Monday, March 23, 2009


Japanese architecture, like any other architecture, is deeply influenced by the environment. In addition to the four seasons, there are a short rainy season in early summer and typhoons in early fall, creating a cycle of six "seasons." Spring and autumn are pleasant, and winter, of course, is cold. The three remaining seasons—the rainy season, summer, and typhoon season—are hot and muggy, and it is to these three that Japanese architecture is geared. The assumption is that if a house is constructed to ameliorate the discomfort of rain and humidity, the human body can bear the discomfort of the only remaining season that poses a problem, winter.

Temperature, rainfall, and humidity chart comparing Tokyo and New York.

A Culture of Wood and Paper
To cope with the warm and humid climate of Japan, materials with a low thermal capacity, such as wood, are best, and to cope with the frequency of earthquakes, materials such as brick or stone are avoided. Fortunately, Japan is blessed with good raw materials, particularly timber, well suited to the climate and ideal for an earthquake-prone country. The abundance and variety of wood has, as a result, instilled in the Japanese a keen appreciation of wood—its luster, fragrance, and texture.

As will be seen in this book, wood, paper, and other native materials are copiously used in the home. The shoji sliding doors made of soft, translucent paper and delicate wood latticework, the heavier fusuma sliding doors covered with paper of subtle or bold designs, the bamboo and reed screens, the handsome wood pillar in the alcove, the lovely paper lampshades with wood bases, and, of course, the bath made of aromatic cedar all attest to the Japanese love of wood and paper.

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