Climate This striking communalism is, however, the result

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Last updated: August 16, 2019

Climate  Japanese traditional architecture is deeply influenced bythe environment. In addition to the four seasons, there are a short rainyseason in early summer and typhoons in early fall, creating a cycle of six”seasons.” Spring and autumn are pleasant, and winter, of course, iscold. The three remaining seasons—the rainy season, summer, and typhoonseason—are hot and muggy, and it is to these three that Japanese architectureis geared.

The assumption is that if a house is constructed to ameliorate thediscomfort of rain and humidity, the human body can bear the discomfort of theonly remaining season that poses a problem, winter. Japan is also an earthquakeprone area. Culture Japan as a community or culture primarily has two guidingforces: Nature and Politics. Japanese culture is seen to have originated in thechaotic world of the forest, evolving a culture based on pantheism. Shintowhich is more or less the only indigenous religion of Japan, also focuses onrespecting nature. Then there was an amalgamation of Buddhism and Shintocreating a syncretic religion in japan, which further enhanced itssensibilities towards nature and its beings. These basic facts explain theinclusive nature of Japanese vernacular towards nature. Political setup with its motivations and restrictionsboth has effected all aspects (social, economical and cultural) aspects ofJapanese community.

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The following statement by Karl van Wolfren, from his book, The Enigma of Japanese Power, may besufficing to understanding the living conditions of Japanese community.  “It is usually explained that the Japanese aredriven by collective concerns. And indeed, Japan appears to demonstrate thepossibility of life organized in a genuinely communalist manner. As far as outsiders can tell, most Japaneseaccept with equanimity the daily demands that they subordinate their individualdesires and interests to those of the community. This striking communalismis, however, the result of politicalarrangements consciously inserted into society by a ruling elite over three centuries ago, andthe Japanese are today given little or no choice in accepting arrangements thatare still essentially political. Under these arrangements, a Japaneseindividual must accept as inevitable that his intellectual and psychologicalgrowth is restrained by the will of the collectively.” The statementdoes seem altered beyond normal proportions but helps to illustrate howpervasive and formulative in nature, politics was/is. The political setup withits various hierarchical divisions led to development of different typologiessuch as imperial architecture, aristocratic houses, soldier houses, merchanthouses etc.

Politics defined and redefined these typologies with itsregulations and motivations. For example in the early Heian period (794-1185AD), and later in Tokugawa rule (1603-1868 AD), the rise of merchant class wasstrongly discouraged and hence guidelines concerning the construction for theirhouses and shops were issued to prevent any violation of the overallsocio-political system.

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