5 of the ancient Japanese building techniques that are still used in modern houses!

  • Though Japanese unique architecture such as castles and shrines are already known all over the world, the ordinary houses also have remarkable characteristics. This is because architectural technology has been developed in its own way in order to satisfy people’s lifestyle needs in Japan, where the weather changes greatly depending on the season and earthquakes occasionally occur. Furthermore, in Japan, most of the houses are not the same, but custom-built. Thus, to meet the needs of every individual resident, many elements that the buildings consist of, including the following 5 elements, have undergone exceptional development, that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.



    Washi is a material that deserves special attention due to its unique texture and was honored as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2014. Washi is produced by a unique Japanese method, it is not only thin but strong and durable, and it’s shelf life is said to be over 1,000 years. Making the most of its properties, it is used for repairing cultural properties such as paintings and buildings. Michelangelo’s wall painting titled “The Last Judgement”, one of the UNESCO world heritages in Sistine chapel of Vatican city, is a famous example in which washi was used for repairing.



    Tokonoma is a space for receiving guests at the Japanese-style houses. It represents the spirit of “omotenashi” (entertaining guests wholeheartedly) and it is decorated with flowers or kakejiku (a hanging scroll with a painting or a calligraphy).

    Plaster wall【壁】

    Plaster wall

    Japanese walls are made of natural materials such as soil or stucco by plasterers. Depending on the case, it may take more than several months to complete. Being more than a simple wall, the styles of representation, such as prints or rough textures, vary according to the concept.

    Wooden framework【組子細工】

    Wooden framework

    This is the technique of building a wooden framework without the use of nails or glue. It is necessary when making a shoji (a door which allows sunlight to pass through) or fusuma (a door impenetrable to sunlight) that are used as room dividers. The numerous cut-our boards of the item in the picture are 3.9mm thick and are assembled into a complex structure.


    Japanese garden

    To the Japanese, a garden plays an important role. Ponds and lanterns, human-made structures and shishi-odoshi (a device made to scare away birds and animals damaging the garden) all coexist in the Japanese gardens, and the gardens play roles of mediums that connect and harmonize everything that is inside of them.

    New movement

    Though such unique architectural culture in Japan has been developed even in the ordinary houses, nowadays there are less opportunities to use these traditional techniques due to modernization spreading which is pushing for efficiency. Nevertheless, in the current stream of improving the quality of life, people start recognizing the merits of these ancient Japan traditional techniques once again, and they gain more attention in the world. In addition, the new culture which combines traditional techniques and new technologies is being created.

    For example, know-how systems originally developed by a Japanese company called Aqura Home are shared with all of the national construction companies in a Japanese accession network called Jahbnet, which is composed of 320 Japanese building firms. By providing quality housing at a reasonable price, the use of traditional Japanese techniques is possible in work on common households. Moreover, Jahbnet organises annual gatherings. Provided such an opportunity, Japanese craftsmen can further improve their knowledge of techniques together, all of the featured images are the actual works that were presented during the gathering and are made by world-famous craftsmen.

    Japanese-style houses are built with extreme care by the skillful carpenter craftmen to provide the residents with pleasant lifestyle, as well as the premise of using the house for more than several hundreds of years. For example, Japanese-style house can be moved, disconnected or restructured without any damages in case if the family members have changed and rebuilding is needed. A good house can influence residents and change their lives. Now that you read this article, how about giving the house you live in a second thought?

    Reference:Aqura home website *Automatic translation