These 17 Buildings Show the Timeless Elegance of Japanese Architecture
The Land of the Rising Sun is home to the most vibrant mix of traditional and contemporary Japanese architecture.
Japan's architectural tradition often brings to mind an image of complete opposites—ancient temples and wooden minkas (old Japanese homes) with sliding doors and gracefully curved roofs sitting next to modern high-rises of futuristic design. And while these two distinct styles are complete architectural antipodes, both share the same approach to design and aesthetics—namely, simplicity, effectiveness, and connection to nature.
Traditional Japanese architecture was developed mainly during the Edo period in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Buildings were mostly constructed from wood and timber because of the material's resistance during natural disasters such as earthquakes. Very often, wood was used in its most raw form as a way to connect to nature. Structures were topped with elongated roofs that protected them from rain and provided shade on hot days. Inside, movable screens and sliding doors divided the space into rooms while floors were covered in tatami mats. Other features include genkans, sunken entryways for shoes, and verandas that encircle the house.
The second half of the 20th century ushered in a new era in Japanese architecture led by western influences and the country's rapid modernization. Still, architects such as Kenzo Tange and Tadao Ando, two of the most prominent figures in Japanese architecture, designed modern structures by incorporating traditional elements, like the use of raw materials.
Keep scrolling to peruse some of the most renowned ancient and modern examples of Japanese architecture.