TOURIST LIBRARY 7
Hideo Kishida, D. Sc.
BOARD OF TOURIST INDUSTRY,
JAPANESE GOVERNMENT RAILWAYS
Selling Agents by
MARUZEN CO. LTD., TOKYO
JAPAN TOURIST BUREAU TOKYO
Copyright 1940, third edition
Total 137 pages
The most important and fundamental characteristic of Japanese architecture is that
it is based on the skilful use of various woods. Some other distinctive characteristics
include a preference for the natural wood color over paint, exposed columns and
other structural elements, and preference of the straight line over the curved.
There are many examples of tradition architecture in Japan, including Sinto shrines,
Buddhist temples, houses, castles, palaces and tea houses.
Enjoy these excerpts from “Japanese Architecture”
Japanese roof styles
It is said that the beauty of Japanese architecture consists in the variety of roof
design. The roof is one of the most important elements in Japanese architecture
both in function and expression. In wooden buildings, especially in Japan where
we have rather heavy rains, it is not rational to make the roof flat, as is the
case with reinforced concrete buildings.
As for roof forms used in Japanese architecture, there are several kinds such as
the gabled roof, hipped roof, pyramidal roof and hipped roof with gables (irimoya).
The last-named is a type of roof peculiar to Japan, and is quite foreign to Western
architecture. The grand and imposing tiled roof of Buddhist temples, the light and
solemn hiwada roof (covered with small thin pieces of hinoki) of Sinto shrines,
the picturesque thatched roof of country houses, the elegant and tasteful roof of
tea ceremony kiosks, the calm and subdued tiled roof of Japanese dwelling-houses,
the magnificent and refined roof of old castles ; all bear witness to the wonderful
beauty embodied in every variety of Japanese roofs.
THE FOUR FUNDAMENTAL FORMS OF JAPANESE ROOF DESIGN
A. Kirizuma (gable roof) B. Hogyo (square pyramidal roof) C. Sityu or Yosemune (hipped
roof) D. Irimoya
There are many curved lines in the design of the Japanese roof, and the most remarkable
are the curves of the eaves and the slope of the roof. The application of curved
lines in Japanese architecture is based on a style imported from the Asiatic Continent,
and dates from about the middle of the 6th century.
Eaves in Japanese architecture
The prominent projection of eaves is another noteworthy characteristic of old Japanese
buildings. This serves to increase the feeling of stability and to harmonize the
form of the building. But this projection of the eaves is not for decoration only
; it was born of necessity. As summer in Japan is a season of rain, and the atmosphere
then is very sultry, the people naturally like to open the windows to have good
ventilation even during heavy rainfall.
Old dwelling house from “senzui byobu” series of screen pictures
“Masu-gumi” (masu and hiziki) is a structural detail for supporting the overhanging
eaves, and one of the most remarkable details of Japanese architecture. This device
is one which is chosen to this day whenever an architect desires to obtain a pure
Japanese effect. “ Masu-gumi ” was originally a part of the construction itself,
though at the same time it adequately embodied a decorative effect.
It is an ingenious constructional detail which came originally from the Continent
together with the introduction of Buddhistic architecture in the middle of the 6th
century but in course of time it has come to be one of the most typical of Japanese
architectural devices, as if it were an intrinsic symbol of Japanese Masu-gumi (masu
and hiziki) architecture. Though many variations old form are found in “ Masu-gumi,”
according to the different periods, the principle of structure is identical: first,
projecting hiziki to the front or to the sides, then the placing of masu on the
hiziki at varying distances, after which hiziki are projected on them, and the same
process is repeated.
For this purpose, and also to prevent direct sunshine from penetrating into the
room, the wide over-hanging eaves are indispensable. In winter, however, this projection
of the eaves does not prevent the sunshine from entering and warming the room, as
the sun travels low throughout the mainland of Japan during this season. This marked
projection of the eaves often extends as much as 18 feet from the wall, as in some
Buddhist temples ; and as heavy tiles are laid on it, it requires wise and solid
devices of construction. The weight is skilfully balanced by the application of
hanegi, the principle of which somewhat resembles that of a balance. Under the surface
of the eaves, tarnki (rafters) are arranged in rows to counteract the monotony of
the wide projecting eaves.
The Sinto shrine may well be considered the architectural symbol of ancient Japanese
culture. The Sinto shrine is a building dedicated to Sintoism, the national religion
of Japan, which, originating in Nature and ancestor worship and based upon a firm
foundation, has prevailed since ancient times and has dominated the spiritual life
of the Japanese nation. Even when Buddhism and Confucianism were introduced into
Japan, Sintoism harmonized with them and it has come down to the present day. Many
Sinto shrine buildings have been preserved unchanged in their original form through
There exist, at present, over 150,000 Sinto shrines in Japan. It may indeed be said
that where one sees a a forest there one may find a sacred place entirely secluded
from worldly life.
Original sinto shrines from ancient times
We find four principal forms of Sinto shrine building in ancient times: Taisya-zukuri
(zitkun means architectural type), Otori-zukuri, Sumiyosi-zukuri and Sinmei- zukuri.
Typical examples of these four types are : Izumo- Taisya (Taisya means great shrine),
Otori-zinsya (.zinsya means Sinto shrine), Sumiyosi-zinsya and Ise-Daizingu (Daizingu
means great shrine).
Ise-Daizingu (Uzi-Yamada, Mie Prefecture)
There are two shrines at Ise; one is the Geku (outer shrine) and the other the Naiku
(inner shrine). These shrines are built on the same principle and in accordance
with the same forms, representing a more developed stage in the art of Sinto shrine-building
than the three types mentioned above. The sublime and solemn atmosphere of Sinto
shrines pervades the whole precinct of the Ise Grand Shrine, and it is here that
this atmosphere attains its highest expression. It is, so to speak, the symbol of
Japan. Japanese spirit and taste will never fail to be recognized here.
Ise-Daizingu is the most sacred place in Japan. Spirit, nature and architecture
are here united, and create a unique atmosphere which gives the visitor the impression
of having been transported to the land of gods. The Ise-Daizingu is the highest
embodiment of the Japanese spirit, and its architecture is the purest expression
of original and genuine Japanese taste.
Shrines exhibiting Chinese influence
The original Sinto shrines such as the Ise-Daizingu, Izumo-Taisya and bumiyosi-zinsya
were of pure Japanese style. But owing to the introduction of Buddhist arts, continental
influences came to bear upon shrine building, so that new and compromised styles
of shrine building developed during the 8th century. In the latter part of that
century, there evolved such new styles of shrine building as the Kasuga-zukuri,
Nagare-zukuri, Hatiman- zukuri and Hiyosi-zukuri. Typical examples of these new
styles are the Kasuga-zinsya, Simogamo-zinsya, Usa-zingu and Hie-zinsya.
Kasuga-zinsya shrine, from "Kasuga-gonen reigen-ki" picture scroll …
Kasuga-zinsya (Kasugano, Nara)
No visitor to Nara will fail to go to this beautiful shrine, its rich vermilion
colour contrasting with the green of the old trees of the surrounding forests. It
was founded about the middle of the 8th century, but it took its present form of
Kasuga-zukuri at the beginning of the Heian Period (784-1185). One of its architectural
characteristics is the eaves (in Japanese kohai) which project over the front stairway
and form a unique design in harmony with the front gable. The bright colours the
wood, and the complex curves of the roof show the influence of continental styles.
It is needless to say that religion is often responsible for creating styles of
architecture. Generally speaking, Japanese architecture has remarkable Buddhistic
elements. This naturally comes from the fact that Japanese culture itself is based
to a great extent on Buddhism.
It was in the 13th year of the Emperor Kinmei's reign (552 A.D.) that Buddhism was
first introduced into Japan from Kudara, a part of Korea in those days. With the
introduction of this religion, continental Buddhistic styles of architecture came
to be eagerly copied, and greatly influenced the building art in Japan.
There are many sects in Buddhism, and those which were introduced into this country
and which flourished in the Asuka and Nara Periods (552-783) were the so- called
Nanto-Rikusyu (Six Sects of Nara): Sanron-syu, Kusya-syu, Hosso-syu, Zyozitu-syu,
Kegon-syu and Ritu- syu. In the beginning of the Heian Period (784-1185), the two
sects of Tendai and Singon were introduced from China. In the Kamakura Period (1186-1392),
the Zen sect was introduced from the China of the Sung Dynasty ; while, on the other
hand such sects as the Zyodo-syu, Sin-syu, Nitiren-syu, Zi-syu and Yuzunenbutu-syu
were founded in Japan. In the Edo Period (1615-1867) the Obaku sect was introduced
from the China of the Ming Dynasty.
Thus, since Buddhism was first brought over from the Continent, many different sects
in succession have been introduced from China, while many new sects have been founded
in Japan itself. Generally speaking, each successive government adopted a generous
policy toward all these different sects of Buddhism, and thus each sect developed
parallel to all the others. It is on account of this fact that we can fortunately
see today typical Buddhist temple buildings in Japan which represent the development
of each sect throughout the periods of her history. This is not so in China, where
all sects except the Zen have perished.
Horyu-zi Temple (Horyu-zi, Nara Prefecture)
Bird's eye view of Horyuji temple
This temple was completed in the 15th year of the Empress Suiko's reign (607 A.D.),
and is one of the buildings of greatest historic value which remain in Japan today.
It seems almost miraculous that the buildings of the Horyu-zi Temple should be more
than 1,300 years old. The wood used there is a superior kind of htnoki, and the
climate in that province is happily well suited for the preservation of wooden buildings.
Moreover, the unvarying respect paid to this temple by the people has proved effective
in making perfect preservation possible.
Todaiji Temple (Nara)
Nan-daimon of todaiji temple, nara
At the beginning of this period the Zen sect was introduced, and with this new sect
a new building style was brought over from the China of the Sung Dynasty. We call
it “ Kara-yo ” (kara means foreign and means style). The distinguishing features
of the “ Kara-yo ” style are seen in the arrangement of the location of buildings
: the principal buildings being arranged in a row on the central axis as in the
Sitenno-zi style of the Asuka Period. The architectural and decorative treatment
of the Kamakura Period shows a great change when compared with former styles. On
the whole the effect is sombre and heavy. A good example of this style which now
exists is the Syariden of the Engaku-zi Temple, Kamakura.
In this period, another style known as the “ Tenziku- yo,” a slight variation of
the “ Kara-yo ” style, was developed. The Daibutu-den and Nan-dai-mon (great south
gate) of the Todai-zi Temple, Nara, are specimens of this style, the remarkable
features of which are to be observed in the details of “ Masu-gumi ” : masu and
hiziki projecting only to the front and not to the sides.