Elements of Japanese Architecture (Nihon Kenchiku)

Japan has a long interesting history of architecture. Although Japanese architecture is heavily influenced by Chinese architecture, it exhibits a variety of differences that are uniquely Japanese.

Like modern architecture around the world, Japanese architecture today depicts a modern global approach, aesthetics and sense of style, offering only a little relation with traditional Japanese trends.
Japanese Traditional Architecture
Japanese interiors

A Japanese house is largely acclaimed for the use of natural materials, vernacular architecture, lack of ostentation, delicate proportions and thoughtful blending of exterior and interior spaces.

Japanese buildings were designed with a number of light sources in them. Japanese architects integrated internal courtyards, stepped spaces, terraces, backyard landscaped garden and walkways.
Types Of Minka
A traditional Japanese house is known as a minka in the architectural history of Japan. There are two types of minka:

  1. Noka
  2. Machiya

Japan building
Noka is a single story traditional farm house while machiya is a townhouse often with two floors in Japanese architecture. Noka is entered by an odo, a large wooden door that leads to a doma that is a floor of compacted earth equipped with a kamado that is a furnace like oven made of clay. It is mainly used for cooking and farming related activities. There is a raised floor in noka with an irori, a built-in hearth. It is used by the family and guests. It also has sleeping spaces.
Omoya, the main structure of a machiya, stands in front of an attached store known as a kura or a detached store called a zashiki. Doma is stretched from front to the back where there is a storehouse. Machiya often has another floor that is used for sleeping or store goods.
Vernacular Architecture
The key idea in the design and construction of minka is the use of economical, cheap and locally available building materials. A traditional house of Japan is constructed from wood, clay, bamboo, grass and straw.
The skeletal structure of the walls, structural columns and roof is traditionally made from timber due to the abundance of wood and also because of its resistance against earthquakes, harsh climate and other natural disasters. Natural beauty of wood texture is kept exposed and not covered by paint. In other buildings, nails are avoided to fix wooden beams and columns in the structure, instead pieces are interlocked together by a method called tokyō.
External walls are often finished with the use of bamboo and clay.
Japanese roof
Roofs of Japanese villas are not only a protection against climate but they are also a symbol of Japanese architecture. There are different styles of roofs such as kirizuma roof (gabled), yosemune roof (hipped), irimoya roof (hip and gable) and hogyo roof (squarish pyramid). Eaves of the roofs are covered with intricate roof tiles known as kawara.
An engawa is a verandah or outdoor terrace surrounding a Japanese house.
A Genkan is a traditional Japanese entrance hallway for a residence or an apartment. The key function of a genkan is for removal of shoes before one enters the main spaces of the house.
A shibi is a Japanese ornamental tile that is placed on the roof resembling a shoe.
A fusuma is an opaque sliding door or partition that redefines areas in a room. They are sometimes adorned with paintings.
Tatami mat
tatami mat

Tatami mat is the Japanese floor mat made of rice straw woven together. The edges of the mat come with brocade with a raised design usually in green fabric and gold threads.

A shoji is a door or a room partition made of translucent washi paper stretched on a wooden frame. They are usually made to slide open or fold.
A tokonoma is a recessed niche to display a painting, artwork, calligraphy, scrolls, ikebana (arranged flowers), bonsai and other decorative items.
A washitsu is a traditional Japanese room having tatami flooring. It may have a tokonoma, shoji or fusuma. There is a low table called a kotatsu in the room providing heating during winters. Family and guests sit on a low chair or a cushion known as a zabuton.   
Sudare are the window blinds and screens. They are made up of natural materials such as slats of wood or bamboo that are woven together with a cord or colorful thread. They are used to cover the windows and other openings and can also be rolled up.  
Daikoku Bashira
Daikoku Bashira is the main central column that supports the traditional house of Japan.
Ajiro is a traditional Japanese ceiling that brings the natural daylight inside the building during the day and night light through small openings of ceiling during night resembling stars.


  1. Hannah
    April 10, 2021, at 12:00 pm REPLY

    i love the cherry blossoms