-zukuri. The style was characterised by symmetrical buildings placed as arms that defined an inner garden. This garden then used borrowed scenery to seemingly blend with the wider landscape.[10] The chief surviving example of shinden-zukuri architecture is the H--d (?, Phoenix Hall, completed 1053) of Byd-in, a temple in Uji to the southeast of Kyto. It consists of a main rectangular structure flanked by two L-shaped wing corridors and a tail corridor, set at the edge of a large artificial pond.[10] Inside, a single golden image of Amida (circa 1053) is installed on a high platform. Raigo (Descent of the Amida Buddha) paintings on the wooden doors of the H--d are often considered an early example of Yamato-e, Japanese-style painting, because they contain representations of the scenery around Kyto. The priest Kkai (best known by the posthumous title Kb Daishi, 774835) journeyed to China to study Shingon, a form of Vajrayana Buddhism, which he introduced into Japan in 806. At the core of Shingon worship are the various mandalas, diagrams of the spiritual universe which influenced temple design.[3] The temples erected for this new sect were built in the mountains, far away from the court and the laity in the capital. The irregular topography of these sites forced their designers to rethink the problems of temple construction, and in so doing to choose more indigenous elements of design.[13] At this time the architectural style of Buddhist temples began to influence that of the Shint shrines. For example, like their Buddhist counterparts the Shint shrines began to paint the normally unfinished timbers with the characteristic red cinnabar colour.[13] During the later part of the Heian Period there were the first documented appearances of vernacular houses in the minka style/form. These were characterised by the use local materials and labour, being primarily constructed of wood, having packed earth floors and thatched roofs.

Phoenix Hall at Bydin,Uji, Kyoto Built in 1053

Typical minkastylegasshzukuri farmhouse

Pagoda of Ichijji, Kasai,Hygo Built in 1171

Nageire-d of Sanbutsu-ji,Misasa, Tottori

Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Kyoto Built in 1060

Kamakura and Muromachi periods


During the Kamakura period (11851333) and the following Muromachi period (13361573), Japanese architecture made technological advances that made it somewhat diverge from its Chinese counterpart. In response to native requirements such as earthquake resistance and shelter against heavy rainfall and the summer heat and sun, the master carpenters of this time responded with a unique type of architecture, [15] creating the Daibutsuy and Zenshy styles.[16][17][18] The Kamakura period began with the transfer of power in Japan from the imperial court to the Kamakura shogunate. During the Genpei War (1180 1185), many traditional buildings in Nara and Kyoto were damaged. For example, Kfuku-ji and Tdai-ji were burned down by Taira no Shigehira of the Taira clan in 1180. Many of these temples and shrines were later rebuilt by the Kamakura shogunate to consolidate the shogun's authority.[3] Although less elaborate than during the Heian period, architecture in the Kamakura period was informed by a simplicity due to its association with the military order. New residences used a buke-zukuri style that was associated with buildings surrounded by narrow moats or stockades. Defense became a priority, with buildings grouped under a single roof rather than around a garden. The gardens of the Heian period houses often became training grounds.[19] After the fall of the Kamakura shogunate in 1333, the Ashikaga shogunate was formed, having later its seat in the Kyoto district of Muromachi. The proximity of the shogunate to the imperial court led to a rivalry in the upper levels of society which caused tendencies toward luxurious goods and lifestyles. Aristocratic houses were adapted from the simple buke-zukuri style to resemble the earlier shinden-sukuri style. A good example of this ostentatious architecture is the Kinkaku-ji in Kyto, which is decorated with lacquer and gold leaf, in contrast to its otherwise simple structure and plain bark roofs.[19] In an attempt to rein in the excess of the upper classes, the Zen masters introduced the tea ceremony. In architecture this promoted the design of chashitsu (tea houses) to a modest size with simple detailing and materials. The style informed residential architecture with lighter, more intimate buildings relying on slender rafters and pillars with sliding inner partitions fusuma and outer sliding walls shji.[19] Although woven grass and straw tatami mats first began to appear in the Kamakura period, they were often thrown all over the floor. In the Muromachi period they began to have a regular size and be closely fitted together. A typically sized Chashitsu is 4 1/2 mats in size. In the garden, Zen principles replaced water with sand or gravel to produce the dry garden (karesansui) like the one at Ryan-ji.

Jdod of Jdoji, Ono,Hygo Built in 1194

Butsuden of Kzanji,Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Built in 1320

Ryan-ji dry garden in Kyoto

Shfuku-ji, Tokyo, Completed in 1407

Danjogaran Fudo-d in Mt. Kya, Wakayama Built in 1197

Garden of Tenry-ji in Kyoto

Sanjsangen-d, Kyoto Built in 1266 Ginkaku-ji, Kyoto Built in the 15th century
Pagoda of Negoroji inIwade, Wakayama Built in 1547.

Azuchi-Momoyama period
During the AzuchiMomoyama period (15681600) Japan underwent a process of unification after a long period of civil war. It was marked by the rule of Oda Nobunaga andToyotomi Hideyoshi, men who built castles as symbols of their power; Nobunaga in Azuchi, the seat of his government, and Hideyoshi in Momoyama. The nin War during the Muromachi period had led to rise of castle architecture in Japan. By the time of the AzuchiMomoyama period each domain was allowed to have one castle of its own. Typically it consisted of a central tower or tenshu (?, lit. heaven defense) surrounded by gardens and fortified buildings. All of this was set within massive stone walls and surrounded by deep moats. The dark interiors of castles were often decorated by artists, the spaces were separated up using sliding fusuma panels and bybu folding screens.[3] The shoin style that had its origins with the chashitsu of the Muromachi period continued to be refined. Verandas linked the interiors of residential buildings with highly cultivated exterior gardens. Fusuma and bybu became highly decorated with paintings and often an interior room with shelving and alcove (tokonoma) were used to display art work (typically a hanging scroll). [3] Matsumoto, Kumamoto and Himeji (popularly known as the White Heron castle) are excellent examples of the castles of the period, while Nijo Castle in Kyto is an example of castle architecture blended with that of an imperial palace, to produce a style that is more in keeping with the Chinese influence of previous centuries.

Himeji Castle in Himeji,Hygo, Completed in 1618

Matsumoto Castle inMatsumoto, Nagano, Completed in 1600.

Dry stone walls ofKumamoto Castle, Completed in 1600.

Ninomaru Palace withinNijo Castle, Kyoto.

A six-panel bybu from the 17th century