The Japanese Home: A Reading List… in English

Right now we are in the middle of making our first book about the Japanese home. Not surprisingly, doing this involves lots of research, interviews and reading.

We figured it would be a useful for readers to see the kinds of books already available that look at “Japanese”-style homes and interiors. As you can tell, there are a lot of coffee table books out there! We’re not making a coffee table book but several of the titles also highlight aspects of Japanese houses and apartments that we are interested in, such as their mix of traditional and contemporary, convenience and quirks.

We will be making a similar list for Japanese-language books soon but first here’s one for books published in English.

Traditional

living in japan alex kerr

Living in Japan
by Alex Kerr, Kathy Arlyn Sokol
Photography by Reto Guntli
Taschen, 2013

Almost anyone who has ever read a book about modern Japan will know the name of Alex Kerr. Here he turns his discerning and expert eye to both contemporary design such as Shigeru Ban’s conceptual Shutter House as well as thatched roof farmhouse and other residences that showcase traditional uses of materials.

japanese house noboru murata alexandra black

The Japanese House: Architecture and Interiors
by Alexandra Black
Photography by Noboru Murata
Tuttle, 2012

The Japanese home is minimal, yes, but still vibrant. Fifteen Japanese houses are here documented in vivid color, highlighting the rustic decor and earthy aesthetic. A veritable cornucopia of wood, paper, tatami, ceramics and textiles.

japan style geeta mehta

Japan Style: Architecture Interiors Design
by Geeta Mehta, Kimie Tada
Photography by Noboru Murata
Tuttle, 2005

There are 200 color photographs in this book — once again by Noboru Murata — introducing the beauty of old Japanese homes and the diligent care that goes into preserving them. The houses are, of course, private, so this text offers exclusive glimpses into a closed world of traditional aesthetics.

Contemporary

modern japanese house naomi pollock

Modern Japanese House
by Naomi Pollock
Phaidon Press, 2005

A major coffee table book, this bulky tome by veteran design writer Naomi Pollock features an array of houses and architectural styles. It is divided into five chapters to reflect different themes in house design in Japan: “Tiny Houses”, “Inside/Outside”, “Multi Generation Houses”, “Work/Play”, and “Vacation Houses”. There are lots of big names included, such as Kazuyo Sejima, Jun Aoki, Shigeru Ban, Hitoshi Abe, and Shuhei Endo.

japan houses marcia iwatate

Japan Houses: Ideas for 21st Century Living
by Marcia Iwatate
Photography by Takeshi Nakasa, Nacasa & Partners
Tuttle, 2011

Our first book of two by Marcia Iwatate, this one introduces twenty-six of Japan’s best contemporary residences, complemented by striking photography.

japan living marcia iwatate

Japan Living: Form and Function at the Cutting Edge
by Marcia Iwatate, Geeta Mehta
Photography by Takeshi Nakasa, Nacasa & Partners
Tuttle, 2008

The thirty featured houses in this book are specially designed delights that “transcend function and resonate with spirit”. These houses are thoroughly up-to-date, showing how the Japanese population is now an aging one and that more and more people want to be creative while still staying within the clean lines of traditional aesthetic.

japan modern michiko rico nose

Japan Modern: New Ideas for Contemporary Living
by Michiko Rico Nose
Photography by Michael Freeman
Periplus Editions, 2005

Not every Japanese house is an ancient Zen temple! This book profiles forty homes that demonstrate different ways in which Japanese interior design and architecture has evolved.

the very small home azby brown

The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space
by Azby Brown
Kodansha USA, 2012

A different approach to the subject matter here, looking at eighteen recent novel homes that present solutions to the problem of space, a precious resource in Japan. From lofts to skylights, partitions, kitchens and more, the book looks at both the thinking behind the designs as well as the specific features. There’s an introduction by Kengo Kuma thrown in for good measure too.

Tips & Inspirations

japan home lisa parramore chadine flood gong

Japan Home: Inspirational Design Ideas
Lisa Parramore, Chadine Flood Gong
Photography by Noboru Murata
Tuttle, 2010

This is a large resource offering tips on everything from shopping to design. Focusing on the Japanese home, the photography is again courtesy of workabee Noboru Murata. If you want help with crafting gardens, fences, tea, verandas, mats and so on in the Japanese style, this door-stopper is for you.

space japanese design solutions michael freeman

Space: Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living
by Michael Freeman
Universe, 2004

We invariably stereotype Japanese living as compact but this needn’t be a negative. As Michael Freeman shows, restrictions on space can breed ingenious revolutions in design. This book looks at the workarounds that are more than just practical solutions but a whole style in their own right. Every room of the featured houses is covered, giving you a comprehensive insight into how people live in them, plus there are interestingly themed sections called “Every Square Centimeter,” “Interconnection,” “Wasting Space”, and “Shock Value.”

how to make a japanese house cathelijine nuijsink

How to Make a Japanese House
by Cathelijne Nuijsink
NAi Publishers, 2012

Another book about space here. If you want tips for how to design a home you might want to dip into the twenty-one lessons presented on Japanese ingenuity with limitations. The ideas laid out through interviews, drawings and photos will broaden your mind and understanding of scale and economy wherever you live.

DIY

building the japanese house today

Building the Japanese House Today
by Len Brackett, Peggy Landers Rao
Photography by Aya Brackett
Harry N. Abrams, 2005

Len Brackett trained as a temple carpenter in Kyoto and has spent decades adapting the old Japanese design aesthetic to modern practicalities. This book focuses on building a new guesthouse in California with a step-by-step guide to the construction process that still integrates today’s essentials.

measure construction japanese house heino engel

Measure and Construction of the Japanese House
by Heino Engel
Tuttle, 1985

This is for the real carpenters out there who fancy trying their own hand at building a Japanese house. Containing 250 floor plans and sketches aspects of joinery, this is a detailed and practical tome for the serious enthusiast. It also highlights the influence of human anatomy on old units of measurement and on house construction.

All right, that’s probably enough to keep us (and you) swotting for a while.

Do you have any other books you’d recommend?

  • Erik Dutton

    Nice list – thank you! I have a couple of older titles that I don’t see listed here, but that I think are still useful… The Inner Harmony of the Japanese House by Atsushi Ueda (Kodansha, 1990), and A Japanese Touch For Your Home by Koji Yagi (Kodansha, 1982).

    I look forward to seeing your new books as well!

  • presea

    I also recommend “The Japanese House: Material Culture in the Modern Home” by Inge Daniels (Photography by Susan Andrews) published by Berg in 2010

  • premium

    Japanese style is very aesthetic and simple. But thanks to this interior looks impressive. Regards Nuvolariparquet