If the following passage from the Hojoki (Tale of

If Japanese characters depicting house and other
buildings are observed and compared with Egyptian hieroglyphics, it is found
that their dominating component is an element encompassing the complete figure;
a representation of the actual roof in a house whereas the Egyptian figures use
the side enclosures, the solid walls to depict the house.

 

 

Thus it is understood that the Japanese attitude
towards habitat is inclusive of nature and responsive towards climatic needs.
The roof protects from the rain, but the perforated or open nature of the side
enclosures allows for cross ventilation in the hot and humid summers. Also this
flexible or transient nature of the walls creates an ambiguous space where the
interior and exterior of the house get strongly connected due to this in
between character.

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Consider the
following passage from the Hojoki (Tale of
the Ten Foot Square Hut), written by the hermit Kamo-no-Choumei
in the thirteenth century which reflects and reinforces such
an attitude.

 

“Ceaselessly
the river flows, and yet the water is never the same, while in the pools the
shifting foam gathers and is gone, never staying for a moment. Even so is man
and his habitation.”

 

The writing characters also depict the process of
construction where after the construction of the timber framework, the roof is
erected first and the internal spaces are defined later. The process again
bring attention towards the flexibility of the spatial configurations in a
traditional Japanese house.

 

To cope with the warm and humid climate of Japan, materials
with a low thermal capacity, such as wood, are best, and to cope with the
frequency of earthquakes, materials such as brick or stone are avoided. Japan
is blessed with good raw materials, particularly timber, well suited to the
climate and ideal for an earthquake-prone country.

 

A Japanese traditional house in its very essence could be
divided into following fundamental elements:

The garden, the interior and the intermediate space between
these two.

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