What is Japanese Architecture?: A Survey of Traditional Japanese Architecture, by K. Nishi & K. Hozumi

My Copy: 9781568364124

I’m not an architect, never been to the classes, never even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express before, so take some of this with a grain of salt if you want. However, there is enough in What is Japanese Architecture? to get a lay-person to either ask the right questions, or be able to recognize different styles if they were to say, travel to Japan at some point in life, or invest in a lot of books about Japan.

I bought this book many years ago out of curiosity when I was designing my dream house (the old fashioned way–grid paper, pencil, ruler, scratch sheets for calculations). I’d been fascinated by Japan in my late teens and early 20s–yes, we can partly blame Anime for that, and wanted to understand this interesting architecture I kept seeing in pictures and films.


Seriously, that’s some freaking beautiful architecture & location right there. I’d love to see it for myself!

What is Japanese Architecture? is lain out in a pretty easy to follow format. The first 50 pages or so introduce us to the different historical periods and the design changes between them over time. It’s a bit technical here, and a little knowledge of Japanese history would probably be helpful. I credit the authors Nishi & Hozumi with giving us chronological timelines and LOTS of great illustrations throughout the book to follow.

The illustrations are fantastic, and not distracting in the sense that you’re impressed with the detail and not paying attention to what it’s giving you. As the book moved from descriptions of the shrines and ruling family homes to the building techniques and more simple architecture, the book just became more fascinating.

If anything, I think What is Japanese Architecture? is worth picking up just for the layout–it’s simple to grasp in that you don’t have to flip back and forth between pages to find the illustration that corresponds with the paragraph you just read. New writers and printers should find it useful in that regard (and that flipping crap drives me nuts in most art/architecture books because it interrupts the flow of reading and comprehension). It will give you page numbers to refer back to earlier concepts when needed, but if you got it the first time, you’re not moving around too much.

If you know anyone interested in architecture, Japanese culture and history, or how to illustrate and design a technical manual or guide, then this book is worth picking up. I didn’t get lost once, though because I don’t have a basic foundation (no pun intended) in architectural studies, I didn’t get as much out of it as some others would. But I still got a lot, so well worth a shot at reading.

And if I ever dust off that old story about Japan I was working on in high school, I’ll have a better shot at describing the landscape, won’t I?

Happy reading!

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