Japanese architecture has few characteristic features conected with religion, natural conditions of the islands and with chinese influence.
Buildings in Japan had to be connected with nature. They had to be blended well in the landscape, enviroment. It has because people thought that they were a part of the nature. They wanted to live in harmony with it, and they created their homes like that.
Japanese built almost only of wood. And they didn't use nails, all the elements were so perfectly fitted that they weren't need. What's very important, wooden buildings are resistant to earthquakes.
Another feature is that all buildings are modest and small.They aren't too much decorated, they have very gentle decorations.
On Honsiu island in Shizuoka city have been discovered the oldest monuments of Japanese Architectury. In Toro excavations you can see houses from Yayoi period. These are pits made in the ground,and covered with straw or cane. These roof stick out from the ground and have a vent covered with extension rested against logs.
The oldest buildings with religions meaning are shinto temples. There were many different styles, in which those temples were built.
Styles differ in location of the stairs in the main building. For example, in style called taisha-zukuri stairs are opposite the wal, which reach gable of the roof, on the right; in style otori-zukuri - stairs are opposite the same wall but in the middle; and in shimmei-zukuri -srairs are opposite the wall under the eaves of the roof. A relic of worship were kept in the main building (called hoden
One of temples, which has stayed in its original form, is Ise- jingu -"House of God in Ise". This temple was been rebuilt exactly like the origin every 20 years, since it was built in VI century. That's why nearby the place where the temple is, is a square, which has the same dimensions.
Ise-jingu has characteristic roof. It has two falls, is very thick and covered with straw and bark. At the ends it has protruding rafters two on each end. On the gable of the roof lies 10 beams.
The building stands on wooden platform. Whole temple is made from cyaresses. Wood is not painted. Only logs on the roof have golden fitting.
Near the main building are two other. These are vaults.
All buildings are fanced in with 4 fences. Square, devoid of any vegatation. Ground is covered with white gravel. Trees grow behind the fence.
An important event for architecture was introducing Buddhism to Japan. An exaple of this influence is Horyuji temple in Nara, calle "Temple of Blossoming Right temple" stayed in its original form from VII century, even though it was rebuilt many times. The Horyuji temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan.
Characteristic feature of this building is roof. Each has four falls and its corers are curved up. Roof is covered with grey tiles in shape of semicircles. All buildings stands on stone platform. Walls are white, covered with plaster, wodden colums and beams are painted red.
The most characteristic building is pagoda, where rhe relics of Buddha were kept. The stone platform has a shape of square. It symbolizes the earth. On each side are stairs which lead to the doors. Inside building is wooden column(it is 32m high), under which are relics. On the top of it is a bronze spire, which is richly decorated and which stick out of the roof. Column isn't combinet with walls, and they can rest against it by the earthquake or during high winds. It prevent destruction. Column is an "axle of the world", spire symbolizes Buddha as a master of theuniverse, and top of it, with "flames" is a "flamings jewej of Buddhist faith".
Pagoda has 5 storeys, which symbolize 5 ingredient of universe: ground, water, fire, wind and sky. This 5 storeys are marked only with roofs. Each next storey and its roof is a bit smaller than base. Only the first storey has a ceiling. Inside rest of storeys are beams, rafters and supports which keep construction up. Pagoda has also symbolic meaning -it means death of Buddha and his came into nirvana.
Near pagoda stands Golden Hall called Kondo, where the statues of deities are. It was the most important building and a place of worship. Kondo is also on stone platform. It has two roofs. The lower one has four fals. The higher one is called irimoya -at the top roof has two falls, but in the middle, two stright falls bend, and the roof has now four falls.
This two buildings stand on the axle east-west. They are on a rectangular square, enclosed with gallery called kairo. Kairo is covered with roof with two falls, which stand on two lines of collumns. On the south side of gallery is an entry called chumon, what means "Central Gate". It has two storeys and two roofs. The higher one is also irimoya roof. Building stands on columns and there should be 4 entries, but two on left and right are closed by two statues.
Opposite kairo, on the north side of gallery, is a lecture-room. It has one storey and irimoya roof.
Another example of Buddhist architecture is Todaiji Temple in Nara called "The Great Easten Temple". It was built in VIII century.
Buildings are arranged in other way that in Horyuji. There is a rectangle square enclosed by gallery, but no building is standing inside. On one longer side of gallery is a chumon gate,which has one storey and roof in irimoya style. Opposite it, on second longer side, is Kondo - Golden Hall. Kondo in Todaiji is the biggest wooden building in Japan. It has two roofs with four falls.
Another temple in Nara is Toshodaiji Temple built in VIII century. Buildings are arranged in the same way as in Todaiji. Kondo in Toshodaiji has characteristic feature. It has one roof with four falls. In front of the building is a line of columns. these columns support the roof.
In both Todaiji and Toshodaiji temples other buildings, like library or housing for monks, were built outside the square, usually symmetrically.
In Heian period Japan was isolated from Chinese influence. In this time has developed style called shinden-zukuri, what means "style of sleeping-pavilion". The main building in this style is sleeping pavilion. Near it are another pavilions, usually symmetrically arranged. These pavilions and the main one are joined by galleries covered with roof. Buildings were situated in beautiful grounds.
An example of this style is Byodoin temple in Uji, which was built in XI century. At first Byodoin was a Palace belonged to Fujiwara no Michinagi, but then his son intended it to Buddhist temple.
In Byodoin is building called Hoodo what means "The Hall of Phoenix". Name came from bronze statues of phoenixes, which are on the top of the roof of the main building. It stands on stone platform on island in the middle of a pond. From main building go three galleries. Two of them go to two pavilions on the left and right and one at the back of the mansion. Galleries and pavilions stand on poles. three buildings have two roofs. the lower ones are on high of galleries. The higher ones have four falls, but roof on main building looks like irimoya roof.
Byodoin is made from wood painted red, walls are covered with white plaster and on roofs are gray tiles.
Later, between XIV and XV century in Kyoto arose Kinkaku - Golden Pavilion. Kinkaku was a temple in mansion of one of shoguns. It was built in shinden-zukuri style.
Building stands on poles, which were embedded in pond. It has three storeys but only two higher have roofs with four falls. On each storey is veranda enclosed with rail with columns, which supported higher storey. The highes one is smaller than the base. On the top of roof is a statue of a bird. Walls of the Kinkaku are covered with gold. Roofs have tiles from hinoki tree on.
At the end of XV century, also i Kyoto arose Silver Pavilon called Ginkaku. It is similar to Kinaku but it doesn't have first storey, rail and columns supporting walls. The walls of Ginkaku aren't covered with silver.
In XVI and XVII century under european influence Japanese started to build castels. These castles weare also fortress. An example is Shirasagi in Himeji built in XVII century, called "Castle of the White Heron" foundations are made from stone and are even 18 m high. Fortress has five storeys marked with roofs. Roofs are built in irimoya style and have corners curved up (as all ealier buildings). There is a line of windows on each storey.Shirasagi has three towers. Nalls are all covered with thick layer of white plaster. Roofs are covered wit dark tiles. Except this main castel in Himeji are three smaller. All are surrounded with yards, ditches and gates.
Style called shoinzukuri began to develop in Momoyama period. Shoin was a study, which was intended for guest. Guestroom should have podium. It was made of mat or pillow, which was put on the wooden floor, or of step, which was built on the floor and was as wide as room. This step was covered with mats on which guest could sit. In next centuries there wasn't step, but whole floor was covered with mats.
In guestroom was a niche called tokonoma. On floor in tokonoma was wooden tile. On this tile were put flowers and on wall in tokonoma was hanged scroll with painting or calligraphy. Now tokonoma is in almost every Japanese home.
Tana or chigaidana were two shelfs in guestroom. They are put in niche near tokonoma on different hight. Sometines two shelfs were puton the same hight and up them was third one.
Study called shoin was near guestroom. These two rooms were divided with wall which could be moved. In shoin was board which was used like a table. Shoin had wall, that could be moved to have a look on a garden. Later shoin started to be a part of guestroom.
In XVII century in Edo period two styles have developed. First, used in mausoleums, is full of splendor, forms and colours. Second is its contrast and it refers to shoinzukuri style. An example of this second style is villa called Katsura. Buildings don't have any decoration. Walls can be moved, floor is covered with mats and there is no furniture in house. Walls are made from wood, paper and plaster. Even the exterior walls can be moved, so you can easily go to the garden.
Since XIX century Japanese architecture is under European and American influence. Buildings started to be built like in Europe. They are made from glas, concrete, cement. At the end of XX century older forms started to be used.