Inspiration of Japanese Aesthetics in Interior Design

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A discussion through specific examples on inspiration of Japanese aesthetics in Interior Design with special focus on Japanese Buddhist Architecture.

Buddhism is a main and a largest religion which became stronger in the 3rd century B.C. and sent to many countries over the world. Japan is one of the country which got Buddhism from countries like Korea and China. During the ‘period of Naara (710-794)’ and during the ‘period of Heian (794-1185)’ Buddhism was introduced to the country, But an argument had risen up over accepting a foreign movement due to the hostility from the traditional clans like “Mononobe and Makakomi” because they already had their native religion of “Shinto”. However in the 8th century B.C. because of the religious ‘Prince Regent Shotoku’ they have accepted Buddhism as a main religion because he believed Buddhist disciplines will help to make Japan into a cultivated country.

The Zen Buddhist Philosophy which has originated in India has characterized in China after they got the philosophy to their country In the 9th century. At the same period of time Japan also got the Influence of Zen Buddhist philosophy from China which was brought to Japan by a priest called ‘Myoan Eisai’. But it has introduced to the country only in the 12th century. And what I have figured out was that this had led the way to construct Temples by getting influences from the Buddhist Architecture and Zen Buddhist Philosophy when looking at their Buddhist Temple Architecture.

As we know Buddhism has a great impact on architecture in many countries, though I believe after Japan got Buddhism and the Zen Buddhist philosophy, it has reached to a level to have a strong bond between the Japanese culture and tradition which has led the way to build up a unique style of constructing temples or craftsmanship for their own country and they are trying to save their old temple designs while making some minor changes to the original design to keep their cultural values.

Buddhist Architecture in Japan is not actually Japanese but was derived from Asian countries like China and Korea and changed the features and materials of the buildings to suit the culture and climate of Japan[1]. During the early dynasties like ‘Asuka, Nara and Heian’ periods they had similar features to Chinese and other Asian countries while they have combined these techniques with Japanese variations. But with the time they have started designing the residential buildings and temples according to their whether conditions and culture. Which is what I have noticed was with the influence they got from china they did some sort of changes to their designs and came up with their own traditional style. And as I got my interest on talking about Japanese Buddhist temples I have mainly focused on that.

With the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the period of Asuka(593 – 710) they have started constructing Japanese Buddhist temples that was initiated by Asian architects called ‘Kosho’[2] while highlighting wood as the main material. They have mostly used wooden materials throughout their architectural style of constructing temples because they had the privilege to use timber as a main

resource and it has been a very flexible material to work with and also it has characteristics which helps to react with the Japanese climate in such a way by ‘absorbing humidity in the wet months and releasing moisture when its dry’[3]. Not only that, it is a material which is able to endure earthquakes occurs in the country. And they have used stones as a material where they need to have a foundation to the structure.

Another talking point in their temple architecture is the roof. Which is very large and sloped and the corners are curved up. My opinion is that to drain rain water, to give a grandeur appearance to the temple and also when its snow falling to prevent the damage it causes because of the load. And to bear the lord of the structure they have used thick wooden columns that reinforced the structure to build the walls, floors and the roof structure. In earlier periods those Buddhist Temples in Japan had a symmetrical layout which they got influence from china and in the later part it has changed to have an asymmetrical layout that consists of seven structures amalgamated with two main buildings known as ‘the main hall where the sacred objects are placed, the pagoda a structure that developed to a five storied structure from the Indian stupa design and it store remains of Buddha. And other structures are the lecture hall where the meetings and lectures are held, gates which symbolize the entrance to the main temple, the bell and the cemetery.’[4]

In Japan they have considered and still they consider about the Japanese aesthetics which they have got it to their culture with the introduction of Zen Buddhist Philosophy. These aesthetics made an influence on Japanese temple architecture that it has inclined to have asymmetrical designs and I believe that it is to make the space look more lively, and they have tried to bring the simplicity and naturalness to the design to make the space look neat and clean.

As I have mentioned before, they have a unique style of constructing temples which the architectural features are preserved to keep their cultural values. To support this opinion I have taken three Buddhist temple designs.

  1. ‘One is the world’s oldest wooden temple In Japan known as ‘Horyoji Temple’ which was built in the Asuka period in the mid 6th century and rebuilt around the 7th century after a fire while keeping the same structure and wooden detailing. This temple structure is more than 1000 years old but because of their excellent and durable wooden craftsmanship the temple still exists while undergoing through their climate conditions’ and it has also appointed as a world heritage site’.[5]
  1. Honmonji temple which was built in 1608 is another good example to represent their craftsmanship values. In the book of ‘the art of Japanese architecture it says that due to the weight of the roof the eaves brackets got crushed and also the pillars on the bottom level got rotten. But to protect their traditional style they have preserved the damage to the temple by injecting carbon fiber.
  1. ‘Todaji Temple is the world’s largest wooden temple built in the Nara period during the 7th century where the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue was placed. This temple also has experienced a lot of earthquakes and fires but they have rebuilt the structure with the same wooden materials and layout to represent their traditional’[6]. I found this temple as a great example to describe the japan Buddhist architecture because of its use of materials and reconstructed methods with their extraordinary craftsmanship skills not only to build the structure of the temple but also the statues and other elements.

From the above temple designs what I have noticed was they have not only considered about the whether conditions when using material and the features but also they have considered about their traditional style and Japanese aesthetics to maintain their cultural values.



[3] ebook – the art of Japanese architecture by David and Michiko young.