Climate This striking communalism is, however, the result



Japanese traditional architecture is deeply influenced by
the environment. In addition to the four seasons, there are a short rainy
season in early summer and typhoons in early fall, creating a cycle of six
“seasons.” Spring and autumn are pleasant, and winter, of course, is
cold. The three remaining seasons—the rainy season, summer, and typhoon
season—are hot and muggy, and it is to these three that Japanese architecture
is geared. The assumption is that if a house is constructed to ameliorate the
discomfort of rain and humidity, the human body can bear the discomfort of the
only remaining season that poses a problem, winter. Japan is also an earthquake
prone area.

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Japan as a community or culture primarily has two guiding
forces: Nature and Politics.


Japanese culture is seen to have originated in the
chaotic world of the forest, evolving a culture based on pantheism. Shinto
which is more or less the only indigenous religion of Japan, also focuses on
respecting nature. Then there was an amalgamation of Buddhism and Shinto
creating a syncretic religion in japan, which further enhanced its
sensibilities towards nature and its beings. These basic facts explain the
inclusive nature of Japanese vernacular towards nature.


Political setup with its motivations and restrictions
both has effected all aspects (social, economical and cultural) aspects of
Japanese community. The following statement by Karl van Wolfren, from his book, The Enigma of Japanese Power, may be
sufficing to understanding the living conditions of Japanese community.


 “It is usually explained that the Japanese are
driven by collective concerns. And indeed, Japan appears to demonstrate the
possibility of life organized in a genuinely communalist manner. As far as outsiders can tell, most Japanese
accept with equanimity the daily demands that they subordinate their individual
desires and interests to those of the community. This striking communalism
is, however, the result of political
arrangements consciously inserted into society by a ruling elite over three centuries ago, and
the Japanese are today given little or no choice in accepting arrangements that
are still essentially political. Under these arrangements, a Japanese
individual must accept as inevitable that his intellectual and psychological
growth is restrained by the will of the collectively.”


The statement
does seem altered beyond normal proportions but helps to illustrate how
pervasive and formulative in nature, politics was/is. The political setup with
its various hierarchical divisions led to development of different typologies
such as imperial architecture, aristocratic houses, soldier houses, merchant
houses etc. Politics defined and redefined these typologies with its
regulations and motivations. For example in the early Heian period (794-1185
AD), and later in Tokugawa rule (1603-1868 AD), the rise of merchant class was
strongly discouraged and hence guidelines concerning the construction for their
houses and shops were issued to prevent any violation of the overall
socio-political system.


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