Wooden structures traditionally characterise Japan architecture raised slightly from the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Fusuma were used instead of walls, allowing the interior configuration of the room to be adjusted for different occasions. Traditionally, people usually sat on cushions or the floor. Chairs and bar tables were not widely used until the 20th century. Since the 19th century, however, Japan has incorporated much Western, modern, and postmodern architecture into its construction and design, and today leads the way in cutting-edge architectural design and technology.

Japanese architecture developed under the influence of China and the Korean Peninsula. Since the modern era, Western culture has had an impact. Still, at the same time, a unique Japanese architectural style has emerged that fuses with the natural environment and culture of Japan. Japanese architecture, mainly consisting of pillars and beams, is different from Western brick architecture

The Eight Elements Of Traditional Japanese Architecture

Wood | Japan architecture

Traditional Japanese architecture is predominantly made of wood. Wood is preferred over a stone and other materials because it provides adequate ventilation to combat the climate and is durable in the face of natural disasters due to dampness, seismic risk, and typhoon potential. I was. In old Japanese houses, the building walls were not painted as a sign of gratitude. They appreciated wood and showed respect by not hiding its natural beauty.

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The Golden Pavillion (Kinkakuji) in Kyoto_©TOKI


The curved, elongated roof of traditional Japanese architecture is the focal point of most buildings. Not only are they attractive, but they are also important because of their role in the structure. Japanese architecture consists of four types of roofs: gabled (gable roof), hipped roof (hipped roof), irimoya (irimoya), and square (quadrangular pyramid roof). Since it rains a lot in Japanese summer, the roof’s eaves are wide enough to protect the windows from the rain.

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Traditional architecture in the middle of Tokyo at Sensoji_©TOKI

Shoji And Fusuma | Japan architecture

Shoji (movable screens) and fusuma (fusuma, fusuma) were always included in old Japanese houses. is an opaque paper that does not let light through. It is often painted at shrines and temples but is white in most households. Despite their similarities, their roles are different. Both shoji and fusuma are used as interior doors and partitions to divide and subdivide spaces, but only shoji are used as windows, exterior walls, and exterior doors, allowing light and shadow to flicker into the house, creating a sense of comfort. Gives you a good vibe. Both became well-known in the West and became one of the first aspects of Japanese architecture.


Tatami (tatami mats, mats used as flooring in traditional Japanese rooms) are still a common staple in Japanese homes today. The standard size of tatami mats, traditionally made of rice straw and rushed on the edge of the cloth, is a 2:1 ratio. The floors of traditional Japanese houses were often completely covered with tatami mats, but today it is more common for homes to have at least one tatami room. Notice the scent. You are expected to remove your shoes before walking on these traditional mat floors.

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Tatami mats are framed by shoji and fusuma at a temple in Tokyo_©TOKI

Engawa | Japan architecture

An engawa (engawa, Japanese porch, literally meaning “edge side”) is a non-tatami mat floor similar to a porch. Tie. Since Engawa is far from home, shoes are not worn inside. Alternatively, you can leave your shoes on the traditional stone steps next door. In summer, many people enjoy sitting on the porch and enjoying nature, or chatting with family and friends while soaking up the sun.

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The view of the engawa from the outside of one of the tea houses in the Hamarikyu gardens in Tokyo_©TOKI


Genki (Genkan, traditional Japanese genkan) is usually located inside the house, just outside the door. The foyer serves as the area where you put your shoes before entering the main part of the house. They are sunken below the ground in the rest of the building to prevent staining, much like dirt rooms. 

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Visitors to Meiji Shrine’s worship hall in Tokyo are greeted by the giant camphor trees, which are estimated to be over 100 years old_©TOKI

Relationship With Nature

In Japanese culture, all life has meaning and value, which is reflected in respect for nature. They strive to work in harmony with the natural environment rather than taming it. Houses and buildings are one with nature and part of the environment. No push or pull. It is a flow of mutual understanding between man-made and natural objects. In recent years, traditional Japanese architecture has become a key point of inspiration and wisdom as contemporary architects and designers promote a new generation of circular and sustainable designs.

History of Japanese Architecture | Japan architecture

Japanese Architecture of Ancient Times

 From the Asuka period to the Nara period, Japan adopted architectural techniques from China and the Korean Peninsula. Even after Buddhism was officially introduced to Japan in 538 AD, the construction of temples began. According to records, in 577, temple carpenters and makers of Buddha statues and artifacts were invited from Baekje. Also known as Hokoji Temple or Gangoji Temple, Asukadera Temple (Asuka Village, Takaichi District, Nara Prefecture) was built by the Asuka clan between 588 and 609, and Shitennoji Temple (Tennoji, Tennoji Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture (Tennoji, Tennoji Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture) ) is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, which is said to have been founded by Prince Shotoku (the original buildings of both do not exist).

Japanese Architecture of the Medieval Period

During the Kamakura period, when trade with China flourished, Chinese architectural styles were reintroduced to Japan. The first style to be brought to Japan was the style used in the reconstruction of the Todaiji Temple (Daibutsu-yo or Tenjiku-yo).

Todai-ji Temple and the Bishana Buddha statue built in the Tenpyo era were destroyed in the Jisho-Juei Disturbance at the end of the Heian period. After overcoming many obstacles, in 1185, Chogen Shunjobo dedicated the newly built Great Buddha. The Great Buddha Hall was rebuilt in 1195. In 1203 a large memorial service was held.

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Japanese Architecture of the Medieval Period_©doyouknowjapan

Japanese Architecture of early modern times

In cultural history, the Momoyama period is often called the period from 1573, when the Muromachi Shogunate fell, to 1615, when the Toyotomi clan fell. Castle architecture developed during this period. The castle tower was built as a symbol of power, and the bulkheads were painted with magnificent paintings symbolizing the era of unification. The tea ceremony, which began in the Muromachi period, was perfected by Sen no Rikyu and brought with it a new architectural style of the tea room.

During the Edo period, when popular culture flourished, there was a marked trend toward secularization in architecture. An example of this movement is sukiya-zukuri, which incorporates the function of the tea room not only into residences, but also into urban entertainment facilities such as theaters and brothels.

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Japanese Architecture of Early Modern Times_©doyouknowjapan

Modern Japanese Architecture

Settlements, trading houses, churches, etc. were built in settlements that were established at the end of the Edo period. The Glover House, which stands on a hill in Nagasaki, was built by Japanese under Glover’s guidance, but there were also several buildings built by foreign engineers. Inspired by the new constructions of these foreign settlements, Japanese architects began constructing Western-style houses and buildings (giyo-fu architecture).
In the early Meiji period, the Japanese government was desperate to acquire Western architectural techniques in order to develop the cities needed for the modernization of the country. Thomas Walters and Josiah Conder were invited to Japan as foreign experts in government services. Conder devoted himself to the education of Japanese architects at the Imperial Institute of Technology, and has been called the “father of Japanese architecture.”

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Japanese Architecture of Modern Times_©doyouknowjapan

Contemporary Japanese Architecture | Japan architecture

After the Japanese architectural movement was severely damaged during World War II, the Japanese architectural movement saw an opportunity for development during the period of post-war reconstruction and rapid economic growth. The use of reinforced concrete became common, and public facilities were built everywhere in a modern architectural style.

Contemporary Japanese Architecture_©doyouknowjapan


Toki (2021) The eight elements of Japanese traditional architecture, TOKI. TOKI. Available at: https://www.toki.tokyo/blogt/2020/4/8/eight-elements-of-japanese-architecture (Accessed: December 17, 2022). 

Japanese architecture (no date) Encyclopedia of Japan. Available at: https://doyouknowjapan.com/architecture/ (Accessed: December 17, 2022). 

Japanese architecture – buildings & houses from Japan (no date) Architecture & Design. Available at: https://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/features/list/japanese-architecture-and-buildings (Accessed: December 17, 2022). 


Abha has completed her architecture from mumbai. She is passionate about designing and has a creative mind. She also fond of binging series and movies.