Sukiyastyle Setting for an Art Gallery

Located in the central part of Japan, Tajimi City in Gifu Prefecture is well known for its Mino pottery. In this city, Masanobu Ando. an artist from a family of pottery wholesalers, has created a dramatic gallery called Galerie Momogusa, which is housed in an equally dramatic Sukiya-style building. Built in 1896. this house with its delicate timber and an exquisite interior was originally owned by a doctor in Nagoya and was slated for demolition when Ando saw it and decided to purchase it for...

House with a View of Mount Asama

Karuizawa is a resort 150 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, in mountainous Nagano Prefecture. This sleepy little town, nestled 1.000 meters above sea level at the base of Mount Asama, became famous only after the British missionary Archdeacon AC Shaw happened to visit. Struck by its natural beauty reminiscent of his Scottish hometown, Shaw built a villa here in 1888. Since that time, Karuizawa, with its perfect summer weather, has been transformed into a popular retreat for Japan's elite. Just a...

An Old Parlor with an Old Tree

Located near the Japan Sea, Kanazawa is an old castle town that was well known during the Edo Period (1600- 1867) for its flourishing economy as well as a culture that was quite distinct from Kyoto. The town's traditions have been well preserved, making it one of the favorite destinations for people who are interested in Japanese arts and culture. One building that is reminiscent of its gracious history is the Nakamura parlor, which shares its grounds with two modern buildings and a magnificent...

Coming Home to an Old Machiya

Kyoto, the political and cultural center of Japan for more than a thousand years, is still the center of Japanese traditions in art and architecture. Besides the famous temples and shrines, Kyoto's architectural treasures include many machiya townhouses. Some of these date as far back as the Edo Period (1600-1868). Many were destroyed and damaged by fire and other disasters in the 1700s and 1800s, but were rebuilt in the Meiji or Taisho Periods. The townspeople who started the tradition of...

What is Japanese about a Japanese House

What Building Drawing

A surprising intellectual leap in housing design took place in Japan during the 14th century. This was an idea so powerful that it resonated for the next 600 years, and still retains enough influence in Japan as shown in the houses in this book. This intellectual leap sought to eliminate the inessential, and seek the beauty in unembellished humble things. It sought spaciousness in deliberately small spaces, and a feeling of eternity in fragile and temporary materials. A house's interior was not...

Antiques Find a New Home in an Old Minka

Minka Japan

The unassuming beauty of Japan's minka farmhouses comes from the use of natural building materials and traditional techniques perfected over hundreds of years. The word minka originally meant a home of a common person who was not an aristocrat or a samurai. However, it is now primarily used to describe farmhouses with heavy wooden structures and thatched roofs. These buildings also illustrate a deep understanding and appreciation of wood in Japan. The love of nature instilled by Japan's ancient...

Home in Snow Country

Koichi Sato is the I Ith head of a family of landowners in Oomagari City. Akita Prefecture, located near the Japan Sea in the northern part of Honshu, the main island of Japan. Winters here are severe, and everything mantles over with thick snow from November to April, presenting a beautiful sight on moonlit nights. Scarlet-tinged autumn leaves herald the coming of the long winter, prompting local people to set about winter-proofing their homes. The traditional houses here are wrapped with...

Exuberant Spontaneity in an Interior in Osaka

While wabi-sabi simplicity and understatement are the hallmarks of Kyoto style interiors in Osaka often bustle with exuberance and spontaneity. This is well illustrated by Teizo Sato who imparts his innovative and playful spirit to the interiors of his house. The house is situated in an upscale residential area near the Fujiidera Stadium in Osaka. His grandfather built the house over 70 years ago, using Japanese hemlock, which was a popular material for luxurious homes at that time. Over time,...

Celebration of Lacquer Craft

Lacquerware, also known as shikki, is a highly developed art in Japan. Obtained from the sap of the lacquer tree, lacquer (urushi) is used not only for decoration, but also for waterproofing and protecting wooden objects against moths and decay. Creating shikki is a laborious process in which 20 to 30 coats of various kinds of lacquer are applied onto a prepared wooden surface by hand. Each layer is left to dry in a moist, warm place for about a week before the next coat can be applied. The...

House with a Cosmopolitan Interior

Japan ended its self-imposed isolation in 1868 with the Meiji Revolution, and soon emerged as a leader in silk trade due to the techniques in dying and weaving that had been developed over its long history. The Kawabata house was built 120 years ago in the middle of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) by Mr Kawabata, a silk merchant who had made his fortune by exporting Japanese silk from Yokohama, one of the first ports to be opened to foreign trade. With an estate of over a million square meters,...

Floorplan of Zan Yu Sothe organic organization of a Japanese house

Around the time when Leonardo da Vinci was developing a system of dimensions that scaled the human body for use in architecture, Japanese craftsmen standardized the dimensions of a tatami mat to 90 x 180 centimeters, which was considered adequate for a Japanese person to sleep on. Every dimension in a Japanese house relates to the module of a tatami mat. For example, the height of fusuma doors is usually 180 centimeters. The width of a structural post is usually one-tenth or one-fifth of 90...

Cottage Shaped by Old Memories

Blessed with balmy weather and an abundance of hot springs, the Pacific coast of the Izu Peninsula is a popular resort area. Its central mountains have a lingering atmosphere of timeless solitude. Here in an idyllic quiet forest stands a two-storey cottage with just 34 square meters of floor space. In spite of its small size, its serene ambience speaks to the spirit and provides an oasis away from the mundane world. The cottage is a retreat for ait producer Sakura Mori and her family. It...

House of Ikebana

With lively eyes, good posture and thick gray hair belying her age, Chizu Kusume, who will soon reach her 90th year, is the owner of a home that is imbued with the spirit of ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers. Her house is located in Zushi, an old resort town by the Pacific Ocean in Kanagawa Prefecture. What was a once a sedate vacation destination for many celebrated painters and authors, has now become a busy suburb for commuters working in Tokyo. However, a few traditional...

The Evolution of a Modern Home

When japan opened to the world after the Meiji Revolution in 1868, it actively emulated architectural traditions from Germany and Great Britain. However, ideas of modernism did not take root in Japan till after the Second World War Toshihiro Karnikozawa, the owner of this house, is a scholar of German literature well versed in the aesthetics of modernity and rationalism. His wife, a piano teacher, had lived in Germany during her childhood. Although built with Western materials and techniques,...

Tea Masters Dream Lives On

Shoin Mado

Sado or the Way of Tea seeks to extend the meditative simplicity of the tea ceremony or chanoyu into all aspects of life. The ideal of a mind in complete harmony with nature and free from tine turmoil of worldly affairs has blossomed in Japan since Zen Buddhism arrived here from India and China in the 13th century. From tine Meiji Era (1868-1912) to the early Showa Period (1926-1989), many influential people in political and financial circles became particularly strong proponents of chanoyu, as...

An Old Farmhouse Gears up for the Future

Old Japanese Wood Building

Minka, the traditional farmhouses of japan, are a wonderful but fast disappearing building genre. They are generally constructed of heavy and often uneven timbers, bamboos, thatched roof and mud walls. Minka that have survived today were built by wealthy farmers and merchants, and represent the ingenurty of the Japanese folk craft traditions. In spite of their charm, minka are often dark and cold, lack modern conveniences, and are very expensive to re-thatch and maintain. For these reasons, the...

Kagastyle Teahouse to Sooth the Soul

Japan Table Cloth

Kanazawa, one of the wealthiest castle towns in the Edo Period (1600-1867). was also famous for its elegant culture. Arts such as the tea ceremony flourished under its powerful Maeda lords, and were known for their bold flourishes in comparison with the understated arts in Kyoto. The first stop on the highway that connected Kyoto to Kanazawa Castle was Nonoichi town in the Kaga area. The Mimou home is situated along the old highway in this town. This stately mansion, along with its various...

Room for Viewing Light and Shadows of Life

Seiichi Shirai Architect Interiors

On a typical day in June, a gentle rain falls incessantly. Leaving the glass and shop doors open. Doctor Shoei Sasao of Hadano City in Kanagawa Prefecture sits quietly in a very special room and looks out at the landscaped garden and the fresh, vivid verdure of rain-washed green leaves and lichen-covered tree trunks. Moist wind blows through the room, and faint sunlight and subdued light coming through opaque Japanese paper screens seem to mingle. The beauty of this traditional tatami room can...

Tribute to Masters of Modernism

Fusaichiro Inoue 1898- 1993 . who lived north of Tokyo in Takasaki City, was a well known patron of the arts and left behind a considerable legacy for the people of his hometown. After studying painting, sculpture and architecture in Paris, he returned to Takasaki City and founded a movement that promoted the use of Western design in traditional Japanese crafts for export. Through his connection with the Modem Movement in Japan, Inoue came into contact with several important architects. In 1934...

Potter Meets His Minka

Tucked away in a bamboo grove and rice fields in Tanba Town near Kyoto, this farmhouse minka looks like the backdrop of a tale from old Japan. Tine lichen-covered thatched roof and the earthen walls of the minka blend so well into the landscape that is hard to imagine that this huge structure was brought here as recently as 1994 from its original location east of Lake Biwa. Now this 135-year-old minka is the home and atelier of potter Naoto Ishii and his wife. This new site for the house was...