Japan - Table of Contents ....... ...Illustrated Architecture Dictionary.............. Architecture Around the World

Japanese Architecture Dictionary

On this page, below:
See also: Gardens
Pronunciation
Dictionary - Pronunciation
a : as in father
e : as in set
i :  as in he
u : as in put
o : as in polo
'g' sound:  is always pronounced in the hard form as game
'a' and 'i' together:  sound like the 'i' in 'ice'
'e' and 'i' together : sound like a long 'eh' sound
'o' and 'u' together:  sound like a long 'o' sound
'u' + 'u':  sound like 'oo'
Houses




Houses




Houses




Houses





Houses




Houses




Houses




Houses




Houses




Houses




Houses




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Houses




Houses




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Houses




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Houses

Houses
In general - Exterior features:
  • Exterior lifespan: An unusual feature of Japanese housing is that houses are presumed to have a limited lifespan, and are generally torn down and rebuilt after a few decades, generally twenty years for wooden buildings and thirty years for concrete buildings.
  • Exterior height: Japanese dwellings were basically single-story until the mid-19th century.

  • Exterior structure: The general structure is almost always the same: posts and lintels support a large and gently curved roof, while the walls are paper-thin, often movable and in any case non-weight-bearing.

  • Exterior structure: Arches and barrel roofs are completely absent.
In general - Interior features:
  • Interior layout: The interior of the building normally consists of a single room at the center called moya (below), from which depart any other less important spaces. The moya can be a living room, dining room, study, or bedroom. This is possible because all the necessary furniture is portable, being stored in oshiire, a small section of the house (large closets) used for storage.

  • Interior room sizes: The size of a room can be changed by altering the partitioning. Sliding panels -fusuma (below) and shōji (below) - made from wood and paper (washi, below) were used in place of walls, allowing the internal configuration of a space to be customized to different occasions. Unlike fusuma, paper (washi, below) used for shōji is very thin so outside light can pass through into the house.

  • Interior relationships with nature: Interiors are very simple, highlighting minimal and natural decoration. Natural materials are used to keep simplicity in the space that connects to nature.  Traditional Japanese interiors, as well as modern, incorporate mainly natural materials including fine woods, bamboo, silk, rice straw mats (tatami below), and paper screens. Natural color schemes are used and neutral palettes including black, white, off-white, gray, and brown.

  • Interior bamboo: Bamboo is prominently used and even expected in the Japanese house, used both for decorative and functional purposes. Bamboo blinds, sudare (below), replace shōji (below) in summer to prevent excess heat inside and also offer greater ventilation. Country dwellings and farmhouses often use it for ceilings and rafters. The natural properties of bamboo, its raw beauty with the knots and smooth surface, correspond to Japanese aesthetic ideals of imperfection, contrast and the natural.

  • Interior impermanence:  Impermanence is a strong theme in traditional Japanese dwellings. Cupboards built smoothly into the wall hide futons which are mattresses pulled out before going to bed, allowing more space to be available during the day. In summer exterior walls can be opened to bring the garden and cooling breezes in.

  • Interior verandas:  The separation between inside and outside is itself in some measure not absolute as entire walls can be removed, opening a residence or temple to visitors. Verandas appear to be part of the building to an outsider, but part of the external world to those in the building. Structures are therefore made to a certain extent part of their environment. Care is taken to blend the edifice into the surrounding natural environment.
  • Interior cushions:  People usually sat on cushions or otherwise on the floor, traditionally; chairs and high tables were not widely used until the 20th century.

  • Interior decoration: Minimal interior decoration alters seasonally, with a different scroll hanging or new flower (ikebana) arrangement. A recessed space called tokonoma (below) is often present in traditional as well as modern Japanese living rooms. This is the focus of the room and displays Japanese art, usually a painting or calligraphy.

Fusuma
"In Japanese architecture, fusuma are vertical rectangular panels which can slide from side to side to redefine spaces within a room, or act as doors. They typically measure about 3.0 ft wide by 5'11" tall, the same size as a tatami (below) mat, and are two or three centimeters thick. The heights of fusuma have increased in recent years due to an increase in average height of the Japanese population, and a  6'2" height is now common. They consist of a lattice-like wooden understructure covered in cardboard and a layer of paper or cloth on both sides. They typically have a black lacquer border and a round finger catch.  Historically, fusuma were painted, often with scenes from nature such as mountains, forests or animals. Today, many feature plain rice paper, or have industrially printed graphics of fans, autumn leaves, cherry blossom, trees, or geometric graphics. Patterns for children featuring popular characters can also be purchased.  Along with the fusuma, shōji and tatami straw mats make up a typical Japanese room." -  Excerpts from Wikipedia (online October 2013)

Genkan

The vestibule just inside the main entrance to a Japanese home. The genkan is where shoes are removed before stepping up into the raised wooden floor living areas of the house, the rōka (below).

Irori
Sunken hearth.
"Irori  are a type of traditional sunken hearth common in Japan. Used for heating the home and cooking food, irori are essentially square pits in the floor with a pot hook. These hooks generally were hollow bamboo tubes containing an iron rod, with an attached lever, often shaped like a fish, that would allow the pot or kettle to be raised or lowered." - Wikipedia (online Feb.  2014)

A fire is always going in the irori. A teakettle full of water is hung over the coals by a chain attached to the ceiling. This, hot water for tea is always available, and the space around the irori is a warm gathering place in cool weather.

Ramma
Louvered red transom or decorative carved grill between the sliding room divider and the ceiling to ensure the easy flow of air from room to room.

 Rōka,
Wooden floored passages, that are similar to hallways.
Shoji (pronounced SHOW jee)
A translucent screen consisting of a wooden frame covered in rice paper called washi (below), used as an outer sliding door or inner partition in a Japanese house.

A very lightweight sliding partition consisting of a wooden lattice covered on one side with translucent white rice paper. The lattice is most often composed of small horizontal rectangles. The lower section is occasionally filled in by a thin wooden panel.

Unlike fusuma (above), paper used for shōji is very thin so outside light can pass through into the house.

Sudare
Bamboo blinds that replace shoji in summer to prevent excess heat inside and also offer greater ventilation.

Tatami mat
Straw foundation, covered with a  woven reed mat; roughly 1 X 2 meters.

Tatami are the basis of traditional Japanese architecture, regulating a building's size and  dimensions. They originated in ancient Japan when straw was laid on bare earth as a softener and warmer. In the Heian Period (794–1185), this idea developed into movable mats that could be laid anywhere in the house to sit or sleep on before becoming a permanent floor covering in the fifteenth century. Tatami are suitable for the Japanese climate because they let air circulate around the floor

Tokonoma
An alcove for a scroll, an ikebana flower arrangement, bonsai  miniaturized tree, display of a flower arrangement and a few carefully chosen objects of art.

Minimal interior decoration alters seasonally, with a different scroll hanging or new flower (ikebana) arrangement. A tokonoma is often present in traditional as well as modern Japanese living rooms. This is the focus of the room and displays Japanese art, usually a painting or calligraphy.
Tsukubai
Stone water basins were originally placed in gardens for visitors to wash their hands and mouth before the tea ceremony. The water is provided to the basin by a bamboo pipe, or kakei, and they usually have a wooden ladle for drinking the water.

A tsukubai is a small basin provided in Japanese Buddhist temples for visitors to purify themselves by the ritual washing of hands and rinsing of the mouth.

Washi

Washi is a style of paper that was first made in Japan. using fibers from the bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub,  the paper mulberry, bamboo, hemp, rice, or wheat.
Used in shoji (above) screens.
Buddhist Temples





Buddhist Temples





Buddhist Temples





Buddhist Temples





Buddhist Temples




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Buddhist Temples




Buddhist Temples




Buddhist Temples




Buddhist Temples




Buddhist Temples
Buddhism was exported from China to Japan in the 6th century AD. The main doctrine is to reject desire to reach nirvana.

In 1191, the Zen Sect was introduced from China. Its complicated theories especially appealed to the Samurai (below). According to Zen teaching, one could achieve self-enlightenment through meditation and discipline (and the Samurai were masters of discipline). Zen rapidly spread among the Samurai. Gardens of raked sand (representing water) and rocks (representing mountains) were used as places of meditation within temples.  A lot of gardens have just a lot of blank, flat space. Even though the trees and patterns often stand out a lot more, that blankness, that stillness, is just as crucial.  See also: Zen gardens

Through the centuries Buddhist temples have varied little in general arrangement. In front of the main building stands an imposing gateway, honden (below). Accessory structures include the five-storied square pagoda (often omitted), the drum tower, and the holy font protected by a shed, temizu (below).  Temple names often end with -ji
    Like a Shinto shrine, a Buddhist temple is not primarily a place of worship: its most important buildings are used for the safekeeping of sacred objects and are not accessible to worshipers. Unlike a Christian church, a temple is also a monastery where monks live. There are specialized buildings for certain rites, but these are usually open only to a limited number of participants. Religious mass gatherings do not take place with regularity as with Christian religions, and are in any event not held inside the temple. If many people are involved in a ceremony, it will assume a festive character and will be held outdoors.

    How to visit a temple
    "Behave calmly and respectfully. Show your respect by making a short prayer in front of the sacred object. Do so by throwing a coin into the offering box, followed by a short prayer ...  At some temples, visitors burn incense (osenko) in large incense burners. Purchase a bundle, light them, let them burn for a few seconds and then extinguish the flame by waving your hand rather than by blowing it out. Finally, put the incense into the incense burner and fan some smoke towards yourself as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder ... When entering temple buildings, you may be required to take off your shoes. Leave your shoes on the shelves at the entrance or take them with you in plastic bags provided at some temples. Wear nice socks ... Photography is usually permitted on the temple grounds. It is forbidden indoors at some temples." - Japan-Guide.com (online March 2014)

    Bodhisattva (pronounced: boh di saht va)
    In Mahayana Buddhism, a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings.

    Bonshō bells:

    Bonshō are sited in Buddhist temples, usually in in a specially designated building or tower called a shōrō

    "The bells vary in size, with the biggest dwarfing people standing next to them. They are typically housed in their own special outdoor chamber [shōrō], and hit with a large wooden hammer or log that is swung on ropes. The bells are rung in the morning and evening to help indicate the time, and usually rung 18, 36, or 108 times. It is believed that the worries in peoples’ hearts total 108." - Examiner.com (online March 2014)

    "The bells are usually made from bronze, using a form of expendable mold casting. They have similarities to ancient Chinese bell designs, and are thought to be of Chinese origin.  ... Their penetrating and pervasive tone carries over considerable distance, and is thought to have supernatural properties such as being heard in the underworld; their spiritual significance means that Bonshō play an important role in Buddhist ceremonies, particularly the New Year and Obon festivals.  ... They are used to mark the passage of time, and to call the monks to services. The sonorous sound of the bell, which could carry for miles, was also used to warn of impending typhoons and as a general alarm ... In Buddhism, the bell's sound is considered to be calming and to induce a suitable atmosphere for meditation. Because of the bells' shape (with sloped shoulders and a flat base) they are seen as representations of the sitting Buddha and are accorded similar respect; those striking the bell will first make three bows towards it just as they would before a statue of Buddha." - Wikipedia (online March 2014)
    Butsudan
    "A butsudan (literally 'Buddhist altar') is a shrine commonly found in temples and homes in Japanese Buddhist cultures. A butsudan is a wooden cabinet with doors that enclose and protect a gohonzon or religious icon, typically a statue or painting of a Buddha or Bodhisattva (above), or a 'script' mandala scroll. The doors are opened to display the icon during religious observances, and closed before sunset. A butsudan usually contains an array of subsidiary religious items,  such as candlesticks, incense burners, bells, and platforms for placing offerings such as fruit, tea or rice. Some Buddhist sects place ihai, memorial tablets for deceased relatives, within or near the butsudan." - Wikipedia (online March 2014)

    Chanoyu
    Tea ceremony

    Chashitsu
    Tea room.
    The ceremony of serving tea became a formalized Zen ritual. The tearoom or teahouse, built for this purpose, had tatami (above) mats on the floor, shoji (sliding paper-and wood screens) for room dividers and a ceremonial alcove where scrolls of calligraphy and flower arrangements were placed. These features became central to Japanese architecture and interior design.

    Guardians of the Four Directions/ Four Heavenly Kings
    Deities, protectors of Buddhism, who guard each of the four directions of the compass from harmful and dangerous influences. Originally from India, the Directional Guardians were transmitted to China during the Tang dynasty (about 600 AD), and from thence to Tibet, Korea, and Japan. The Guardians appear in paintings, such as mandalas, and especially in temple sculptures, where they usually surround and protect a central Buddha image.

    North - Bishamon-ten
    South  - Zocho-ten
    East  - Jikoku-ten
    West  - Komoku-ten

    Honden,
    Imposing gateway in front of the main Buddhist temple building.    

    Incense burners:
    "At some temples, visitors burn incense (osenko) in large incense burners. Purchase a bundle, light them, let them burn for a few seconds and then extinguish the flame by waving your hand rather than by blowing it out. Finally, put the incense into the incense burner and fan some smoke towards yourself as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder." - Japan-Guide.com (online March 2014)

    Jizo Bodhisattva
    One of the most beloved and revered Bodhisattvas (in Mahayana Buddhism, a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings). Jizo is the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Vow, the aspiration to save all beings from suffering. He is the protector of women, children, and travelers in the six realms of existence. The function of this great Bodhisattva is to guide travelers in both the physical and spiritual realms.

    Jizo is special to pregnant women and to those whose children have died. Statues of Jizo can sometimes be seen wearing tiny children's clothing or bibs. Grieving parents place toys and other offerings beside the Jizo statue to invoke his protection of their dead child. Offerings are also made by parents to thank Jizo for saving their children from a serious illness.
    Mon
    Gate often used, either alone or as a suffix, in referring to the many gates used by Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and traditional-style buildings and castles. Gates mark the entrance to the temple grounds. There is usually one main gate, and possibly several additional gates, along the temple's main approach.
    Pagoda
    Originally a Buddhist monument crowned by a stupa, a Buddhist memorial mound erected to enshrine a relic.

    Pagodas, found in some temples, house relics of the Buddha, such as fragments of bone. The relic is usually placed at the base of the central pillar, hidden from view.  Three- or five-story pagodas are common, but access to the upper stories is rarely permitted.
    Tsukubai
    Zen garden
    "The Japanese rock garden or "dry landscape" garden, often called a zen garden, creates a miniature stylized landscape through carefully composed arrangements of rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees and bushes, and uses gravel or sand that is raked to represent ripples in water. A zen garden is usually relatively small, surrounded by a wall, and is usually meant to be seen while seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden ... . Classical zen gardens were created at temples of Zen Buddhism in Kyoto, Japan during the Muromachi Period. They were intended to imitate the intimate essence of nature, not its actual appearance, and to serve an aid to meditation about the true meaning of life." - Wikipedia (online April 2014)
    Shinto Shrines




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    Shinto Shrines

    Shinto Shrines
    Shinto means spirit or kami, i.e., spirits, essences or deities, in some cases being human-like, in others being animistic, and others being associated with more abstract natural forces in the world (mountains, rivers, lightning, wind, waves, trees, rocks). Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity. (Many buildings are blessed by Shinto clergy.)

    The Shinto shrine, whose pre-Buddhist type is perpetuated, is a small and extremely simple structure, roofed with bark thatch and devoid of color adornment. Greatest importance was attached to the landscape setting, a forested and picturesque hillside being the favored location.

    Human beings become kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral kami. There are no absolutes in Shinto. Humans are thought to be fundamentally good. Bad things are believed to be caused by evil spirits. Therefore, the purpose of most Shinto rituals is to keep these evil spirits away by purification, prayers and offerings to the kami.

    Daily, seasonal, and special offerings are made to show respect for local deities.  Traditionally, houses have at least one kamidana (deity shelf) upon which the first bowl of rice and cup of tea are placed as daily offerings to the local deity.

    There are mingling of Shinto and Buddhist rituals throughout a Japanese person's life - weddings are traditionally Shinto, while funerals are Buddhist. This coexistence of Shinto and Buddhism is clear in a traditional household, where the family maintains both the Shinto deity shelf and a Buddhist family altar.

    The clear separation between Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, which today is the norm, emerges only as a result of the law of 1868. This separation was mandated by law, and many shrine-temples were forced to become just shrines. Because mixing the two religions was now forbidden, jingūji had to give away some of their properties or dismantle some of their buildings, thus damaging the integrity of their cultural heritage and decreasing the historical and economic value of their properties.

    Shinto shrines are places of worship and the homes of the kami. Most shrines celebrate festivals regularly. Shinto priests perform the rituals and often live on the shrine grounds. The Shinto shrine, whose pre-Buddhist type is perpetuated, is a small and extremely simple structure, roofed with bark thatch and devoid of color adornment. Greatest importance was attached to the landscape setting, a forested and picturesque hillside being the favored location.

    The honden is the most sacred building at a Shinto shrine, intended purely for the use of the enshrined kami, usually symbolized by a mirror or sometimes by a statue. The building is normally in the rear of the shrine and closed to the general public. In front of its usually stands the haiden, or oratory. The haiden is often connected to the honden by a heiden, or hall of offerings.

    Shinto today is a term that applies to public shrines suited to various purposes such as war memorials, harvest festivals, romance, and historical monuments, as well as various sectarian organizations.

    How to visit a shrine
    "Behave calmly and respectfully. Traditionally, you are not supposed to visit a shrine if you are sick, have an open wound or are mourning because these are considered causes of impurity ... At the purification fountain near the shrine's entrance, take one of the ladles provided, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. You are not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth or swallow the water. You will notice that quite a few visitors skip the mouth rinsing part or the purification ritual altogether ...  At the offering hall, throw a coin into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and pray for a few seconds. If there is some type of gong, use it before praying in order to get the kami's attention." - Japan-Guide.com (online April 2014)
      Ema
      Wooden wishing plaques.
      "Ema are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshipers write their prayers or wishes. The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) receive them. They bear various pictures, often of animals or other Shinto imagery In ancient times people would donate horses to the shrines for good favor, over time this was transferred to a wooden plaque with a picture of a horse, and later still to the various wooden plaques sold today for the same purpose. Ema are sold for various wishes. Common reasons for buying a plaque are for success in work or on exams, marital bliss, to have children, and health. Some shrines specialize in certain types of these plaques, and the larger shrines may offer more than one. Sales of ema help support the shrine financially." - Wikipedia (online Feb. 2014)
      Haiden
      Hall of worship or oratory.
      It is generally placed in front of the shrine's main sanctuary (honden) and often built on a larger scale than the latter. The haiden is often connected to the honden by a heiden, or hall of offerings. While the honden is the place for the enshrined kami and off-limits to the general public, the haiden provides a space for ceremonies and for worshiping the kami.
      Heiden
      Hall of offerings
      In the heiden,  worshipers pay their respects to the kami by pulling a ribbon, playing a bell, and performing a sequence of bows and hand clapping.

      H
      onden
      The most sacred building at a Shinto shrine, intended purely for the use of the enshrined kami, usually symbolized by a mirror or sometimes by a statue. The building is normally in the rear of the shrine and closed to the general public.

      Inari
      Kami protector of crops, especially rice, and from the beginning Inari was associated with productivity and good fortune. Inari gradually became not only a powerful deity to promote agriculture, but also manufacturing, trade and even success in real estate transactions. About 32,000 shrines, one-third of the Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to the Inari kami. 
      Kitsune
      Fox. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. The entrance to an Inari shrine is usually marked by one or more vermilion torii (below) and some statues of kitsune, which are often adorned with red yodarekake (votive bibs).
      Komainu / Shishi - See Komainu / Shishi (below)

      M
      on
      Gate. Shinto shrine gates take the form of torii (below).
      See also  Mon (above)

      Temizuya
      A chōzuya or temizuya is a Shinto purification fountain for a ceremonial purification rite known as temizu.

      "Water-filled basins, called chōzubachi, are used by worshipers for washing their left hands, right hands, mouth and finally the handle of the water ladle to purify themselves before approaching the main Shinto shrine or shaden . This symbolic purification is normal before worship and all manned shrines have this facility, as well as many Buddhist temples and some new religious houses of worship. The temizuya is usually an open area where clear water fills one or various stone basins. Wooden dippers are usually available to worshipers." - Wikipedia (online March 2014)

      "Near the shrine's entrance, visitors should take one of the ladles provided at the fountain, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. You are not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth or swallow the water." - Japan-Guide.com (online march 2014)

      Torii (pronounced tor ee ee)
      Entrance gate (without doors) to a Shinto shrine. Wooden, often painted red. Has no door and does not serve as a physical barrier, but the threshold marks the boundary of the sacred space.
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      Roofs
      Roofs

      The size of the roof was a status symbol.

      Eaves
      That part of a sloping roof that overhangs the wall.

      In a Japanese "hidden roof," (below) the eaves are slightly curved and supported by a double row of rafters..

      Widely overhanging eaves are common.

      See also: Western style eaves

      End tiles
      Half-cylinder ceramic tiles, capped with end tiles embellished with carved reliefs of flowers or family crests.  See also: Chinese tile-ends/wadangs
      Gassho style
      Thatch roof
      Hidden roof style
      The hidden roof  is a type of roof widely used in Japan both at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. It is composed of a true roof above and a second roof beneath.  The true roof above has a steep pitch; the second roof beneath has slightly curved eaves (above) of shallow pitch, jutting widely from the walls. The second roof beneath is visible only from under the eaves and is therefore called a "hidden roof" while the true roof above is externally visible and is called an "exposed roof."  Invented in Japan during the 10th century. 

      The eaves are supported by a double row of rafters, often painted white at the ends, and are visible from below.

      The slightly curved eaves (above) extend far beyond the walls, covering verandas, and their weight must therefore be supported by complex bracket systems called tokyō (below), in the case of temples and shrines. Simpler solutions are adopted in domestic structures. The oversize eaves give the interior a characteristic dimness, which contributes to the building's atmosphere.

      The weakest part of the roof, the ridge, is reinforced with layers of ceramic tiles (kawara below) and mortar, topped with a line of cylindrical tiles, and finished at the gable with a decorative tile, e.g., an  oni-gawara (below).

      Kawara
      Ceramic (oven baken clay) roof tiles.
      First used in Japan 1400 years ago, for the roofs of the Buddhist temples. At the time the houses, the Shinto shrines and even the Imperial Palace were covered with thatched roofs made form various kinds of straws, grasses and reeds. But soon afterwards the use of kawara became widespread, because of their many advantages: the tiles were waterproof, fire resistant, resilient to strong winds and with a very long life-span.

      Large, ornamental tiles used at the end of roof ridges examples: Lotus, Killer whale, Oni-gawara,  Dolphin

      Kawara onigawara demon tiles
      Decorative roof tiles typically placed at the ends of the main ridge [or descending ridge] on temple structures, shrines, and residences. As an ornamental architectural element, Onigawara (literally "goblin tile") came to prominence in Japan’s Kamakura period (1185-1332).  In most cases, these elements serve decorative, functional, and protective roles in preventing weathering and in warding off evil spirits, fire, etc. The goblin-faced Onigawara is one of many decorative elements found in Japanese religious architecture. Other examples include the magical shishi (lion dog), the elephant-like Baku creature (thought to devour nightmares), the dragon (below), the phoenix (below), and the imaginary tiger-headed fish-bodied Shachihoko. In most cases, these elements serve decorative, functional, and protective roles in preventing weathering and in warding off evil spirits, fire, etc. Today Onigawara are found most frequently on temple structures." - Mark Schumacher (online Feb. 2014)

      Onigawara are much like a clay gargoyle with the same function; to ward off evil. Onigawara developed around the middle of the Edo period when the tile roofs became popular for houses, and they reflected the status of the family.

      Oni: "The oni is the havoc-wreaking bad guy, the ogre or demon of Japanese folk tales, often depicted with a horn or pair of horns on its head and sharp fangs in its mouth. It seems to be a composite monster drawn from Buddhist hell and demons, evil spirits of the Yin-Yang theory, and Chinese ghosts and ghouls. But the Japanese oni is worshipped, too, as an awe-inspiring figure. At a festival in northern Japan, men disguised as oni, called namahage visit each home to scare the small children." - Mark Schumacher (online Feb. 2014)

      Hire
      Swirling or wave patterns found at the bottom right and left of the onigawara

      Kiritimati
      Gable roof

      Tokyō / Kumimono / Masugumi
      A  system of supporting blocks and brackets supporting the eaves of a Japanese building, usually part of a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine. The eaves have a practical function in a country where rain is a common event, because they protect the building carrying the rain as far as possible from its walls. An added benefit of the tokyō system is its inherent elasticity, which lessens the impact of an earthquake acting as a shock absorber.

      In its simplest configuration, each tokyō, up to six,  includes a single outwardly-projecting bracket with a single supporting block.
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      Chrysanthemum
      The Imperial Seal of Japan, also called the Chrysanthemum Seal  or Chrysanthemum Flower Seal, is a crest used by members of the Japanese Imperial family. Under the Meiji Constitution, no one was permitted to use the Imperial Seal except the Emperor of Japan. A central disc is surrounded by a front set of 16 petals. A rear set of 16 petals are half staggered in relation to the front set and are visible at the edges of the flower.
      Dragon
      Japanese dragons are diverse legendary creatures in Japanese mythology and folklore. Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. The style of the dragon was heavily influenced by the Chinese dragon. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet.
      Feng shui
      Feng means wind and shui means water.

      Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing the human existence with the surrounding environment.

      A complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure health and good fortune for people inhabiting it.

      Feng shui is based on the Taoist vision and understanding of nature, particularly on the idea that the land is alive and filled with Chi, or energy.

      Komainu / Shishi
      A guardian lion-dog figure.

      "During the early Heian period (ninth century), the tradition changed and the two statues started to be different and be called differently. One had its mouth open and was called shishi because, as before, it resembled that animal. The other had its mouth closed, looked rather like a dog, was called komainu, or 'Koguryo dog', and sometimes had a single horn on its head. Gradually the animals returned to be identical, but for their mouths, and ended up being called both komainu.  Komainu strongly resemble Chinese guardian lions and in fact originate from Tang dynasty China." - Wikipedia (online Feb. 2014)

      "Shisa is a traditional decoration, often in pairs, resembling a cross between a lion and a dog, from Okinawan mythology. People place pairs of shisa on their rooftops or flanking the gates to their houses. Shisa are wards, believed to protect from some evils. When in pairs, the left shisa traditionally has a closed mouth, the right one an open mouth. The open mouth wards off evil spirits, and the closed mouth keeps good spirits in. In magic typology, they might also be classified as gargoyle beasts. They are traditionally used to ward off evil spirits." - Wikipedia (online Feb. 2014)

      The open mouth is supposed to be expelling evil spirits, while the closed-mouthed one is supposed to be keeping good spirits in.
      Lotus

      Medieval Japan (1185 - 1600)

      Medieval Japan is often compared to Medieval Europe because of its warriors, castles and feudal structure. The Japanese Samurai Code is similar to the practice of chivalry by European knights. Feudal political organization, bonds between warriors and the prominence of religion were characteristic of the period in both Japan and Europe. Feudal Japan was dominated by warfare, destruction and militarism -- and Samurai warriors became the rulers of the land.

      Period dates
      538-710         Asuka
      710-784         Nara
      794-1185       Heian
      1192-1333     Kamakura
      1338-1573     Muromachi
      573-1603       Azuchi Momoyama
      1603-1867     Edo / Tokugawa
      1868-1912     Meiji
      1926-1989     Showa
      1989-             Heisei

      Phoenix
      In Japan, as earlier in China, the mythical Phoenix was adopted as a symbol of the imperial household, particularly the empress. This mythical bird represents fire, the sun, justice, obedience, fidelity, and the southern star constellations. According to legend (mostly from China), the Hō-ō appears very rarely, and only to mark the beginning of a new era -- the birth of a virtuous ruler, for example.  See also Classical Chinese Phoenix (Feng-huang).


      Sake (pronounced sah kay)
      Samurai
      12-19th centuries military dictatorships, although stated in 9th c.

      Shogun
      One of the hereditary military governors of Japan from 1192 to 1867, the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor.

      The Edo period, or Tokugawa period, is the period between 1603 and 1867 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional Daimyo. The shogunate was officially established in Edo on March 24, 1603, by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The period came to an end with the Meiji Restoration on May 3, 1868, after the fall of Edo.

      Ukiyo-e woodblock prints

      Produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theater, and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.

      Usually the word ukiyo is literally translated as "floating world" in English, referring to a conception of an evanescent world, impermanent, fleeting beauty and a realm of entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha) divorced from the responsibilities of the mundane, everyday world.

      Yin and yang
      Opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, fire and water, life and death, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept.

      Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (instead of opposing) forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts.


      Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2013
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