Traditional Japanese architecture is exquisite in its simplicity of line and complexity of structure. In many cases, closely placed thinner support members combine to provide excellent structural integrity combined with good visual effects. Architectural elements are often exposed, and thus must also be visually pleasing. If you want to build a traditional Japanese house, you should consider these following things:
Supports and Structure – Traditional Japanese houses are designed to be flexible and pliable. Wood is the main structural support elements. These woods, usually softwood, are made in to a sort of woven structure, with vertical supports connected to horizontal pieces of bamboo. Diagonal supports are often used during construction, but are removed once the house is complete, the various components of the structure taking over the job of the diagonal supports. The flexibility of the traditional Japanese houses has proven to be quite resilient both in earthquakes and typhoons.
Building Materials – Almost all traditional Japanese building materials are organic. Wood from evergreen trees like pine, cedar, fir and cypress is common. Mulberry paper is traditional for the paper in the shoji that form the movable walls of a traditional house. Bamboo added structural and decorative integrity and grasses were woven into tatami mats. Stone is a traditional foundation for a Japanese house, but concrete is commonly used in modern construction.
Proportion & Hierarchy – Proportion and hierarchy are very important in traditional Japanese houses design. Tatamis are designed to be about the size of a person. To design a house, the first thing that needs to be established is the total number of tatami mats required for the purpose of the home. In a traditional Japanese house, there is also a hierarchy of form. More important objects are larger than less important objects. The largest piece of furniture is also part of the house, the tatami mats that make up the floor. The mats serve as a place to sit and a place to sleep. They are a dining facility and a place for socialization. Small, low tables are often a major component of the house, but are secondary to the importance of the floor. Rooms designed for important functions, like entertaining, are usually larger than rooms for other purposes.
Flooring and Doors – Tatami mats cover most of the wood floors in traditional Japanese homes. Sliding doors on tracks were generally made of rice paper and wood and could be easily moved. They could separate the ima, or main living space, into separate areas.
Entrances – Traditional Japanese homes have a genkan, which is a formal entryway. The entrance serves as a foyer and commonly has an area for removing shoes. Veranda – Japanese houses have traditional gardens and engawas, which are the verandas that separate the gardens from the rest of the house.
Furniture – The furniture of a traditional Japanese home was sparse and portable. Most furniture was low to the ground and stored in an oshiire, or storage area, where it was kept until needed. A traditional Japanese home depends on function for decoration. The frame of the house and the furniture within are sparse and simple. Clean lines and a lack of clutter characterize the traditional Japanese house.