From Castle to Teahouse: Japanese Architecture of the Momoyama Period

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Conversely, an all-wood joint gains in strength as the wood ages and individual cells harden. Calculations show that wood joints can be more structurally sound centuries after their initial construction.


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In general, wood gains in strength for — years after being cut. Strength gradually declines after that point, but only after about a thousand years will a properly cured timber beam be reduced to the strength it was when it was originally logged. Rusted nails and fasteners recovered from the deconstruction of a year-old thatched tea house. A joint in a renovated Edo-period farmhouse. The owners believe the house to be at least years old. Next to mold on the list of natural disasters, the high winds and torrential rains of regular typhoons are another great argument for building with wood.

This renovated thatched home has deep eaves protecting the walls, and the roof is weighed down by a tile cap. The thatch is also tied to the roof structure with straw ropes. Heavy, cantilevered roofs are impossible to build without an elaborate timber structure, especially without access to metal braces and fasteners. To resist typhoons, these heavy roofs would ideally be supported with thick stone or masonry walls. But in a country where devastating earthquakes are almost as common as devastating typhoons, this is dangerous and impractical.

Not to mention the fact that uninsulated masonry or concrete walls will literally weep with condensation during the rainy season. In traditional Japanese wood construction the timber structure is almost all open to visual inspection. This means any water entry, such as from a leaky roof, can be easily identified and dealt with before mold has a chance to move in. The structure of this remodeled gate building is visible both from inside and outside, so any problems can be easily identified and repaired or replaced. Earthquake-resistance is the third major reason for building with timber.

Modern Western houses are constructed as a solid box firmly attached to a foundation, so earthquake resistance is achieved through ensuring that the walls are robust enough to resist lateral shaking.

Odyssey of House and City: Japanese architecture 1945–2017. A lecture by Kayoko Ota

As result, though, the building will move with the ground, causing the occupants to feel the whole force of the earthquake. On the other hand, traditional all-timber joints are flexible, so that much of the lateral energy of an earthquake can be absorbed by the flexing of the joints themselves.

This allows a building with a heavy roof but no solid walls to remain standing even during strong shaking. Many ancient timber buildings in Japan are constructed similarly to a wooden chair, with wall-free support pillars connected both at the top, where the roof rests, and by braces lower down. This allows for safe support of a dynamic, top-heavy weight.

The central structure has no solid walls at all, much like a wooden chair. Tuttle Co. Visit Seller's Storefront. We guarantee the condition of every book as it's described on the Abebooks web sites. If you've changed your mind about a book that you've ordered, please use the Ask bookseller a question link to contact us and we'll respond within 2 business days. International shipping by First Class or Priority mail.

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All domestic orders has tracking numbers, international shipping normally has tracking numbers. List this Seller's Books. Payment Methods accepted by seller. AbeBooks Bookseller Since: 06 July The pond, depending on its size, contains several islands called nakajima reached by soribashi a carved bridge with red-painted railings placed at an angle on the north side, and hirabashi a flat bridge to the next island or on the south side.

At one end of a corridor with a chumon is a tsuridono extending over the pond, which is part of the architecture of the garden and was used for boarding a pleasure boat, or for enjoying the coolness in the evening, moon viewing, or snow viewing. On the other side of the pond a gakuya a music stage added fun to the pleasure of a boat trip. Ponds were usually fed by a stream from the northeast of the compound following the geological shape of Kyoto, and the stream ran between the shinden and the east tsuinoya, south toward the pond.

Inmyo Gogyoshiso Yin-Yang Wu-Hsing Idea then considered the stream a favorable current called yarimizu, and it was designed to be a shallow stream. The current was guided alongside the buildings to make waterfalls and yarimizu, and an atmosphere of fields such as at Sagano and Murasakino was created in the tsuboniwa between the shinden and the tsuinoya, with gently undulating mounds called nosuji, planted wild flowers, and insects, to make a landscape.

The paths of the yarimizu and its river walls of rocks were delicately designed to make changes in the flow, fascinating white bubbles on the rocks, and pleasant sounds.

A rich spring, if any were in the grounds, was used as the water source, also forming an important source of coolness in summer. The Higashi Sanjoden of the FUJIWARA family, known as a typical Shinden-zukuri of a very wealthy family, had a spring called 'senkan izumi,' around which rocks were arranged, and the corridors floored with boards on the north and the south sides of the spring were called izumiro. Although there are no remains of this mansion from the Heian period, we can imagine how it was by studying records on old picture scrolls and diaries of aristocrat ministers and their retainers.

Shinden-zukuri were typically depicted in picture scrolls of annual events and 'the Picture Scroll of the Tale of Genji,' and they characterized the graceful lives of aristocrats. Being made to be full of natural beauty, these gardens were not only there to appreciate, but also to use as a space to conduct ceremonies. Records in diaries and picture scrolls mentioned above show that many kinds of important annual events took place at dignitaries' mansions at that time.

Sukiya-zukuri - Wikiwand

The guests first stood in line at the south courtyard to greet each other, then the host beckoned them or stepped down to the garden to guide them to enter the shinden from the south. Music and dances were performed on a stage set in the garden. These events played a political role in those days. The apparatus set up in the garden varied depending on the ceremony, so the performances also varied. Recent excavations indicate some examples of ponds placed at the side or at the back of the shinden.

From Castle to Teahouse

Kayain had ponds at all sides of the shinden, some had only yarimizu without ponds, and at Sanjoin, ponds were intentionally not built to create a noble atmosphere with the indigenous trees. Some did not have ponds because pond layout strongly depended on natural land forms. Some had only yarimizu, because they had grounds that were too small to have ponds.

The present Kyoto Imperial Palace was built in the Edo period using old architectural methods of the Heian Period following Yusokukojitsu traditional usages or practices of the court. The buildings of the imperial palace of the Muromachi period were transferred and rebuilt at Daikaku-ji Temple Saga gosho and at Ninna-ji Temple Omuro gosho in Kyoto, so they show signs of Shinden-zukuri.

The Buke-zukuri style was for samurai residences in the Kamakura period. With importance placed on practicability, the simple style was considered to be fitting as residences for samurai as opposed to aristocratic culture. Samurai Residences in the Medieval Period According to the descriptions of the residence of the Kamakura shogun in Azuma Kagami The Mirror of the East , the residence consisted of a shrine, Kogosho the residence of the shogun's heir , Tsune no gosho a room for the Shogun , Nitogosho the main place consisting of two halls , a tsuridono fishing pavilion and Samurai-dokoro, which shows that it inherited the characteristics Shinden-zukuri style architecture while adding distinctive samurai aspects and the existence of a tsuridono suggests that there was Chisen garden Japanese style garden with a central pond and spring.

In this era, the basic architecture of samurai residences was based on Shinden-zukuri style buildings, which were the main living space of nobles during the Heian period, but it seems that since the lifestyle of samurai differed from Court nobles and tenjobito high-ranking courtiers allowed into the Imperial Palace , the style of residences was changed accordingly. The Samurai-dokoro in the big m-wide residence of Kamakura shogun was the place where gokenin an immediate vassal of the shogunate gathered to hold ceremonies or banquets, but it is also considered that shogun and gokenin sometimes sat face to face there as a ritual characteristic to the samurai society.

Additionally, although the details of samurai residences are still not clear to this day, a typical residence consisted of the following up until the Muromachi period: In one building or a building with annexes, various rooms, such as a tosaburai tosamurai , where samurai gathered, a shinden and taimen-jo meeting place , where the samurai spent their days, Dei Idei as a guest room, Kumonjo Office of Administration and a living room, were placed with strong walls and moats surrounding the buildings, and the garden are was also smaller in comparison with Shinden-zukuri style, matching the smaller-sized buildings, and a front garden with a Chumon gate and entranceway was placed instead of the large garden typical of Shinden-zukuri style, and inside courtyard was divided into smaller sections mainly for viewing.

Many picture scrolls were painted towards the end of the Kamakura period, and on them, many houses of local Samurai are depicted such as Honen Shonin Eden illustrated biography of a Buddhist saint, Honen and Moko Shurai Ekotoba picture scrolls of Mongol invasion attempts against Japan. They went to the province assigned by the bakufu Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun and lived there to control the surrounding area as according to their job assignments. They lived in rural areas, conducted farm management and controlled the farmers.

It is unclear how faithfully these paintings depict the actual situation of that time.


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  • The painting depicts a gorgeous atmosphere with a houseboat floating in a pond showing that Jiro, who married a nyobo lady-in-waiting from the imperial court and enjoyed entertainment such as poems and music, made a pond and had a tsuridono built within the vast premises and had graceful trees, such as red Japanese plum, cherry and pine trees, planted in the garden.

    Considering from the layout and look of the buildings, the painting shows that as Shinden-zukuri style was followed, but also depicts aspects typical of a samurai residence such as earth on flat board roofs on top of mud walls, metal clasps used for the gate doors and guards placed around the residence for defence.

    History of Japanese Architecture

    In contrast, the style and size of the house of his younger brother Saburo itself is in the same Shinden-zukuri style as his elder brother. However, it can be seen that no samurai are practicing military arts in and out of the residence and no garden with a pond for viewing, but the flat yard is left unattended with lots of weeds growing wildly, and regarding the planting, paulownia trees are only trees planted between the gate and the chumon-ro corridor. Traditional Shinden-zukuri style could not fill the needs of the samurai of this era because of typical samurai activity such as fighting, entertaining guests and taimen events meetings to confirm the relationship between lord and retainer.

    Shuden-zukuri style is the term proposed in architectural history for indicating the architectural style of samurai residences during the Muromachi period. The Shuden was a place where all daily activities could be done with a room for conducting taimen meeting to confirm the relations between lord and retainer and Buddhist services and bedroom. This architectural style is different from that of the Shinden-zukuri style, where a shinden and Tainoya the building where family members of the residence lived were connected with a corridor, and the Shoin-zukuri style where an entrance, a dai-shoin a large drawing room and a sho-shoin a small drawing room were connected in a row.

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    It is considered as a distinct architectural style and called the Shuden-zukuri style. No buildings of the Shuden-zukuri style have survived from that time and its characteristics can only be surmised from existing related documents. Although built more recently, it is said that the shoin drawing room at Onjo-ji Temple maintains some aspects of the Shuden-zukuri style. The floor, shelves and shoin give an impression of an old-fashioned shoin.

    The shoin that was once in Nikko-in of Onjo-ji Temple was dismantled and reconstructed in Tokyoto become the Gekko-den literally, a moon light hall at Gokoku-ji Temple Important Cultural Property. Shoin-zukuri is one of the Japanese residential architectural styles which were established after the middle of the Muromachi Period. Shoin-zukuri has had a strong influence on Japanese residential houses since then. Features of Shoin-zukuri A shoin a study built in the shoin style is furnished with zashikikazari a set of decorative features , such as tokonoma alcoves for the display of art objects or oshi-ita , chigai-dana shelves built into the wall , and tsukeshoin a built-in table.

    Even at banquets today, seats are often designated as 'kamiza' or 'shimoza' according to their position relative to the tokonoma, which implies that distances from tokonoma once helped members to verify each other's rank and status. Establishment of Shoin-zukuri A shoin was originally for Zen monks to read books, with an elevated floor board as a desk extending out into the room and with akari-shoji in front to let light in.

    Oshi-ita a shallow decorative alcove, a predecessor of the tokonoma and chigai-dana were installed to display works of calligraphy, paintings and other ornaments. This is a small room of four-and-a-half tatami mats with tsukeshoin and tana, and is considered the origin of typical Japanese houses whose style survives today. By the end of the Muromachi Period, temples with shoin, and samurai residences with oshi-ita, tana and shoin were being built, and the style of Shoin-zukuri was gradually formed.

    Shoin-zukuri was established as a device to show hierarchical ranks and orders, and its pinnacle was in the architecture of castles in the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. However, neither of these remain today. It was a place where the Shogun met other feudal lords, who sat there in a strictly defined order. The Kamiza where the Shogun was seated is decorated with oshi-ita, tana, shoin and chodaigamae a decorative door or mushakakushi a secret door for bodyguards , and it is on the highest of the several stages of floors arranged in ascending order from shimoza, with a high-ranked structure called oriage gotenjo.

    Popularization of Shoin-zukuri Although tokonoma were restricted as they were considered too lavish for ordinary people in the Edo Period, some influential people were allowed to build tokonoma when inviting local governors to their homes for example. This kind of Zashikikazari must have enhanced their authority in the community.

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    As these building restrictions based on social standing were abolished in the Meiji Period, installing tokonoma in ordinary houses became common. Yet, a zashiki with a tokonoma was a special room, so even family members were forbidden to enter the room in many families. Sukiya-zukuri is one of the Japanese architectural styles, and is characterized as a design of residential house in a sukiya teahouse style. Its name comes from 'suki' which means enjoying furyu elegant aestheticism , such as waka 31 syllable Japanese poem , tea ceremony, and Japanese flower arrangement, and 'sukiya' means 'a house built as you like,' or a teahouse.

    Originally a sukiya was a small stand-alone teahouse at most 4 and a half tatami mats in size built facing a garden. At that time, shoin-zukuri, containing an impressive room furnished with an alcove, shelf, and tsukeshoin a built-in table were already established, with its role in maintaining hierarchy and status, but masters of ceremonial tea disliked formal designs and gorgeous decoration.