Term Paper: Green Architecture in Japan

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[. . .] Buddhism reached Japan

12. Paul Watt, Shinto & Buddhism:Wellsprings of Japanese Spirituality. Asia Society's

Focus on Asian Studies, Vol. II, No. 1, Asian Religions, pp. 21-23, Fall 1982. Copyright AskAsia, 1996. http://www.askasia.org/frclasrm/readings/r000009.htm (October2002).

A in the eighth centuries AD and migrated into Japan through Korea and China. Other religions have existed in Japan in varying degrees at varying times, but it is Shinto and Buddhism, that have form the main basis for Japanese philosophy and culture.

Shinto was the first and oldest religion in Japan. It was the primary religion in Japan from approximately the 500 BC to 700 AD. At this time Japan began to fall under the influences of continental civilization that resembled a mix of shamanism, nature worship, fertility ceremonies, and divination techniques, such as bones and tea leaves.13 Shinto means "the way of the Kami." Kami refers to the many gods and spirits that make up Shinto religion.

In the Sixth century Japan began to be influenced by many foreign ideas such as Buddhism and Confucianism. These new religions melded easily with Shinto and their existence did not reduce the practice of Shinto. Their basic philosophies allowed them to be practiced side by side without conflict. The main god in Shinto is the sun god. This deity is not even aware of the undesirable side of human nature and is a complete optimist (Watt, 1996). Shinto is full of mythology and stories regarding all aspects of life and spirituality. This mythology teaches us many things about the concepts of Shinto.

Japanese art attempts to create small microcosm of the larger world or universe. In designing architecture that truly blends with the surroundings and compliments the spirit of the people around them, it necessary to attempt to design buildings with this same concept in mind. Japanese mythology mentions worlds other than our own. They mention the heavenly high plain, the dark land, and the unclean land of the dead. The Japanese believe that these worlds are interconnected and that the happenings on one affects the others. Truly green architectural design

13. Watt. Shinto & Buddhism:Wellsprings of Japanese Spirituality 1996.

A concept should try to recreate these other worlds in miniature in their building design. Many design ideas can be found by reading Shinto mythology.

Shinto worship takes place in shrines, many of them thousands of years old. These shrines embraced the concepts of Shinto in their design elements. The shrines have been a symbol of the concepts of Shinto and it is these shrines from which the green architect can draw his most accurate design concepts. This is a new idea in architecture, putting design elements from shrines into standard buildings. These two elements have traditionally been kept separate. However, if one is to truly envelopes the idea of designing buildings that are in attune with human psychology, then these elements must be incorporated into more functional buildings as well. People go to shrines to seek harmony and fill their emotional needs. This is one of the main principles of green architecture, that each and every building should give humans that harmonious feeling. Therefore, it stands to reason that building design for all buildings should take their inspiration from religious structures.

Buddhism arrived in Japan in the sixth century AD. It had already become a major world religion in other parts of the world. With this new religion came a more formal style of literature, art and architecture.14 The main view of man and the world differed from Shinto in that this world is a transient place of human suffering. This contrasts sharply with Shinto's optimistic attitude. Many Japanese had trouble with this concept and decided to deal with it by considering Buddha as simply another Kami to be worshipped (Sokyo, 1962).

In this way Buddhism was able to gain mass acceptance in Japan and become an integral part of their culture and philosophy. This is one of the few times in history when two conflicting religions have

14. Watt. Shinto & Buddhism:Wellsprings of Japanese Spirituality 1996.

A managed to live in the same area and be practiced simultaneously without causing war and conflict. There are many different variations on the combination of the two principles.

The practice of Buddhism is individualistic and involves the regular proactive of meditation in the hopes of attaining knowledge and enlightenment. Buddhism involves using the mandala as a representation of the universe as it is seen by the enlightened. These forms of meditation are complex and the mandala is more than just a pretty design for art's sake. The mandala is symbolic of a concept. Like Shinto, Buddhism holds the idea that enlightened individuals live in a world different than our own.

The differences between Shinto and Buddhism and are evident in their basic philosophy. However, they do both have certain elements in common. The most important element as it relates to architectural design is the idea of other worlds and that art is a miniature version of that world. This is perhaps the most important concept when attempting to design a building that conforms to Japanese philosophy and ideology. There are endless resources and collections of Japanese art and literature and it would be a good suggestion for anyone wishing to design a building in harmony with the people and naturals surroundings to familiarize themselves with these works and concepts.

Building Material for Green Architecture

Japan is covered with lush forests and greenery. For this reason Japan has a long tradition of building with natural wood. The Japanese are known for exquisite carpentry skills and this is evident everywhere you go. The sharp angles on the corners of Japanese buildings contrast sharply to the flowing lines of the natural environment surrounding them. Japanese buildings always feature scenic vistas and try to incorporate many elements of the natural surroundings into their design. The following is an example of a classic Japanese building. Notice the heavy use of wood in this structure.

Wood is a main structural material with roofs from baked soil. The forms and techniques of this wooden construction are deeply embedded in Japanese culture and tradition. The Japanese climate has four distinct seasons. Other cultures in similar climates chose to build with stone and soil. The reasons why the ancient Japanese chose wood is not entirely clear.15 The Japanese have a long tradition in all areas of life in bringing elements from other cultures into their lives and then reshaping them into something uniquely Japanese. This is seen in everything from their foods a Japanese wooden shrine., the their art and especially their major religions. The following is an excellent example of a Japanese shrine.

15. Hiroshi, MIWA. The History and Future of Wooden Architecture in Kansai. Kansai International Public Relations Promotion Office. Architects Regional Planners & Associates, Kyoto. 1997. http://www.kansai.gr.jp/culture/build/history_e.htm (October 2002).

Shinto beliefs are deeply rooted in the worship of trees and stones. The original Shinto shrines were not manmade structures, but were instead natural objects, such as a large boulder, lake, or mountain.16 Shintos believed that the world was filled with mysterious forces that were a part of everything. It was believed that these forces were more favorable in certain types of wood, such as the Japanese evergreen. These trees were felled and used in the construction of shrines. It was believed that in this way the good energies of the tree would inhabit the building and in turn give its good energies to the people who use it.

Shrines are built in natural sacred places of great beauty such as in a dense forest or at the base of a mountain. The great shrine at Ise (pictured above) is built in a dense forest of cryptomeria trees by the Isuzu River at the base of Mount Kamiji17 The shrine consists of two groups of buildings known as the Imperial Shrine (inner shrine) and the Toyouke shrine (outer shrine). The two shrines are dedicated to the sun goddess and the goddess of cereals (food)18 The inside of the post contains a post made of sacred wood that represents the heart of the shrine.19 Tange and Kawazoe (1965) suggest that this is a reflection of the earlier more primitive shrines.

Japanese art also reflects the principles found in the architecture of the shrines. The flowing paths with vegetation creeping onto the fringes can be found in many fine Japanese paintings. An attempt was made to try to blend the curves of the roof into the surroundings and make the building blend in with nature. This is sometimes difficult to discern when one views

16. Christopher Witcombe. Sacred Places. Photo source. Department of Art History, Sweet Briar College, Virginia. 2002. http://www.arthistory.sbc.edu/sacredplaces/ise.html (October2002).

17. Futagawa, Yukio. The Roots of Japanese Architecture, a photographic quest by Yukio Futagawa, with text and commentary by Teiji Itoh, New York: Harper & Row, 1963 (first published in Japanese, 1962)

18. Witcombe. Sacred Places. 2002.

19. Witcombe. Sacred Places. 2002.

A the sharp angles and square buildings. Art is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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