The Japanese Home: A Reading List… in Japanese

Following on from our English-language reading list earlier this week, we next take a look at the Japanese publications out there on the theme of the Japanese home.



Minka 1955: Japanese Traditional Houses
by Yukio Futagawa
ADA Editor Tokyo, 2012

This book is an omnibus of the ten volumes on Japanese traditional houses published between 1957 and 1959, with text by Yukio Futagawa and photography by Teiji Ito. It goes without saying it’s a valuable resource of old Japanese homes from the time, as well as being the springboard for Futagawa’s work as an architecture photographer.


Itoshi no gosho shuraku: Hida Shirakawa-go, Etchu Gokayama
by Eiji Shibata
Katsura Books, 2006

Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture is one of the best places to see old Japanese gassho-zukuri architecture. These days it’s a major tourist spot for its well-preserved village. But we have to remember that long ago these were just totally ordinary houses. This book collects together images of these old homes for posterity. But it’s more than just a photographic nostalgia trip; it really makes you think about the things we’ve lost — and what we’ve gained.

Minka 1: Machiya
by Kiyoshi Takai, Hidetaro Sugimoto, Teiji Ito
Shinchosha, 1993

And while we are on the subject of traditional Japanese homes, we can’t avoid talking about Kyoto’s machiya. This is a great collection of the beautiful of these town houses, which even today offer a wealth charms and lessons for how to live.


Kyokai: A Japanese Technique for Articulating Space
by Kengo Kuma
Photography by Kiyoshi Takai
Tankosha, 2010

The spaces of the Japanese home are rather unusual. Instead of hard walls, there are verandas, curtains and steps. The spaces are structurally open, designed with partitions for the people who live there. The mentality behind traditional Japanese spaces could well become a global standard for next-generation architecture.


100 Years of Madori
by Keiji Yoshida
Shokokusha, 2004

Madori are the diagrams used by real estate agents to show people the layout of a property. These infographics integrate the design of the home into a 2D image, showing you everything from the way you could organize your family to details like how much sun a room gets. This book collates actual madori diagrams together and in the process shows how Japanese people’s lifestyles have changed over the years.



Tokyo Style
by Kyoichi Tsuzuki
Tsukuba Shoten, 2003

By anyone’s reckoning, here is one book that just HAS to appear on a list of publications about Japanese homes. This famous photo book is a collection of ordinary Tokyoites’ homes, far removed from the stylish interiors you can find in the pages of magazines. You won’t find many design lessons in these homes but the glimpses they offer into the lives of normal people are unparalleled.


Danchi Research
by Ken Ohyama
Tokyo Shoseki, 2008

Regular readers will need no introduction to danchi (public housing) researcher and photographer Ken Ohyama, who has been interviewed by us on two previous occasions. We might call this his major work, a study of the oft-overlooked government housing blocks, upholding them as having beauty and value in their own right. It launched a whole cultural trend for rediscovering danchi that continues to this day.


The Contemporary Teahouse
by Arata Isozaki, Tadao Ando Terunobu Fujimori
Kodansha International, 2007

There are two approaches to tradition. One is to store things in museums and preserve them for eternity; the other is to continue to evolve and develop them. Teahouses fall into the latter, and keep on changing and moving forward even today. What’s wonderful about them is not that they have history but that they don’t lose their innate value no matter how much time goes by.


Okinawa 01 Off-Base U.S. Family Housing
by Naobumi Okamoto
Life Goes On, 2008

There are lots of visages in this long archipelago we call “Japan”. One is the American military areas in the southern islands of Okinawa. This photo book is a collection of images of the residences built for military personnel, resulting in a rather unique marriage of American and Japanese cultures.


Photograph & Architecture: Osamu Adachi + Hokkaido Architects 18 by Osamu Adachi
Core Associates, 2009

From the far south to the far north now with this book, which looks at architecture in Hokkaido. Likewise, the scenery in this book also reveals a slightly different “Japan” to what we’re used to.


by Nobuyoshi Araki, Mayumi Mori
Junposha, 1999

Homes are not defined by their architecture but by the people who live in them. This book is a collection of portraits of the people of the shitamachi areas in Tokyo, Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi. Here it’s less the buildings but the residents who reveal the real character of a place.



What a Home Teaches You
by Nao Ogawa
Media Factory, 2013

This book introduces ten households and how people live in them, offering a feast of tips for storage and making the best use of your home. Packed with practical ideas.


Famous Essays of Japan: “House”
by Nobuo Kojima (editor)
Sakuhinsha, 1989

You can’t learn only by looking at information. But if you read the opinions of famous writers, you’re likely to attain plenty of lifestyle insights.


How a Castle is Built
by Masayuki Miura
Shogakukan, 2005

Who wouldn’t want to live in a castle?! Well, it’s not a possibility for most of us but if you have ever wanted to know how to build your own, here’s the book for you.

Do you have any other favorite books?